Capital punishment is defined as the lawful infliction of death as a way of punishment for capital offences such as crimes concerning multiple murders, planned murder, and rape etc. The criminal provisions, judge such a person as a danger to existence of any society and hence provide death punishment. Capital punishment has been widely used since ancient times. In England, only severe crimes carried the death penalty. Reform on the death penalty in Europe were championed by academics such the French philosopher, Voltaire, Cesare Beccaria an Italian jurist, and the English law reformers such as Samuel Romilly and Jeremy Bentham. They voiced that death penalty was over-rated as a deterrent, was cruel, and sometimes judgement made was a fatal error. They supported life imprisonment as being a more rational alternative. Even though opponents of capital punishment view it as being non-productive and immoral, supporters of capital punishment have proved it to be an ethically correct prevention of future murders.
Capital punishment may be selected as a means of containing crimes since it leads to incapacitation of the criminal. This means that it removes permanently the worst criminals in society and provides a much safer society for the rest of the people in comparison to long term or permanent incarceration. It is logical to assume that dead criminals cannot perpetrate any further crimes, both within the prison or after escaping.
Can we ethically justify capital punishment? A state has no full right to put its criminals to death although some countries do so in other forms not necessarily through the usual form of capital punishment.ÿ It can be through arming their police and acknowledging the fact that people will be shot for time to time. The decision on capital punishment can be subjected to a referendum. It is sensible to assume that where a majority favour a particular thing in democracy, their desires should be seriously taken in to account with equal thought given to the drawback of their views.
Execution is a real punishment and not a rehabilitative form of treatment. The criminal suffers according to the proportion of the offence. Whether there is a position in our modern society for the principal of an eye for an eye is a matter of one's own opinion. Retribution is viewed by a majority as a satisfactory reason for the deterrence of death penalty.
This mode of punishment can also be viewed as cost efficient as money is an exhaustible commodity. The government may better spend it on the sick, the young and the old as compared to long term imprisonment of rapists and murderers. Anti-capital punishment activist in U.S. cite cost of executing someone as being higher over life in prison. This has to do with the numerous delays and appeals in carrying out death sentences where on average the time spent on death row is over twelve years.
Can one argue that the death penalty deters crime? Research conducted in countries such as Singapore which frequently carry out death sentences show that there is reduced rate of serious crime. This seems to indicate that death a a penalty is a deterrent, but applies only where execution is certain.ÿ Death penalty is likely to be a deterrent in cases where the crime was planed and the criminal thought about the consequences to follow. In case a crime is committed in the heat of the moment then there isn't a possibility that punishment will be used as a deterrent.
This brings about the argument for making murder carried out under these circumstances not punishable by death. Opponents to the death penalty argue that death is not a deterrent and usually site research carried in American states to strengthen their argument. It then settles down on the skill of the defence and prosecution lawyers as to whether they will make a conviction for manslaughter or murder. It is often likely that people are convicted of murder when they are really supposed to have been convicted for manslaughter. For example in the cases of Edith Thompson and James McNicol.
A number of valid arguments against penalty by death have been raised. The most significant one is the fact that genuinely innocent people may be executed and there is no way of compensating them or their families for this miscarriage in justice. There is also another important but lesser realised danger in this situation. A person convicted of murder may actually could have killed the victim and could even admit of having carried out the act but may not concur that the killing was indeed a murder. Very often the people who only know of what actually happened are the deceased and the accused.
Countries have been known to have a poor record of administering justice and therefore raising concern about the death penalty.ÿ In America, a convicted person can be put on death row for years while waiting for the results of appeals, which may be fatuous and have been filed at the last minute so as to get a stay of execution. Racism has been claimed to be a hindrance in the administration of justice through the death penalty in America. However statistics have shown that more white prisoners are more likely to be sentenced to the death penalty on conviction for 1st degree murder and are less likely to get their sentences commuted as compared to black defendants.
The other reason, which is often disregarded, is the agony in which the innocent friends and family of criminals go through in the period leading to and during the death sentence. It is often difficult for individuals to face the fact that their loved one could be found guilty of a crime and even more difficult to face the fact that their death is in form of execution. One cannot deny the suffering gone through by the family of the victim but the suffering that the murderer's family will go through is also valid. There isn't a thing such as a humane method of taking another person's life irrespective of the method used. Every single form of execution does cause the suffering of the prisoner, some methods perhaps may cause less suffering than others, but there is no doubt that execution is a petrifying nightmare for the criminal. The mental suffering in which the criminal goes through in the periood leading up to the execution is also often overlooked.ÿ How does one feel when they know that they are going to die within the next few hours?
It is wise to remembered that criminals are people who have a life and the capacity to feel emotions such as fear and pain of the loss of their loved ones.ÿIt is easier to side line this thought when discussing the most awful murders committed but less so when examine a case where an eighteen year old girl is convicted for drug trafficking. E.g. China shot and killed an 18 year old girl for a similar offence. Singapore on the other hand hanged two girls for such a crime who were both 18 at the time they committed the offences.
Execution may also bring about a brutalising effect in a society. This was apparently seen during the18th and 17th centuries where people seemed to enjoy the act of public hanging.ÿ Some still do today in those states where execution is carried out in public.ÿ The death penalty can be described as the bluntest of all instruments used. It takes away the persons humanity and hence any chance of their giving back to society.
It may be acceptable in case of worst criminals, but is can be questioned in the case of minor crimes.
Should a state only execute people with the most awful multiple murders or should it carry out execution on all murderers without taking in to consideration the degree of guilt for which another person's life was taken and based on the expectation of deterring others? What about offenses such as drug trafficking, terrorism and violent rape. Do these weigh in as bad as murder and how should we punish such crimes? Should executions take place in a way which punishes the criminal and has maximum prevention effect on the rest of the people e.g. televised hangings. Can this be used as a deterrent or simply become a dark show for the voyeuristic?
In order to deter crime the punishment must be adequate, just, fair, and above all it must be enforceable. Society views murder as a predominantly dreadful crime which must be met with severe punishment. Life sentence for murder fails to distinguish between highly dreadful crimes and crimes which are minor. Therefore, it is necessary to grant juries the choice of finding the inmate guilty but at lower degree of murder hence giving the judges the ability to make a sensible ruling.
Imprisonment is largely pointless and highly expensive except it serves as a means of doing away with criminals in the society for a given period, it is enforceable upon any person who commits murder. However, it appears to a majority of the people as a soft option but this perception should be corrected. One has to wonder if in another century we will still have capital punishment or for that matter prisons. Punishment seems to have developed deep roots in the general public as long as there are no possible alternatives. As humans progress they will come up with better methods of conducting punishment but until this point is attained I think that we will still see the use of the death penalty as a means of eradicating offenders and deterring crime.