Since ancient times it is a practice to execute people judged to have committed certain extremely heinous crimes, with a view to sending warning signals among perpetrators of crime, which is aimed to reduce recurrence. All of us are opposed to crime and violence in our society; at the same time, whether we should have the death penalty or not is the most difficult moral issue we face.
Crime and punishment are among the most important issues in contemporary America, and capital punishment is a controversial issue. Most of the center of the argument on questions of deterrence, public safety, sentencing equity, and execution of innocents, among others.
Whether or not the death penalty has a deterrent effect is a very important question, and for debate on the consequences of capital punishment, it is crucial to establish reliable evidence on whether executions deter or stimulate crime.
Capital punishment is the penalty or sentence of death for committing a heinous crime. There is disagreement about capital punishment, and whether it is moral or is effective in discouraging crime, has not been conclusively established.
Many oppose the death penalty as they consider it cruel and as a violation of human rights, and hence they argue that it should be abolished. Abolitionists feel that there are risks of wrongful execution of innocents. Another claim is that the death penalty is more expensive for the state to execute a criminal than to incarcerate from life as the cost of it is “more expensive than a system handling similar cases with a lesser punishment.” (Dieter).
Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (Alternatives to the Death Penalty. 2000) recognizes and upholds the responsibility of society to protect everyone from people who are dangerous; in particular, those who are convicted murderers. However, it advocates viable alternatives to the death penalty through life imprisonment and “restorative justice” (Alternatives to the Death Penalty).
Supporters of capital punishment opine that as long as the murderer lives, there is always a chance that he will strike again. There is no substitute for the best defense of public safety than capital punishment because it bars the murderer from killing again.
Researchers argue that capital punishment has a deterrent effect, and each execution saves lives. “According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.” (Liptak).
In addition, it is projected that “With a yearly average of 15,000 murders, the fact that we are reaching 1,000 executions in only a little more than 30 years is proof that capital punishment has been reserved for the worst of the worst.” (Death Penalty Issues).
In the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States (Atkins, 536 U.S at 319), capital punishment must be limited to those offenders who commit “a narrow category of the most serious crimes” and whose extreme culpability makes them “the most deserving of executions.” (Simmons).
A review of all the recent death penalty literature, and the comparative studies done by Donohue and Justin (2006) to assess the statistical evidence on the efficacy of capital punishment, particularly in relation to non-death penalty states with executing states in the United States, suggest that “death penalty has no large effect on the murder rate.”
Donohue and Wolfers also state that “Neither adoption nor abolition of the death penalty could reliably be casually linked to homicide rates” (Donohue and Justin). It derives that lawmakers and law keepers should analyze each case cautiously before arriving at a decision to impose capital punishment because certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death.
Simmons, Roper V. Legal Information Institute: Supreme Court Collection. 2005. Cornell University Law School.
Alternatives to the Death Penalty. CUADP, 2000.
Dieter, Richard C. Cost of Death Penalty and Related Issues. (Testimony of Executive Director). Denver: Colorado. Death Penalty Information Centre. 2007.
Donohue, John J, and Wolfers, Justin. Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate: Stanford Law Review. 2005. Vol. 58. P.792. Donohue & Wolfers 58 Stan. L. REV. 791.
Liptak, Adam. Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate. The New York Times. 2007.
Death Penalty Issues. Charlene Hall. 2007.