The idea of capital punishment derives from the tribal concept of blood revenge, which was later reflected in the religious scriptures that prescribe that the deprivation of human life is appropriate as asymmetrical justice, i.e. life for a life. The idea of capital punishment derives from the tribal concept of blood revenge, which was later reflected in the religious scriptures that prescribe that the deprivation of human life is appropriate as asymmetrical justice, i.e. life for a life.
The modern defenders of the death penalty put forth the following point: “Everybody fears death, even animals. Most criminals would think twice if they knew their own lives were at stake”. Although there is no statistical evidence that the death penalty deters crime, we have to agree that most of us fear death” (Radelet et al, 75). In such countries as China, the United States, Japan, and the Pakistan group, capital punishment is still endorsed and practiced in association with the crimes like espionage, treason, murder, in Islamic countries – with adultery and other actions considered by Koran as deathly sins (Radelet and Akers, 2).
Nowadays, there exists a necessity for the death penalty, particularly due to its economic benefit, crime prevention, and isolation effects. Capital punishment is a radical measure that should be administered in cases of heinous crimes causing irreversible physical or psychic changes in the victim, from disability to death.
Firstly, the death penalty to great extent safeguards the innocent lives perpetrators might take unless caught and convicted. It is often stated that the death penalty doesn’t allow exonerating and rehabilitating innocent people, who were executed. However, the proponents of such an idea rely mainly on the results of DNA tests, intended to link together the perpetuator’s and executed person’s genotypes. Nowadays, with the development of biotechnology, the process of investigation is greatly facilitated by DNA examinations (Henderson, 112; Bedau, 62). The existing DNA technology allows a person to be distinguished from another with up to 99.99 percent reliability.
Some three decades ago the main biometrical evidence of the person’s guilt was fingerprinted, which were often unavailable, distorted, or partly erased from the surface when the investigation began. One more guarantee that of the right court’s decision is the availability of lawyers and the principles of fair and non-discriminatory treatment in court proceedings. Whereas several decades ago, court defenders were barely affordable, in the present day, in the United States provision of legal services to individuals with limited financial opportunities is ensured through combining the compensated and the charitable schemes. Moreover, lawyers are greatly motivated to provide pro-bono services (Bedau, p.63) by tax reduction and other privileges, depending on the respective state programs.
Secondly, the death penalty can be also viewed as a successful deterrent. Deterrence means the execution of a criminal, aimed at creating a behavioral example and preventing others from committing capital crimes. However, the opponents of the death penalty state the perspective of spending the whole life in the penitentiary institution serves as an equally effective deterrent (Amnesty International, par. 19).
Researcher Ehrlich ( Radelet and Akers, 69) conducted a regression analysis of social factors affecting homicide and designed a mathematical model of the relationship between capital punishment and the number of slaughters in the territorial unit. In fact, the study found almost no correlation between death penalty practice and homicide rates, these variables seemed to great extent independent from one another. This study is often used as an argument in favor of a life sentence.
However, the scholar actually selected small territorial units and used statistics by districts rather than states; such small numbers are much more difficult to process mathematically for drawing a clear and reliable correlation. From the position of common sense, the death penalty is not the end in itself, but the means to an end, so it was introduced at the legislative level under the pressure of certain circumstances, particularly high crime rates, especially in urban areas. In addition, it is possible to consider the following situation: when a police officer holds a criminal at gunpoint and orders them to get on the ground, the latter obeys, as they are not actually willing to lose their life right now.
In the case of life imprisonment, there is no direct and immediate threat to life, so it is not likely to deter crimes as effectively as the high probability of execution does. This point is actually backed by the scientific fact that decreasing the period, spent on death row, strengthens the deterrent effect, and for every 2.75 years cut from the waiting period, one murder can be prevented (Robertson, 83). It is also important to consider such factors as hope.
If a certain felony is positioned by law as “deathly”, this means, it is inexcusable and implies no chances for returning back and being accepted by society. At the same time, the person, convicted to life imprisonment, is likely to hope that in the future additional changes in the legislation will be introduced and the inmate will have a chance for amnesty. As long as the person lives, they continue to expect a positive change, so the replacement of capital punishment with life imprisonment changes the perception of crime and lead the person to the faulty conviction that there still exists a possibility of returning to society and to people they are connected to from the penitentiary institution.
The deterrence argument is also backed by statistics. As Prodeathpenalty.com suggests, the homicide rate negatively correlates with the number of executions, i.e. the more death penalties are administered, the fewer murders are committed (Prodeathpenalty.com, diagram 2). Moreover, during the 4-year suspension of the death penalty between 1972 and 1976, scholars gathered homicide statistics across the United States. In 1960, there were 56 capital sentences in the country and 9,140 homicides; by 1964, 15 executions took place, and the number of grave crimes rose to 9,250.
By 1972, there were about 16,200 murders and four years without executions resulted in the boosting of criminality up to 20,510 murders per year in 1976. Due to the fact that the population was also growing in these years, it is important to provide one more index: in fact, between 1960 and 1976, the number of annual manslaughters per 100, 000 persons in the country doubled from 5.1 to 10.2. Between the years 1995 and 2000, when the average number of executions was 76 per year, the homicide rate declined to 5.7 murders per 100 000 citizens.
The economic argument in favor of death punishment consists in the fact of the growth of the prison population in the United States, where the death penalty is either prohibited or practiced to a very limited extent. Due to the fact that contemporary corrections act in accordance with the letter of human rights law, the creation of “humane” conditions in penitentiary institutions is a huge economic burden. However, it is often stated that capital sentence convicts spend equally large amounts of taxpayers’ money for appeals, court costs, and the cost of execution. However, simple calculations show different evidence: the existing two million prisoners cost as high as $180 billion per year (Robertson, 39).
Therefore, one prisoner annually takes $90,000 from the state budget. The average murderer’s age is 31, so the inmate spends at least 29 years in the penitentiary institution. The stay therefore will require a $2, 610,000 minimum, not including inflation and the increase of prices for the basic products prisoners need. The death penalty, at the same time, is a relatively inexpensive and much more reliable punishment method, given that it substantially curbs the spending for the person’s stay in the penitentiary institution and removes the need for additional prison staff. In cases of grave crimes, the cost of court proceedings increases, and they’re often arises a need for additional investigation, expertise, and additional guarantees of fair proceedings, but the overall amount spent for administering capital punishment, will not exceed $600,000.
In addition, it is necessary to take into consideration the convict’s three-year stay in the prison, which takes an additional $270,000. The cost of its execution is minimal (four digits maximum) and does not change the fact that the death penalty is generally cheaper than a life sentence. The remaining amount can be used for the improvement of the health care system, education reform, crime prevention campaigns, or the creation of agencies supporting the elderly.
The final argument in favor of the death penalty refers to pure justice execution. In fact, it allows achieving justice for the victim, given that logically, one must pay their life for killing an innocent human being. it is important to understand that all people tormented and slaughtered were willing to live, work for common well-being and bring joy to their families and friends. The “ripple” which results from a murder, covers a huge group of people, literally, everyone who knew the victim – all these people, especially the closest surroundings, are truly willing to inflict the same suffering on the perpetrator.
Logically, revenge is not likely to bring back the victim, this statement can often be heard from death penalty opponents. The argument is weighty, but as it has been stated above, the execution of the offender brings to the victim’s closest people the feeling of being treated fairly: statistically, 73 percent of whites, 63 percent of Hispanics, and 46 percent of African Americans view death row as a just and appropriate measure (American Demographics, 1).
According to Robertson’s study that involved more than one hundred participants whose close relatives were slaughtered. The execution of the perpetrator took place at least three years ago. As the research suggests, 67 percent of subjects reported satisfaction with the villain’s execution and stated that the court decision was generally just (Robertson, 180).
Although the death penalty was found to bring little grief relief, it allows the victim’s family and the broader community to believe in justice and make sure no one else will be slaughtered by the cruel offender. These arguments are weighty, but as has been stated above, the execution of the offender brings to the victim’s closest people the feeling of being treated fairly.
Thus, capital punishment is a debatable measure, which can be nowadays administered only in cases of cruel or serial murders, since this practice is justified statistically, ethically, and economically. It allows saving human lives, material assets of the government as is believed by the American society to re-establish justice. However, it is important to warn against executing innocents and develop a detailed and transparent procedure of investigation that would allow drawing the right verdict and determining the appropriate punitive measure.
Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. “Criminal Offenders Statistics.” 2008. Web.
Prodeathpenalty. “Deterrence”. 2008. Web.
Prodeathpenalty. “Who speaks for the victims of those we execute?”. 2008. Web.
Amnesty International. “Death Penalty”. 2008. Web.
American Demographics. “The Death Penalty – American attitudes – Brief Article – Statistical Data Included”. 2008. Web.
Henderson, H. Capital Punishment. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2000.
Radelet, M., Bedau, H. and Putnam, C. In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases. Boston, Mass.: Northeastern University Press, 1994.
Radelet, M. and Akers, R. “Deterrence and the death penalty: the views of the experts”. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 87 (1996), pp. 1-16.
Bedau, H. The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Robertson, D. Tears from Heaven Voices from Hell: The Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty As Seen Through the Eyes of the Victims of Violent Crime and Death Row Inmates. Writers Club Press, 2004.