Persuasive Essay against Capital Punishment
Capital Punishment is defined as the imposition of the penalty of death for a person convicted of a serious crime, such as intentional murder. (John J. Patrick, Richard M. Pious & Donald A. Ritchie, 2001, p.1) It is also known as death penalty. It is derived from the Latin word Capitalis which means “of the head.”
World history states that death penalty has started even during the Eighth Century B.C. Back in those times, the death penalty was carried out using various methods such as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death and burning alive. This confirms that the formal execution of individuals for violation of rules and laws had always been practiced ever since the earliest period in world history and that execution had always been a part of the criminal justice system.
Other methods of carrying out death penalty were the use of gas Chamber, electrocution, Firing Squad, Hanging, poison gas, and lethal injection. (John J. Patrick, Richard M. Pious & Donald A. Ritchie, 2001, p.2)
In the United States, death penalty had been a part of its criminal justice system ever since it was colonized by Great Britain. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the first person to be executed in the United States was Captain George Kendall in Virginia in 1608 who was executed for being a spy for Spain (“Introduction to Death Penalty”, 2010, p.1). In those times, the following crimes were punishable by death idolatry, blasphemy, witchcraft, murder, manslaughter, poisoning, bestiality, sodomy, adultery, man stealing, false witness in a capital trial and rebellion.
While the death penalty was widely practiced in the past, the trend nowadays is towards a more lenient implementation of the criminal justice system. This is evident in the number of countries that have stopped executing those who are in death row. According to Amnesty International, since 2009 there have been 129 countries that have stopped executing death convicts.
To date, countries in the world are divided on the issue of capital punishment. Some countries still impose it while others have totally eliminated it for reasons that it is unnecessary and uncivilized. These countries have decided to substitute longer years of imprisonment and fines instead of capital punishment. For those countries which still practice it, the trend today is the movement towards a less painful and more humane executions. Hanging and Guillotine which were being practiced before were gradually replaced by electrocution and gas chamber. Lethal injections are now being used by counties which still allow capital punishment. It is perceived that lethal injection is less painful and more humane than the other methods of executions.
In 1975, Ehrlich found connection between capital punishment and the reduction of murder rate. He found that offenders respond to incentives and that the nature of punishment can deter the commission of crime. (Ehrlich, 1975). Other experts support the view that death penalty is that it is an effective deterrent to crime (Chantel Boyens, 2002, p.1). In particular, Ehrlich argued that even the well-known opponents of capital punishment do not question its deterrent effect (Ehrlich, 1975). The Retentionists or those who are in favor of retaining death penalty argue that the harshness of the punishment can speak for itself which is capable of deterring would be criminals from committing crimes.
However, there is no research that can confirm that death penalty can be an effective deterrent of crimes. In fact, other studies conducted by sociologists and law professors will prove that the studies citing the deterrent effect of death penalty are often restricted to a single state or a small group of states that do not reflect the real impact of death penalty (Joanna M. Shepherd, 2005, p.1).
There are many factors also to be considered aside from the imposition of death penalty which could significantly affect the crime rates, one of which is the strict law enforcement system. Research shows that it is wrong to presuppose that would-be criminals are logical people who carefully weigh their decisions before they make a crime. In fact, some crimes are not always premeditated or planned as it is likewise possible for a crime to be committed either in a state of anger or passion. Majority of crimes are even committed when the perpetrator of the crime is either under the influence of drugs and alcohol. At this point, it is inconceivable for these would-be criminals to be able to carefully weigh the pros and cons of the crime that they intend to commit. Moreover, if a crime is premeditated would-be criminals do not think about the penalty of death but they often think of ways to elude arrest and conviction not the fear of punishment.
On the contrary, death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment. If the objective of imposing death sentences and executing them is to condemn the violence of crime then putting individuals in death row to execute them is also an act of violence. Retentionists condemn terrorists like Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein yet they are not cognizant of the fact that they are doing the same to their countrymen by allowing the imposition of death. Retentionists are likewise spilling blood when they implement capital punishment. Life is a gift from God and only He can take it away. Even if there are laws which provide for the imposition of death of penalty still these laws have as its basis the supreme law of God.
Death penalty is an irreversible process which permanently deprives the offender of the due process of law. When a person is sentenced to death, he can no longer be benefited by any amendments in laws. Likewise, he can no longer be benefited by the possibility that new evidence will be discovered that will exonerate him. There is always the possibility that innocent people may be put to death because once the convicted person is executed he can no longer be benefited by new evidence that may later on be discovered or by the retraction of the testimony of a witness who was instrumental in his conviction. A study conducted by Bruce Robinson (2002) states that at least 350 people between 1900 and 1985 in Americamight have been innocent of the crime for which they were convicted, and could have been sentenced to death.
Death penalty violates the equal protection of laws. Death penalty presupposes a perfect criminal justice system wherein the accused has been given sufficient opportunity to present legal defense on his behalf. It also presupposes that the accused has exhausted all legal means before death penalty is implemented. It also presupposes that all accused who are in death row are the ones who are guilty of the crime.
On the contrary, many individuals who are in death row question theUnited States’ criminal justice system. It cannot be denied that most people who are languishing in jail have been convicted because they have been denied a just trial by the court. Many of them have no means to pay for a competent lawyer to defend themselves in a court of law while those who financially capable can hire lawyers who can assist and defend them. The effect of this is that only those who are poor will suffer the death penalty. Thus, instead of giving due preference to the poor it even manifests the abuse being committed against the poor. Instead of giving justice even becomes a tool for oppressing the poor. In fact, the death penalty even perpetuates discrimination in the sense that majority of those who are in death row are African Americans (Christina Swarns, 2004, p.1).
Capital punishment wastes resources in the sense that it squanders the time and energy of the government. The process of imposing capital punishment is a tedious one which must be reviewed by the Supreme Court in order to avoid the possibility of giving an erroneous judgment. Thus the government spends for the judges and public defenders. The government funds are therefore being wasted in effect depriving the other institutions of needed assistance that could aid in preventing criminality.
Based on the arguments presented, clearly the evidence is against the imposition of death penalty. There is no evidence that there is a causal connection between the imposition of death penalty and its effect in deterring criminality. On the contrary, death penalty only perpetuates the violence which is already widespread in the modern society. Our society is still plagued with violence such that killing and violence is becoming a part of our daily lives. This is obvious when we celebrate the execution of criminal or the punishment of those who commit wrong. The imposition of death penalty even perpetuates this violence by implicitly stating that violence can be legitimized. Implicitly we are communicating to the youth that violence can be legalized if we have reasons to do so. It sends a wrong message to our society in that violence is the proper response to violence. Thus “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” This hurts the very moral fiber of our society.
Inflicting fear in the heart of the people by threatening them with harsh and cruel penalty does not provide for a long-term solution to our problem. If we really want to do something about the increasing criminality and the violence in our society we do not threaten them with bodily harm if they do wrong. If we want a long-term solution to this problem the youth must be taught the value of love and respect. Criminality is caused by the defective internalization of rules and values in our society.
Thus if the government really want to put a stop to criminality the author proposes a value-oriented approach as opposed to a vindictive approach. Instead of the government allocating a substantial sum of money to prison system, the author suggests that the government aid the other institutions as well such as the family, school and the church. These institutions can significantly help us in solving our problem in criminality. The parents, teachers and religious leaders can help in inculcating the necessary values to our youth. Educating our youth is the proactive solution. They must be educated in terms of the values that they must possess and strictly adhere to.
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