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Capital Punishment form Utilitarianism Perspective

Nowadays, the admittance of capital punishment presents a matter of multiple discussions. From the humanistic perspective, the death penalty appears to be immoral, as it violates the fundamental human right to life. The supporters of this opinion also highlight the fact that none acquire the right to kill someone without negative consequences, even though a person has committed a serious crime. However, the utilitarianism theory supplies another point of view concerning this issue (Bohm, 2016). Such a worldview implies considering and judging the action in the contest of its practicalness. Utilitarians admit the possibility of violating a moral principle in case it is intended to provide positive outcomes (Bohm, 2016). Therefore, they are highly likely to accept the death penalty as a punishment for severe crimes on a regular basis. This way, the purpose of this paper is to review this issue from a utilitarianism perspective and prove the benefits of capital punishment.

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Fairness Issues

Capital punishment regards fairness issues and is intended to redress an injustice. In this context, the death penalty can be justified, as the existence of murderers contributes to increasing unfairness between the offenders and their victims. It also implies doing more harm to the afflicted person. According to Aspenson, “rescuing murdered persons from increasing harm is prima facie morally required” (2013, p. 91). Therefore, capital punishment appears to be a sufficient option for rescuing a potential victim, and whether this possibility is available, it should be used rationally. Aspenson shares this position and claims that “we have a prima facie duty to rescue murder victims by promptly ending the lives of their murderers” (2013, p. 93). It is evident that in the present-day developments, a considerable number of killers exist, and this fact does not supply fairness in society. Murder victims suffer and are harmed by the existence of these criminals.

The life of criminals should not be respected, as they do not appreciate the lives of others. Victims were deprived of the most valuable right, and none of the punishments can compensate for this illegal action and be equal to the loss of life. It presents a moral issue to revenge the offender by the same commitment. This is the question of redressing the injustice in society. This way, capital punishment regards the most ancient law, which is formulated in the Bible – an eye for an eye. Based on the assumption that every person should receive the harm he or she did back, capital punishment may not only be justified, but also appear to be an essential part of the legislation. For this reason, it is essential to accept this measure, as an offender violates the most valuable right of a person, and society should not be indifferent to this topic.

Decreasing the Crime Rate

A person, who plans to commit an illegal action, always aware of the possibility to escape from prison. They get acquainted with the most foxlike strategies and gather in groups in order to fulfill this intention, so the hope of becoming free someday makes their attitude to prison sentence more optimistic. Some of them are extremely reliant on this opportunity and do not perceive this measure as a severe punishment (Bohm, 2016). They are assumed that they have contacts and skills to organize their escapade. Moreover, it presents the only option of living for some marginals, who cannot earn sufficient sums of money and lead a decent and satisfactory lifestyle. Therefore, the establishment of the death penalty in the present-day developments will be a more considerable deterrent than life imprisonment, which is currently considered to be the most effective punishment.

It is also highly likely to contribute to minimizing the crime rate. The psychology of the choice of a criminal may be explained the following way. They become confident in the security of their actions, as they have trained enough and have the professional skill to commit something illegal and do not leave some pieces of evidence. Offenders attempt to consider each detail, including finger-prints, fake passports, and phone numbers. Furthermore, they pay attention to the likelihood of arrest and establish beneficial relationships with influential people in order to avoid severe punishments. These circumstances make offenders riskier and trickier, which is not useful for decreasing the crime rate. On the contrary, capital punishment may supply the required results, as a person will become conscious of his or her life threat (Bohm, 2016). Therefore, criminals are less likely to make such a reckless step, as they understand the danger for their life (Bohm, 2016). This way, the death penalty may benefit the whole society, and its outcomes would be more useful as compared to the current measures in this field.

Opposition to the Capital Punishment Admittance

Although some benefits of establishing the death penalty as the most severe punishment are undeniable, there are theorists, who are convinced of its unnecessariness. For instance, Hugo Adam Bedau agrees on this issue with Beccaria and Bentham in the article The Minimal Invasion Argument Against the Death Penalty (Bedau, 2002, p. 4). In general, his argument may be formulated as “given a compelling state interest as the goal and or purpose, the government must use the least restrictive means sufficient to achieve that goal or purpose” (Bedau, 2002, p. 4). This principle may be acceptable in case individual privacy, liberty, and autonomy interference is justified and supplies “undeniable importance to society” (Bedau, 2002, p. 4). The author is convinced that the death penalty is not capable of matching the essential criteria of justified punishment.

In order to reflect on the principle of the Minimal Invasion Argument conveyed by Hugo Adam Bedau, it is necessary to pay attention to the conditions, which admit this position. They are acceptance of a liberal constitution in society and the perception of capital punishment as the most severe option, especially compared to long-term imprisonment (Bedau, 2002). Moreover, the role of the death penalty should not be extremely significant in maintaining public safety (Bedau, 2002). In this case, long-term imprisonment appears to be as effective as the death penalty for fulfilling particular social purposes. It is also worthy of note that the conditions mentioned earlier are not capable of admitting measures, which include violation of individual liberty, privacy, and autonomy (Udoudom et al., 2018). Following these considerations, the necessity of abolishing this kind of punishment is evident, as it does not match the liberal values, which are highly appreciated in the present-day developments.

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An Alternative to the Life Imprisonment

Although capital punishment may be considered the most severe option for the criminal, in fact, some alternatives may be even crueler. Ten refers to Mill’s speech A Bill to Provide for Carrying out of Capital Punishment within Prison in his article Mill’s Defence of Capital Punishment (Ten, 2017). Mill was a strong supporter of this kind of penalty for aggravated murder. He does not pay attention to the fact that its realization violates the value and respect for human life. Mill is convinced that the death penalty is the superior deterrent, especially compared to life imprisonment with hard labor (Ten, 2017). It is less severe than “immuring him [a person] to a living tomb, there to linger out what may be a long life in the hardest and most monotonous toil, without any of the alleviations” (Ten, 2017). Such a measure should also be applied in serious circumstances, and it is unacceptable to use it in case of minor offenses, such as theft.

Another advantage over life imprisonment regards its influence on the criminals’ perception of the consequences of their commitments. Unlike the aforementioned option, capital punishment appears to be an effective deterrent. Mills believes this measure is highly likely to “undermine the seriousness of some types of murder” (Ten, 2017). It is also worthy of note that imprisonment of murders requires significant funding, which is received from the population’s tax payments. Consequently, it is highly likely that the relatives of a victim pay for an offender’s living, which is totally dishonest. This way, the death penalty appears to be an effective proposal to substitute the current severest punishment with more a saving money and beneficial option.

Conclusion

The admittance of capital punishment presents a controversial question these days, and multiple opinions are expressed on this topic. Utilitarianism is the theory, which is more likely to accept this measure in case it provides significant advantages for society. The possible positive outcomes of the death penalty involve decreasing the crime rate, as criminals would tend to commit illegal actions more rarely in case they feel the threat to their life. In addition, it may considerably contribute to redressing an injustice, as it implies equal compensation for violating someone’s right to live. Although this option is criticized from the perspective of the liberal values, it supplies a more sufficient proposal for punishing criminals and prevents from spending significant sums of the government on imprisonment.

References

Aspenson, S. (2013). The rescue defense of capital punishment. Ratio, 26(1), 91-105. Web.

Bedau, H. A. (2002). The minimal invasion argument against the death penalty. Criminal Justice Ethics, 21(2), 3-8. Web.

Bohm, R. M.. (2016). DeathQuest: An introduction to the theory and practice of capital punishment in the United States. Taylor & Francis.

Ten, C. L. (2017). Mill’s defense of capital punishment. Criminal Justice Ethics, 36(2), 141-151.

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Udoudom, M. D., Idagu, U. A., & Nwoye, L. (2018). Kantian and utilitarian ethics on capital punishment. Journal of Sustainable Society, 7(1), 5-11. Web.

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