Since ancient times, our societies had used the death penalty as the highest form of capital punishment. The idea behind capital punishment was simple – fear was supposed to keep criminals from committing crimes. In ancient societies, capital punishments were very common – even the acts of simple theft were penalized with beheadings or cutting limbs off.
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The latter was often a delayed form of death, as many convicts simply bled out shortly after. Still, despite the harsh punishments, crime did not vanish from the world. Nowadays, death penalties are considered ineffective in most countries. The USA, however, remains notoriously persistent in this archaic notion, as there are some states where the death penalty is still practiced. Despite the controversial claims that the death penalty is morally just, it is still a costly procedure with a negative moral connotation and is largely ineffective at deterring future crimes.
The strongest argument for death penalty appeals to our sense of justice. Many crimes are considered beyond redemption, such as rape, murder, and terrorism. There is a strong popular opinion that some criminals just need to die. However, the reason why this notion does not find support among the legislative circles is that retribution is another word for vengeance. Many terrorists who blow themselves up in crowds are often driven by vengeance, looking to avenge either their families or their compatriots dying under bombs in the Middle East. Therefore, justifying taking life to avenge a life opens the door to many acts of vigilantism and terrorism.
Another argument frequently used by the supporters of death penalties is “cost-efficiency.” They claim that it is easier and cheaper to kill convicts accused of murder and rape, rather than keep them alive and in confinement for life. However, that claim is born out of ignorance. Conducting a single death sentence, whether through lethal injection or some other humane way is an extremely costly procedure.
With how many appeals a convict is allowed to have, it is more costly to execute one than to hold him in a maximum-security prison for 40 years. Afraid of death, the convicted criminal will use every single one of them before finally submitting to his or her fate. On the other hand, dispensing with these legal safeguards opens the door for judicial abuse and error. This is the reason why the death penalty is economically ineffective.
The last argument that has to be addressed is the argument of crime deterrence. Several studies pertaining to the subject were conducted by numerous researches, and the results are inconclusive at best. In order to be an effective tool that instills fear, executions need to be conducted swiftly, and on a more regular basis than they are now. Right now, death penalties are few and far between. A lot of time passes due to legal procedures before an execution actually takes place. All of this, when combined, beats the entire point of striking fear into potential criminals.
Death penalties are nothing more than relics of the past. They were never enough to stop or even curb crime in any given country at any given period. They served only as instruments of vengeance to indulge certain base desires. Nevertheless, the data accumulated on the subject reveals that the practice is largely counter-productive. More efforts and resources should be redirected towards crime prevention rather than indulging in overly elaborate punishments that do not even work.
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