Criminology/ Capital Punishment term paper 16283

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CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Capital punishment is the only way to eliminate repeat offenders, to deter potential murderers and is the ultimate retribution.

“When I think of all the sweet, innocent people who suffer extreme pain and who die every day in this country, then the outpouring of sympathy for cold-blooded killers enrages me. Where is your sympathy for the good, the kind and the innocent? This fixation on murderers is a sickness, a putrefaction of the soul. It's the equivalent of someone spending all day mooning and cooing over a handful of human feces, sick and abnormal.” – Charley Reese (columnist).

There has been many arguments in the history of the United States, ranging from abortion to gun control, but capital punishment has been one of the most hotly contested issues in recent decades. Capital Punishment is the administration of death penalty by the state to an individual who committed a crime which, based on its laws, mandates the death penalty. It is capital, because the offence is extremely serious, and it is punishment because it is given in response to some heinous crime committed by the perpetrator. The objective of capital punishment is to punish individuals who committed murder or other heinous crimes against innocent people. Capital punishment is not merely a legal question but a practical, philosophical, social, political, and moral question as well. It is unalterable because it removes those punished from society permanently, instead of temporarily imprisoning them.

Whenever the word "death penalty" comes up, people from both sides start arguing. One side says deterrence, justice, retribution, and punishment while the other side says execution is murder. According to Federic Bastiat in the law humans have inalienable rights that existed outside of and before government. These rights are life, liberty, and property. He insist that the only legitimate purpose of government is to protect these rights. When one person inflicts on another's rights or takes advantage of another person, he is plundering. The notion of deterrence has been at the very center of the practical debate over the question of capital punishment. Fear influences people and most people fear death The death penalty deters murder by instilling the fear of execution into potential killers. People are less likely to do something illegal if they think that harm will come to themselves. Another way in which the death penalty prevents murder is eliminating brutal murderers from our society. If the brutal killer is dead, he or she will not be able to kill again.. It is sensible to think that the death penalty would deter murder. In an article from the American Journal of Sociology, according to David Philips psychological experiments show that people are often deterred from exhibiting aggression when they see someone else punished for it. According to Isaac Ehrlich's study, published on April 16, 1976, eight murders are deterred for each execution that is carried out in the U.S.A. He goes on to say, "If one execution of a guilty capital murderer deters the murder of one innocent life, the execution is justified." To most supporters of the death penalty, like Ehrlich, if even just one life is saved, for countless executions of the guilty, this is a good reason for the death penalty. Another useful report was written by researcher Karl Spence of Texas A&M University. He gathered statistics from 1960 to 1976, showing the ratio of executions to murders. The results were as follows: 1) In 1960, there were 56 executions in the United States and 9,140 murders. 2) By 1964, when there were only 15 executions, the number of murders had risen to 9,250. 3) In 1969, there were no executions and 14,590 murders. 4) In 1975, after six more years without executions, 20,510 murders occurred. So the number of murders grew as the number of executions declined. Spence said:

"While some abolitionists try to face down the results of their disastrous experiment and still argue to the contrary, the data concludes that a substantial deterrent effect has been observed. In six months, more Americans are murdered than have killed by execution in this entire century. Until we begin to fight crime in every person who dies at a criminal's hands is a victim of our inaction."

In Utah, there have been five executions since the Supreme Court allowed executions to start again in 1976. Gary Gilmore faced a firing squad at the Utah State Prison on January 17, 1977. There had been 55 murders in that state during 1976. During 1977, there were 44 murders, a 20 percent decrease. A decade later, on August 28, 1987, Pierre Dale Shelby, who in 1974 forced five people to drink liquid drain cleaner, and killed three, was executed. There were 38 murders from January through a monthly average of 4.75. After Shelby’s execution, there were 16 through the months of September to December, a monthly average of 4.0.

Taking in account all the above statistics and data it is very well proved that capital punishment is very capable of deterring murder.

Death penalty has a tremendous effect in eliminating repeat offenders and hideous murderers who will murder no matter what the penalty is. In the 1800’s when Great Britain was beginning to colonize India, there was a religion called the Thuggee religion. The Thuggees were the most violent and brutal gang of thieves ever. They killed literally thousands of people. One of the requirement of this sect was that each member had to murder at least one person every year. To solve this problem the British started to arrest and execute the Thuggees and thousands of them were executed. After a few years the leader was also captured and executed. It was found that he had murdered 931 people. By the end of 1883 the British had completely solved the problem by executing the last Thuggee. Mostly the opponents of death penalty argue that some murderers are so fearless and determined that they will murder no matter what the penalty is. If this was true it was also true of the Thuggees but still the fact that death penalty can eliminate repeat offenders is ignored. A number of lives were saved after the execution of the Thuggees. Most opponents of death penalty claim that repeat murderers are rare. But, just ask them even if six percent of all murders can be stopped and forty five lives can be saved every year just in North Carolina alone what’s the problem in executing the murderers. Thus, the enforcement of death penalty can surely save the lives by stopping repeat murders.

Retribution - an eye for an eye and a life for a life, is justice. Capital punishment is a method of retributive punishment. It is the best possible retribution against a murderer. One man killing another man is not a human act, but how could we allow a murder to kill innocent people and go to court and not get put to death for it? Thus, capital punishment is necessary to ensure the priceless value of human lives and retribution is a justification for capital punishment because it is an injustice to tolerate criminal behavior such as murder. According to Justice Potter Stewart "The instinct for retribution is part of the nature of man, and channeling that instinct serves an important purpose in promoting the stability of a society governed by law".

As every coin has two faces so also this issue has its pros and cons.The opponents of death penalty have brought forward the moral issues concerning it. According to them respect for life forbids the use of death penalty. The opponents think that capital punishment is unfair to people of other races, classes or mental abilities but just ask these people when a loved one is killed who would think that the murderer had a low IQ, was black instead of white or was poor instead of rich. Afterall a murderer is a murderer. The opponents of death penalty should consider the follwing written by Ernest van den Haag : "If and when discrimination occurs it should be corrected. Not, however, by letting the guilty blacks escape the death penalty because guilty whites do, but by making sure that the guilty white offenders suffer it as the guilty blacks do. Discrimination must be abolished by abolishing discrimination - not by abolishing penalties. However, even if this cannot be done, I do not see any good reason to let any guilty murderer escape his penalty. It does happen in the administration of criminal justice that one person gets away with murder and another is executed. Yet the fact that one gets away with it is no reason to let another one escape." Opponents also argue that murderers of white people are more likely to receive death penalty than murderers of black people but a statistical study by Stephen Klein of the RAND Corporation found neither the race of the victim nor that of the killer affect death-penalty sentencing.

Opponents also argue that life in prison without parole is an alternative to death penalty. It is if only the criminals don’t commit murders in the prison and don’t kill guards and other inmates. For example in the Moore case in New York State James Moore in the year 1962 raped and strangled 14-year-old Pamela Moss. Her parents decided to spare Moore the death penalty on the condition that he will be sentenced to life in prison without parole. But according to the new laws formulated in 1982 he is eligible for parole after every two years. Thus, putting away a criminal in prison for life is not good because as long as he lives he can strike again. It’s better to kill him for once and all.

Considering all the above facts and arguments capital punishment is needed to ensure the safety and moral values of society. Certainly human lives are more important and thus we should not abolish capital punishment, but hold our country liable for properly implementing the death penalty upon those who deserve it. As Edward Koch once said:

"It is by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of human life that we affirm the highest value of human life."

Word Count: 1699

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