Capital punishment, sometimes also referred to as the death penalty, is a practice that is sanctioned by a government in a few countries. The state punishes the accused for the crime committed by putting them to death. The declaration that a criminal is to be punished in such a grave manner is known as a capital punishment and the act of carrying out this punishment is known as an execution.
Offences such as murder, rape or war crimes are known as Capital offences and are generally punishable by death. Fifty six countries still practice capital punishment, a hundred and two countries have completely abolished it no matter how grave the offence, six countries have terminated it for average crimes, and thirty two are strong opponents of this practice.
Capital punishment is an issue of an on-going controversy in various states and countries, and the stances of governments on this matter can vary within a single region. The public opinion on capital punishment differs a lot by the nature of the crime and the country in question.
In Countries like New Zealand, majority of fifty five percent of the people are against and oppose execution, in other countries like Australia only twenty three percent of the people support this type of punishment, and in Norway only twenty five percent are in favor of this sentence.
A poll shows that sixty four percent of Americans support capital punishment for murder. Since 2010 the use of capital punishment is growing in India due to anger over many brutal cases of rape in the recent times. Although the support for this type of punishment for the crime of murder is still very high in China, the actual number of sentences has dropped unexpectedly.
The suitability of this punishment is a topic of a heated argument with each person having their own viewpoint. The question remains that if a person commits such a brutal crime, should the punishment be of the similar nature or is this going way beyond the lines of humanity?
Many even think that this type of punishment sets an example for others and warns them from doing anything wrong. Activists often tangle into a heated argument from time to time in order to give various justifications for the appropriateness or the inappropriateness of this punishment. Listed below are a few pros and cons of capital punishment.
List of Advantages of Capital Punishment
- It discourages people from thinking of committing such crimes
Proponents of death penalty state various examples on how imposing capital punishment or overthrowing it has had a direct relation to the crime rate and how they have been influenced by it. According to a study in the late 1960’s, there was an increase in the crime rate by seven percent in the years when this law was overthrown. Whereas, with an increase in number of inmates sentenced to capital punishment lesser crimes were committed as it intimidates criminals and keeps them from committing such acts. Advocates of capital punishment claim that these numbers clearly show how this practice is a good way of preventing crimes in the first place.
- The lack of death penalty is directly proportional to the increase in crime rate
If there are no laws like capital punishment for crimes like murder and assault or the intensity of the punishment is not sufficient, criminals have nothing much to fear about and have no grave consequences to face which encourages them to commit more such monstrous crimes. Such cases of brutal crimes increase due to a weak system and insufficient punishments. Therefore, it is almost imperative to have systems like capital punishment in place.
- Costs the government less money in comparison to other punishments
Although the government has to spend a substantial amount to carry out this punishment, those in favor of it say that it is still lesser when compared to the expenses the government would have to meet to support life without parole. The cost for maintaining the lives of criminals which includes health care, food, prison maintenance and so on collectively turn out to be much higher than that required to carry out a capital punishment.
It is only a basic right of every citizen to be safe and have a peaceful life free from crimes. But sadly, in today’s world brutal crimes like murder, terrorism and rape are growing in number. Criminals who do not value the life of others are committing such crimes with no fear whatsoever. These crimes go against the right of a citizen and thus it only fair that they be punished in a manner that they deserve. If a person is given the freedom to behave in any manner that he or she likes then they should also be ready to face the consequences of doing so.
- It is only constitutional and does not violate any rights
The main reason of controversy linked with capital punishment is the pain that the criminal goes through during the process of execution. However, more humane methods have already been adopted to make the process as painless and easy as possible. The pain is almost non-existent as a drug is used to put the criminal in a coma like state before execution. Therefore, no rights are being violated by carrying out capital punishment and it is no form of torture.
List of Cons of Capital Punishment
- Can be too extreme in some cases and cannot be a general punishment for a said crime
For people who commit crimes intentionally or pre-planned it this punishment can seem justified. However, there are many instances where the accused is suffering from a mental illness and is in need of professional help. They often have no control over their actions and thus cannot be sentenced to such a grave punishment. There are also situations where a crime has been committed impulsively, without the intention of actually doing so. Here again this punishment can seem too extreme. Hence it cannot be generalized as to which crime deserves what kind of punishment.
- Additional overall cost and effort
Although life imprisonment without parole comes as an additional cost to the government and the taxpayers’ money, antagonists claim that the government is more likely to spend more money in dealing with cases of capital punishment. This is because such cases are far more complex and need to be deliberated over and over again. The time these trials take is much more than the regular cases.
A large numbers of defenders need to be hired in order to carry out the trial. The state ends up incurring costs for two trials. The first trial would be for the verdict and the second for the sentence. There are chances of many appeals throughout which the accused has to be kept secured. Therefore, considering the whole process that goes into finally resolve the case the costs go much higher than life imprisonment.
- Wrongly accused die for no reason
It is not very uncommon for innocent people to be sentenced for a crime that they did not commit. Many a times, a person’s innocence has been proven after the accused was executed. In cases like these, capital punishment can seem too brutal where a person does not stand a chance to prove his or her innocence.
Protesters claim that the inmates who are on a death row are generally by a high percentage African American or minority. They contend that these sentences are mostly and evidently due to racial discrimination. Furthermore, those who are poor and do not have the money to appoint a good attorney are mostly the ones who get the death penalty. It is completely unfair that those who are not in a financial condition to pay for a powerful defense end up getting capital punishment irrespective of their innocence. Those who can afford it, even if they are guilty, find a way out.
- Capital punishment is a form of revenge
Some people find this form of punishment too brutal. Although it is important to punish those who commit such brutal acts, it is a form of revenge to kill them for the crime that they commit. Opponents claim that it just not a humane way to punish anyone. One crime being committed to punish another is no way of bringing about justice to the victim. This only brings about more violence and not peace. Everyone deserves a chance to live and regret for what they have done. Killing a person is no way to achieve this claim the opponents.
Contrasting views are presented by both advocates and the antagonists. Some people feel this punishment is not good enough for those who commit such brutal crimes, whereas others feel it is way too harsh and against humanity. It is important to understand all the repercussions and culminations before making a law that affects all the citizens of a country.
Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, there have been more than 1,400 inmates in death row that have been executed. This year, the oldest prisoner in Georgia at 72 years of age added to the list. He was given lethal injection.
In the United States and other parts of the world, there are supporters and critics of death penalty. In the U.S. it is legal in 31 states and 19 states have chosen to abolish it, the most recent being Nebraska in May 2015. This is just a clear sign that there are compelling arguments between advocates and skeptics. Since the 1980s, lethal injection is the common practice. However, pharmaceutical companies are now hesitant to supply lethal drugs to be used in capital punishment or death sentence. On top of this, those who are not for the death penalty are stating their views, saying it is not the solution. The issue on the availability of these lethal drugs has triggered another controversial issue on whether the death penalty is slowing down. Having said that, here are the pros and cons of a death sentence or capital punishment.
List of Advantages of Death Penalty
1. It deters bad people to commit heinous crimes.
One reason supporters of the capital punishment are for death penalty is its effectiveness as a crime deterrent. According to the advocates for death sentencing, potential criminals will be scared to suffer such harsh punishment and as a result, they will be hesitant to commit crimes like rape and murder. In fact, for them, it is the greatest deterrent of criminal acts. If an offender commits a crime that is punishable by death and gets executed, this will be known by the public, including those who are potential criminals. For fear of suffering the same plight, they will be discouraged to commit crimes.
2. It is what hardened criminals deserve.
Some of the crimes that are under capital punishment include murder and rape, depending on the country or state legalizing the practice. For pro-death penalty, there are criminals who are repeat offenders and not scared to rape and murder again, knowing they will only be imprisoned. These types of people and those who cannot be transformed should be put to death to project the majority.
3. The government need not spend for criminals who are murderers and such.
If there will be no death penalty, criminals who have committed grave offenses will only get life sentences and stay in prison. With the increasing number of incarcerated individuals, the government will be spending more and more on food and health care of these inmates. According to some critics, spending for people committing heinous crimes is impractical and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
4. It reduces the number of committed crimes.
People who are for death penalty posit that without it, the number of major crimes like murder and homicide will escalate since bad elements will not be afraid to do whatever they want., from dealing drugs to killing other people. Without harsh punishments for their offenses, criminals will be taking advantage of weaker people and victims.
5. It is humane, clean and safe.
Advocates for the death penalty claim that with lethal injection being practiced by more states and countries over other forms of death sentence executions, it is the better option. Death by lethal injection is not as barbaric as hanging or firing squad that can be messy and more painful.
List of Disadvantages of Death Penalty
1. It is not a crime deterrent.
Critics argue that the death penalty does not really deter criminals from committing offenses. This is because there are criminals who suffer from mental illnesses and a death sentence will not be able to prevent them from doing bad things they cannot control without proper medication.
2. It can result to punishing the wrong people.
The legal systems in most countries, even in the U.S. have flaws. There are many instances where innocent people are sent to jail and convicted of crimes they have not committed just like the case of a man who was imprisoned for 30 years for rape. If all people who are convicted will be executed, mistakes will be made and many people will be put to death through legal injection even if they do not deserve to be.
3. It costs the government too much money.
Critics of death penalty contend the view of supporters that feeding the inmates is more expensive than death penalty. On the contrary, the drugs used in lethal injection and other expenses related to the execution are more costly.
4. It can cause depression and feelings of guilt on people.
One of the disadvantages of this practice is the reality that some of the people who have been involved in the process suffer from depression out of guilt from having to end another person’s life. Some of this people end up committing suicide and others have to suffer living the remaining years of their lives tormented with the thought. According to a former executioner, there are many people who have participated in executions whose lives were later destroyed. Some turned to drugs and alcohol to feel better.
5. It is not humane and cannot be undone.
There was an incident where a person who underwent lethal injection did not die right away and it took more than 30 minutes for him to die from a heart attack. This was traumatic not only for the person being executed but also for the people who witnessed the incident since they saw the man gasping for air and trying to stand up. For people who are against death penalty, this is not a humane thing to do. Moreover, they say that if a criminal is executed and after the execution, a new piece of evidence comes out that would have proven the person’s innocence, he or she can never be brought back to life anymore.
With the ongoing issue on the availability of lethal drugs and the outcry for abolishment, the death penalty continues to be a divided issue. Whether it is indeed good for society or a form of revenge, perhaps, depends on the values and experiences of an individual. And for many people, though, the advantages have more weight than the disadvantages.
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