The Death Penalty: For and Against
The issue of the death penalty attracts a lot of attention in the modern world. Despite all researches and studies of the advantages and disadvantages of the death penalty, as well as its impact on society, there is no right and common answer to the question whether it should be applied to criminals. Therefore, it is crucial to provide a deeper research of this problem in order to evaluate all the positive and negative factors of using the death penalty. To understand the concept of the death penalty and its effects on modern society, it is needed to study its multicultural, ethical, and juvenile components. The complex study of all the factors that influence or are influenced by the death penalty can provide its right perception. Despite a strong belief that the death penalty can help in reducing the crime rate, it affects the morality of the whole society and deprives criminals of a chance to rehabilitate. Death is an evil for everyone. The destruction of an offender does not fill the loss of a loved one and will not bring solace in any way. The thirst for bloody revenge does not make a person civilized in the 21th century. Stabilization of power and the development of the national state will strengthen social and legal norms. The modern world does not value human lives. People are concerned about their own affairs, hurrying to get done as much as possible. They do not even notice that they take the lives of others and subtract from society its last chance to become more moral. It is necessary to stop and understand that the death penalty should be declined.
The death penalty (capital punishment) is the execution of an offender convicted to death for committing heinous crimes and acting contrary to the public policy of the country. The death penalty is one of the oldest forms of punishment. At first, it was used in line with the principle “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” According to it, fair punishment for causing the death of another person was the death penalty. On the other hand, it played its role and existed in many societies as the custom of blood revenge, which had replaced the death penalty, carried out on behalf of the state.
Attitudes toward the death penalty are not unanimous in many societies. In countries where it is practiced, there is a spreading movement for its abolition. In countries where it is canceled, there is a number of supporters of its recovery. The death penalty was abolished on the basis of humanitarian principles, but not because of the people’s will. In no country in Europe where the death penalty was abolished, there was a referendum, and according to the polls, the majority of the population supported this type of punishment in all these countries at the time of cancellation.
Almost every society used the death penalty at a certain stage of development. In many modern civilizations, the death penalty was abolished. It is impermissible to the Council of Europe. Some countries have abolished the death penalty except in special circumstances, such as treason during the war. In other countries, the death penalty was abolished in practice, but it is still considered as a higher penalty. States, such as China, the U.S., and others, retained the death penalty for offenses specifically identified by legislation. According to Guernsey (2010), “Since 1977, when capital punishment resumed in the United States, only people convicted of murder have been executed” (p. 19). In countries that practice the death penalty, the method of execution is determined by law. Traditionally, the most common types of death are hanging and firing squad. The electric chair and lethal injection have become widespread in the United States since the 20th century.
In accordance with Walker (2008), if the death penalty is a possible consequence of illegal action, people will think twice about committing a crime that could lead to the death penalty. Opponents of the death penalty believe there are better ways to punish criminals and keep society safe.
Pojman and Reiman (1998) state, “The death penalty is necessary to deter potential murderers” (n. p.). However, the death penalty is not an effective method of intimidation. In countries where the death penalty is legalized, the crime rate is much higher than in countries where it is prohibited. Criminals do not always think about the possible punishment. When a crime is committed out of despair in a drunken state, people do not think about the consequences as they are fascinated by impulse blindly and unconsciously. In case when the offense is consciously done by a persistent offender, he or she hopes to avoid punishment. Thus, it shows the falsity of the thesis on the motivation of potential criminals under the highest penalty. The same cause with a relatively high credibility of argument is similar in content to the previous one. The death penalty does not affect a number of crimes. This argument is often expressed, and it relies on statistics. According to the research, the number of serious crimes at a time when the death penalty was abolished, and when it recovered, did not change much. However, there are other data that show a complex, mixed picture of this pattern. Much depends not only on the system of punishment but also on the nature of social relations, political situation, and other factors.
Multicultural aspect of the death penalty goes hand in hand with discrimination and racism. The death penalty causes discrimination. It is applied mostly to poor people and the representatives of racial minorities. The death penalty in the U.S. is racist in its nature. More than half of the prisoners in the county jailed for death row are African Americans. The death penalty is directed against the poor – more than 90% of the prisoners are poor.
The death penalty is beneficial to dictators. Almost all totalitarian and dictatorial regimes cannot exist without the existence of the death penalty. It encourages crime to some extent. One can think that if the state can kill him or her, why it is forbidden to kill someone else. One of the important features of a democratic state is humanity. The death penalty gives people an example of cruelty and thereby contributes to the commission of crimes. According to Bedau (1992), “An execution is a dramatic, public spectacle of official, violent homicide that teaches the permissibility of killing people to solve social problems – the worst possible example to set for society” (n. p.).
The juvenile factor of the death penalty deals with errors and injustice in trials that took off innocent lives. The possibility of a judicial error creates the danger that the innocent party may suffer. Considering this argument, one cannot forget about high corruption in all branches of the government, which may affect the lives of innocent citizens. Sentencing is not easy for conscientious people, and the possibility of error is a serious moral offense for judges. The performer of the sentence is a person who is responsible for the actions of implementing the verdict to some extent. Together with other related people, they are responsible for killing criminals in the eyes of the public. Nevertheless, the real killer is a state that has a privileged right through their representatives impose and actuate a jail sentence. One needs to think about the question if the state should fall to the level of the murderer. Meehan (1982) argues, “There is racial and economic discrimination in application of the death penalty. This is an old complaint, but one that many believe has been remedied by court-mandated safeguards”. The main argument against the death penalty in the court-tie component is the fact that a miscarriage of justice in a death sentence can not be fixed. Before serial killer Chikatilo was arrested, two men have been executed for his crimes. The judicial errors can be corrected before the person is executed.
One of the ways of combating the miscarriage of justice in imposition of the death penalty is widely used in the American judicial system. Thus, there is the timeinterval of 5-10 years between the appointment of a sentence and bringing it to fulfillment. This allows defenders and relatives to prove the existence of judicial error.
The ethics issue of the death penalty deals with the fact that many people who value money more than life state that the death penalty is a possibility to avoid spending money on life support. The state spends huge sums for the maintenance of prisoners. Taxpayers will hold those who serve a life sentence till the end of their lives. However, it is not right to compare taxes and people’s lives.
Another argument against the death penalty is religious beliefs. Only God gives life, and only He can take it. This thesis completely reproduces the content of one of the ten God’s commandments “Do not kill!” No person is entitled to take the lives of other people regardless of their official duties. Vatican joined the UN Convention on Human Rights to issue a resolution against the death penalty. In the Bible, there are plenty of cases when sinners repent. One can remember the tax collector Matthew or a thief who was crucified by the right hand of Jesus Christ. The robber repented before his death. Christianity is full of cases where saints lived like sinners before conversion. One could not know them if they were killed for crimes.
The next most convincing argument is the fact that punishment cannot restore the position that existed before the crime. It does not mean that when there is no possibility to recover, then there is no need to punish. If the offender remains alive, there will be a chance for more compensation than a moral sense of revenge.
The death penalty needs someone to do it. Execution of death is an action that is unmoral for normal people. No technical tricks can make the psyche recover and get the feeling of relief after killing a defenseless human. Meanwhile, executioners often admit that they consider those whom they have to kill as normal people. Thus, the existence of such profession is a terrible thing.
The death penalty precludes the possibility of rehabilitation. Any penalty provides rehabilitation, like confessing guilt, rethinking committed errors, looking at further understanding of the world, and a chance to repent. In case of the death penalty, a person (the offender) is deprived of this opportunity.
Anyone can make a mistake, and even the culprit should have a chance to repent. Moreover, Christians need to listen to the Church. All people are born innocent and good. There is another matter why some members of society become monsters. Not all parents of future criminals explain them what is good and evil, teach to pray, go to church, give good examples, etc. Furthermore, it is not a secret that the majority of crimes is carried out under the influence of alcohol. It is not just a problem of criminals. Certainly, if the worst offenders of society are shot, there will be new over time. It is a problem of society. People should deal with the dominance of immorality on television, child neglect, and the free sale of alcohol. Then, the death penalty will not be necessary. The death penalty is unreliable mean of self-defense of society. The issue of the death penalty is one of the most critical in the sense of justice. The decision of its cancelling is an important evidence of the transformation of legal culture of the society.
Bedau, H. A. (1992). The сase against the death penalty. Retrieved from http://users.rcn.com/mwood/deathpen.html
Guernsey, J. B. (2010). Death penalty: Fair solution or moral failure? Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Death-Penalty-Solution-Failure-Perspectives/dp/0761340793#reader_0761340793
Meehan, M. (1982). Ten reasons to oppose the death penalty. America: The National Catholic Review. Retrieved from http://americamagazine.org/issue/100/ten-reasons-oppose-death-penalty
Pojman, L. P., & Reiman, J. H. (1998). The death penalty: For and against. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Death-Penalty-Counterpoint-Philosophers-Contemporary-ebook/dp/B00EMLDBFE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1395650616&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Death+Penalty%3A+for+and+against+1998#reader_B00EMLDBFE
Walker, I. (2008). The death penalty. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.ua/books?id=L_8U22GTASAC&pg=PA4&lpg=PA4&dq=The+Death+Penalty+ida+walker&source=bl&ots=sLO-xOKXRB&sig=mTDmkzpx-x1klT6bCe0ybqiOgV0&hl=uk&sa=X&ei=q_AvU4bcN8WoyQPBxIDABA&ved=0CHQQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=The%20Death%20Penalty%20ida%20walker&f=false