A Life and Death Issue
Introduction to Ethics
December 15, 2014
Capital punishment has been a controversial issue about how society should handle and punish convicts. The issue lies with in each person and there view on possibly executing a criminal while in some cases the innocent. Proponents will tell you it maintains peace, lessens crime, cost less than imprisonment, and allows us to honor the victim of a crime. However, opponents would say its an insignificant form of peace, targets a race, unfair to the poor, and allows the justice system to have the power too take a life. Justice keeps equilibrium but, the system sometimes abuses the law and justice is served to the wrong person. At what point is it appropriate to allow judgement of life or death of a human being. The issues presented for those for and against capital punishment include deterrent of crime, eye for an eye, race inequality, punishing the innocent, and determining if the death penalty cost more than life in prison. Although, murder and treason are valid reasons for punishment does it always justify capital punishment as the solution.
Methods of execution have changed drastically over time. Barbaric means of execution were used in the past such as burying someone alive, crucifixion, burning, impalement, and hanging. These forms of capital punishment were used for murder, theft, treason, and sometimes more minor crimes. I will interchangeably use homicide to describe murder. During the 19th century religion played a important role in how criminals would be treated. The churches movement to attempt to purify criminals created the use of penitentiaries where convicts were reformed into good citizens rather than using the death penalty for minor crimes. The goal was to use capital punishment merely for murderers and find alternate humane methods of execution that were less painful and barbaric. France seemed to have a head start on the idea of a swift death by the invention of the guillotine meanwhile Britain was finding better methods for hanging so that the time of suffering was reduced. For example, dropping a further distance would dislocate the neck and spinal cord resulting in a quicker death. In the United States, the electric chair and gas chamber were favorable methods until the introduction of lethal injection which is currently the method of execution, but the argument still stands that it is too painful. Capital punishment will always be used as a sentence for murder as long as we can use it the right way and on the right people.
The social issue of capital punishment has been seen by many as way to reduce the rate of crime in the world. The idea is to strike fear into the eyes of people who would consider committing a crime. Murderers, unfortunately will commit there crime regardless of the repercussions that they will be faced with if found guilty. In the United States the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent for crime. According to the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, “Eighty-eight percent of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide”. Regardless of opinion there are people who believe that by enforcing the death penalty that homicide along with various other crimes should be met with the harshest punishment. Abolition of capital punishment in other countries , example, Sri Lanka has seen an increase in harsh crimes. In the United States there has been little change in murder rates due to the enforcement of the death penalty. FBI data shows that the 14 states without capital punishment in 2008 had homicide rates at or below the national rate (amnesty). Capital punishment will always be a controversy that argues its effect on society and the fear it will bring. Everyone has a right to life but the problem presented is the question if those who take life deserve life themselves.