Death Penalty and Its Theoretical Justification

The activity of the justice system equally depends on the fairness of the justification and the validity of the punishment. The issues of the death penalty, which are raised today at the global level, affect the work of criminal law and are the subject of discussions and debates. As a basis for research, the article “The Changing Nature of Death Penalty Debates” by Radelet and Borg (2000) will be used. In order to evaluate some features of this phenomenon, it will be analyzed from the perspective of the six components that the authors mention – “deterrence, incapacitation, caprice and bias, cost, innocence, and retribution” (Radelet & Borg, 2000, p. 43). The death penalty is a controversial topic in the context of the justice system, and a comprehensive assessment of its aspects through the theoretical justification of specific phenomena may help find relevant arguments.

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Methodology: Secondary Data

According to Radelet and Borg (2000), the existing nuances that determine the legitimacy of the death penalty depend on the laws of countries that support or deny this type of punishment. Hood and Hoyle (2015) argue that in the US, cases of the executions of criminals are rare due to the moratorium in many states. At the same time, not only ethical aspects are taken into account but also other factors, for instance, prisoners’ potential innocence or bias. In the context of American history, Steiker and Steiker (2015) associate the death penalty with racial criteria and note that the consequences and costs of court decisions determine the dignity of the justice system. As a result, the specifics of perception of the phenomenon under consideration are the key factor determining the attitude towards the death penalty.


Hood and Hoyle (2015) cite the general deterrence theory as justification in support of the death penalty. Radelet and Borg (2000) note that the educational aspect of capital punishment may be effective if the whole justice system has a common position regarding the suppression of crime. However, based on statistics provided by the authors, less than half of the US population is convinced that the death penalty cannot be seen as a significant deterrent (Radelet & Borg, 2000). Therefore, the given hypothesis is not confirmed, which indicates the need to revise the principles of criminal punishment.

Methodology: Primary Data

The method of assessing primary data relating to the stated topic involves the analysis of sources and cases that testify to the real facts of utilizing the death penalty and statistical reports confirming or disproving its validity. Radelet and Borg (2000) provide sufficiently many resources with links and note the unique features of specific cases. As an example of a primary source, the study by Yelderman, West, and Miller (2019) may be involved where the authors describe legal prosecution procedures and analyze court cases based on various aspects, such as religion. The article by Radelet and Borg (2000) contains references to legislation that describes special situations and unprecedented hearings.


The findings suggest that to analyze all the components that determine the legitimacy and validity of the death penalty, additional resources are needed, in particular, surveys and statistical reports. Radelet and Borg (2000) argue that to discuss the possibility of allowing or prohibiting capital punishment, it is crucial to weigh all the arguments and make sure that the intended benefits are higher than liabilities. In other words, contrary to the opinion of the importance of the death penalty as a deterrent, it is necessary to assess accompanying factors. The issue is how effective the execution of such punishment will be in the context of other aspects of the criminal system, for instance, ethics, impartiality, and other criteria. The analysis of these nuances may help determine the true value of capital punishment in the modern world.

Discussion and Conclusions

Due to the analysis of the opinions proposed for the topic under discussion, one can note that Radelet and Borg (2000) provide a detailed picture of the issues associated with the death penalty and its implications. The value of the study lies in utilizing both secondary and primary data for analysis, as well as involving the description of all the criteria that affect specific views. The phenomenon of the death penalty in the context of the modern justice system is controversial and ambiguous. The analysis of the factors that determine support or opposition to the given sentence should depend on whether the benefits of implementation outweigh the potential liabilities.


Hood, R., & Hoyle, C. (2015). The death penalty: A worldwide perspective (5th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Radelet, M. L., & Borg, M. J. (2000). The changing nature of death penalty debates. Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 43-61. Web.

Steiker, C. S., & Steiker, J. M. (2015). The American death penalty and the (in) visibility of race. The University of Chicago Law Review, 243-294.

Yelderman, L. A., West, M. P., & Miller, M. K. (2019). Death penalty decision-making: Fundamentalist beliefs and the evaluation of aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 24(1), 103-122. Web.

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