The history of the death penalty, otherwise known as capital punishment, may trace back as early as colonial times during the 1600’s in the United States, according to Carol Dwankowski’s “The Death Penalty in the USA – A Short History,” and has become an eternally controversial debate ever since. But what exactly is capital punishment? According to Merriam-Webster, an American company that publishes reference books, capital punishment is defined as “the practice of killing people as punishment for serious crimes.” Understanding this, one may delve into the frequently hot debate: should the death penalty be abolished?
So why should the death penalty be legal? According to Dave Anderson’s “10 Reasons The Death Penalty Should Be Legal,” there are several reasons. One of these reasons is that actions have consequences. Touching a hot stove will burn your hand, while performing poorly in school might get you grounded. According to Anderson, this also applies to crime. “The same holds true for violent and dangerous crimes, where someone acts in such a way as to take the life of another they have to be punished, they have to expect retribution, they have to pay the price of their actions and it should be in equal measure,” says Anderson. Subsequently, Anderson insists that retribution is not to be confused with revenge, whereas retribution is “the payment of debt to society” while revenge is “a hot blooded reaction to the loss by those who have suffered it.” Additionally, Anderson also claims that capital punishment the only rational and moral response to some crimes. “We are told, by those in favor of abolition of the death penalty, that human life is sacred, that man should not play God. The truth is, however, that those people who have committed the type of crimes for which the death penalty is applicable have put themselves beyond the pale of humanity. They have chosen to act in a manner that is directly at odds with the morals of society at large and as such they must expect to be sanctioned,” Anderson suggests. And how well does this method deter crime? With facts and research, Anderson may have an answer. “Studies undertaken over a number of years show, unequivocally that between 3 and 18 lives could be saved by each execution of a guilty killer. Results from the University of Colorado in Denver show that an execution saves 5 lives while the commuting of a death sentence results in about five more,” Anderson continues to explain, “More research needs to be undertaken to ensure the quality and accuracy of the methodology and data but the results seem incontrovertible – the death penalty acts as a deterrent and as a result saves lives” he finishes.
Contrary to those in favor of the death penalty, there are many who believe that it should be abolished, including the International Commission Against the Death Penalty (IDCP) in their article, “Why the Death Penalty Should be Abolished.” Like any system, there are bound to be flaws and weaknesses. Security cameras may have blind spots, electrical systems may go out, and justice systems may risk convicting innocent people. Or, according to the IDCP, executing them, “There have been and always will be cases of executions of innocent people. No matter how developed a justice system is, it will always remain susceptible to human failure. Unlike prison sentences, the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable,” the IDCP writes. But how well does the death penalty solve the problem? IDCP answers this, “The death penalty lacks the deterrent effect which is commonly referred to by its advocates. As recently stated by the General Assembly of the United Nations, “there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty,” (UNGA Resolution 65/206). “It is noteworthy that in many retentionist states, the effectiveness of the death penalty in order to prevent crime is being seriously questioned by a continuously increasing number of law enforcement professionals” they write. Finally, the IDCP states perhaps one of the most common and strongest claims against the death penalty, the value of human life. “The death penalty violates the right to life which happens to be the most basic of all human rights. It also violates the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. Furthermore, the death penalty undermines human dignity which is inherent to every human being,” it finishes. The IDCP helps bring to light the possible disadvantages and issues that come with this death penalty.
Despite conflicting evidence and strong claims for either side, how well does the death penalty serve us, and is it a just sentence for those with the appropriate crimes? Is it right or wrong? Should we abolish or keep it?
You could address that it is obviously controversial because some states have the death penalty and some don’t. We can’t even make a decision as a country.