Capital punishment refers to the legal execution of serious offenders which also refers to the death penalty. This practice is prevalent in the United States despite the arguments concerning its merits and effectiveness as a serious crime deterrent. Capital punishment involves five lawful methods, including electrocution, gas chamber, shooting, hanging, and lethal injection. The United States legal system uses the death penalty to successfully deter serious crimes.
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The first capital punishment execution occurred in the American colonies during the 17th century and was widely spread out during the revolutionary war period. Despite arguments that capital punishment is a deterrent to violent crimes, it should be abolished because it cannot be administered fairly due to factors such as mental illness, age, and race.
Capital Punishment and Mental Illness
Arguments concerning capital punishment for mental illness raise substantive issues on how the process is unfair for individuals. People living with mental illness do not have a sound mind in decision-making regarding their fate during trial and defense, making the process unfair (Beitsch, 2017). The legal process does not stipulate any provisions that ban mental illness execution. Despite several states having legislative bills banning mentally ill execution, none has enacted laws that implement the action. The situation depicts that mental illness and capital punishment issues in the United States remain unsolved following the constitutional progression.
Despite the Supreme Court’s contribution to addressing the mental illness issues, capital punishment still prevails over the victims. Reports indicate that executions that happen include five to ten percent of mental illness individuals.
Mental illness individuals are disadvantaged while defending themselves in a court of law and experience difficulties when facing serious offenses that attract the death penalty. The stigma and fear involved in such cases affect the criminal justice system’s fairness progression.
The situation heightens the mental illness risks of losing lives unfairly due to capricious death penalty applications. In some instances, mentally ill individuals face threats and coercion for false confessions due to an inadequate understanding of human rights and lack of access to high-quality legal advice (Sandys et al., 2018). On the other hand, the criminal justice system fails to ensure fairness due to mental illness legal requirements that call for exceptions in some issues such as crime. This situation calls for the criminal justices’ responsibility in establishing a more just method for guilt determination concerning the victim’s mental status and the primary basis for capital cases.
Studies indicate that individuals with mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, have faced capital punishment for murder convictions. Only a handful of states with the encompassing lawmakers advocate for capital punishment banning while the rest still view the practice as viable for crime deterrence. The abolition proponents champion for the insane individuals to serve mental hospital terms than facing the death sentence.
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Liberties Union that fights for human rights reports that individuals with mental illnesses who face death penalties entail unfair treatment (Larkin Jr & Canaparo, 2020). Most of them have severe conditions such as mental problems that led them to crime. Through the insanity provisions, such persons are unfit for trial, and through conviction, their mental incompetence during death row should prompt their exemption from execution. These circumstances have led the American Psychiatric Association and other agencies such as Death Penalty Action (DPA) to champion the ban of capital punishment for severe mental illness individuals.
Capital Punishment and Race
Research on criminal justice progression depicts persistence in racial disparities in capital punishment implementation. The reports present the African Americans as more likely to face the death penalty than the white defendants. The situation illustrates that blacks have lower chances for mental health treatment. Although the United States’ population comprises a lower percentage of black and the majority is whites, the number of African Americans serving imprisonment with the death penalty are higher than their counterparts (Cohen, 2020). This situation indicates the heightened racial discrimination in the legal system. Even though all races engage in criminal actions, African Americans experience more punishments than whites. Also, blacks are less likely to access substantive representation in the legal system due to the existing bias.
Capital punishment dates back to the colonial era when it was only applicable to blacks. The persistent racism resulted in campaigns against its progression, contributing to the decline, but it did not stop in the 19th century. Despite many attempts to abolish the practice on a discriminatory basis, capital punishment still affects African Americans. The intrinsic racism in the current progression focuses on the victims’ race rather than the defendant determining the death sentence (Cohen, 2020).
The defendant is more likely to face a death sentence for killing a white than a black person. In contrast, chances increase when the perpetrator is an African American against an American. Research reports indicate that minorities have faced capital punishment for murdering whites while fewer whites face execution for committing the same crime against African Americans (Fenner, 2020). This situation indicates the level of intrinsic racism in the system.
The racial practice is evident, starting from the arrests to execution. The criminal justice system operation involves the police patrol, which focuses on monitoring the minority color people rather than the whites. This situation explains why many African Americans are in prisons and face harsher punishments than their counterparts. The call for capital punishment abolition would eliminate such unfair sentences for the blacks (Fenner, 2020). Even in states where there are many African Americans, the judicial system exclusively constitutes whites ranging from the judges to the chief justice. The lack of representation exposes people of color to unfair judicial execution. Despite the civil rights movement as part of societal activities, the judicial system progresses with discriminatory racial instances that are color biased.
Capital Punishment and Age
The judicial system in death sentence encompassing the adults and youths proves unfair to the adolescents. Many proponents against capital punishment abolition explain teenagers’ execution. The scientific research on the issue depicts differences in the adult and adolescent’s emotional, cognitive, and physical capabilities (Troutman, 2018). These differences present the adolescents as incapable of making sound decisions concerning crimes and the consequences attracted. Based on the psychological and resonance imaging research, the immaturity level of the adolescents’ frontal lobe plays an essential role in planning and implementing goal-directed behavior.
While the adults have developed reasoning abilities, the adolescents are still in the developmental stages, creating an imbalance in reasoning and behavior presentation. The imbalance results in the teenagers’ emotionality and vulnerability, leading to their involvement in risky behaviors. These adolescents possess inadequate self-control and are more likely to indulge in impulsive behaviors without considering the encompassing consequences. Adolescents’ inadequacy in consequences’ anticipation for risky actions emanates from their inexperience in decision-making ability.
Additionally, they are inefficient in information processing, affecting their ability to make rational decisions based on the action and foreseen consequences (Troutman, 2018). They make quick and impulsive decisions compared to adults who have more experience in life and better reasoning capacity development. The teenager’s less future orientation contributes to their non-consequential actions that do not involve weighing the costs and benefits.
In some cases, the juveniles can make rational decisions calmly, but a stressful environment jeopardizes their thinking ability. The stressful environment also compromises their capability in weighing the costs and benefits of actions contributing to crime activities (Troutman, 2018). The encompassing issues include peer pressure and enjoyment. The quest to gain peer approval and happiness denies the adolescents chances to make long-term decisions. The psychological research indicates how peer pressure influences the youth’s brain activity stimulating the brain’s reward Centre. The stimulation emanates from the peer interaction where the crime tendencies entail challenging progression of resisting peer influence.
In conclusion, capital punishment is a violation of the constitutional ratification that views it as unusual and cruel. The abolition proponents indicate that even murderers deserve a better value for human life. At the same time, the opponents call for abolition due to the unfair progression of racial discrimination, mental illness, and age. The abolition proponents argue that an individual having mental illness cannot defend themselves in a court of law and the death sentence implication is unfair. Additionally, racial discrimination presents African Americans as more affected by capital punishment than whites.
Based on the age factor, it is unfair to place adults and adolescents at the same level of criminal actions and executions. While the former has a more developed brain and reasoning ability, the latter are immature and based on peer approval for criminal tendencies. Based on the arguments concerning the judicial system’s progression, it is essential to abolish capital punishment.
Beitsch, R. (2017). Should states ban the death penalty for people with severe mental illness? PBS News Hours. Web.
Cohen, A. (2020). Berkeley law helps governor seek more protections against racial bias in jury proceedings. Berkeley Law. Web.
Fenner, R. (2020). Faculty research spotlight: Race and the death penalty. Stanford University. Web.
Larkin Jr, P. J., & Canaparo, G. (2020). Are criminals bad or mad: Premeditated murder, mental illness, and Kahler v. Kansas. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, 43, 85.
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Sandys, M., Pruss, H., & Walsh, S. M. (2018). Capital jurors, mental illness, and the unreliability principle: Can capital jurors comprehend and account for evidence of mental illness? Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 36(4), 470-489.
Troutman, B. (2018). A more just system of juvenile justice. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973), 108(1), 197-221.