Capital Punishment

The use of capital punishment is believed to deter future acts of crimes and deter the number of people who commit these crimes. Many years ago, capital punishment was almost used for anything such as stealing, murder, rape and even disrespect toward a higher authority but now it has been abolished in all countries except for the United States. Some believe that capital punishment should become, under law, a regular form of punishment and should be used against the ones who commit crimes. People who want to use it believe that it is the only justice that could be given to the victims of these crimes and to their families. In my opinion I don’t believe that the use of capital punishment makes any situation better or even brings back justice to the victim or their family. Even though it might see like the right idea, is this process really justified? If we are against murder it wouldn’t be right to commit the act ourselves, we would be contradicting ourselves. Is it really retributive justice? Or is it in fact a way to get back at the convicted and get the revenge they desire for.

Before the use of capital punishment and prisons, when people participated in crimes, it would go unnoticed. As the government started to grow, they decided they had to change this. So the world created a system, which was used for two main purposes: to keep people who caused danger to others and/or also to themselves away from the community and the second was to rehabilitate those who were considered morally wrong for their actions and the community would be able to release them back into society. This is why they called it correctional facilities, to correct peoples’ wrong doings. It seemed like society had come up with a way to help reduce crimes. So how did capital punishment come into the picture? When executions were first used it was used by rulers in higher power. Executions were not just used to give the convicted what they deserved. Many people were executed because they robbed someone or went against that higher power. Executions were used to make an example out of that person and show everyone who had the power and let them know that you could not go against them. It seems not to some that incarceration is not doing enough and not creating the effect people thought it would.

Now executions are seen as retributive justice. “Retributive justice is a theory of justice that considers that proportionate punishment is a morally acceptable response to crime, with an eye to the satisfaction and psychological benefits it can bestow to the aggrieved party and its intimates.” ( Sentences to death row mainly consist of murderers and repeated offenders of heinous acts. After committing such heinous crimes, people believe that there is no way to help the convicted. They feel as though letting them out into the community would just put other peoples’ lives in danger. Retributive justice is a way to make the lives of the ones who were affected by the crime a little easier to cope with the pain. Since their loved ones’ lives were taken away, the one who committed the act will have his life taken as well. Since the murderers took others’ lives, society believes that they have forfeited their right to life.

“If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call.” (John McAdams – Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence, ( As I had stated in my past essay, people would rather risk a murder’s life for no effect in helping the community than letting him go and having him commit more murders or other acts of violence and risking innocent lives. Once someone has commit a crime such as murder, that person did not value their victims’ life and obviously must not have valued their own life so why should anyone else take their life into consideration? Their life is of no importance so taking that away shouldn’t be a big problem. Even if you think they valued their life the other side is that they will probably go out and do it again.

“Fifty-six percent of the violent felons convicted … from 1990 through 2002 had a prior conviction, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistic … the study found that at the time of the new crime 18 percent were on probation, 12 percent on release pending disposition of a prior case and 7 percent on parole.” (“Organized Crime Digest” Sept 30, 2006) This is where the use of capital punishment comes in. When society believes that they have a criminal who cannot be corrected and he is considered a threat to that society and himself, what is the use of him? Why keep him locked up for the rest of his life when he doesn’t even deserve that right? People who are for capital punishment would give the answer that there is no need for them to stay alive. Saving the society from future harm and giving back justice to the victims and their loved ones; that is the use of capital punishment.
On the other side, if we are talking about what is morally right than most people of the U.S see the death penalty as an immoral act. “It is one thing to kill murderers when there is reason to think it will protect innocents, but to kill them because of bare possibility that this might happens seems like exactly the kind of disrespectful treatment of the murderer that Kant condemned.” (Reiman, Jeffrey (1998). The Death Penalty: For and Against) Along with this argument he states, not only is it wrong to kill the murderer without having actual proof of it saving innocents but there is research showing an increase in murders following the time of executions. In that case, we are making things worst. How can we go and kill someone because they had taken away someone else’s life? That is a little hypocritical. We think by doing this we are retrieving justice, maybe they thought the same thing. They were trying to create their own retributive justice.

If we as the society are going to choose to kill them anyway, why is it that the law does not let the society kill that person themselves? Why can’t they make their own retributive justice? The reason why they cannot do so is because it is wrong! Killing someone because of what they did is wrong. “The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice.” (“Abolish the Death Penalty” Yes, it was not right for them to commit that crime but they need to be punished in a way where they can understand why they were wrong and why they cannot do what they did. Isn’t the reason for punishment is to make that person understand they shouldn’t have done it and next time to know better? We as Americans have decided to change that idea. In response to this theory some would say it was to deter future acts of crime, but when in fact it does not. “Defenders of capital punishment have argued that it deters crime. Studies on the deterrent effect have largely been inconclusive, with no firm evidence that the prospect of death sways criminals from their actions.” (Capital Punishment. (2002). In World of Criminal Justice, Gale. Farmington, MI: Thomson Gale. Retrieved December 09, 2008, from”)

Like I stated earlier, I am not for the death penalty and I believe a corrupted system determines who is chosen for that punishment and the judgment is hypercritical. When people are being convicted, the decisions are rushed, sometimes based on racism, class, gender and the convicted are often innocent. The way court systems and juries convict people are merely an unfair act. Studies have shown that as many as one in seven people who are convicted to death row could be innocent, with a lot more who get off each year because they are proven innocent. The price of life is unlimited, but the U.S. puts a price on it. We are in fact killing innocent people. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time and you don’t have proof to why you were there than basically you could be giving up your life. “Guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt” is too subtle. The government misuses this phrase and they are simply misusing the idea of the death penalty all together.

“Death penalty opponents mounted another challenge in the early 1980s, arguing that racial bias had made the imposition of the penalty unequal. One study found that during a six-year period in Georgia, murderers whose victims were white were eleven times more likely to be sentenced to death than were killers whose victims were black. However, the Supreme Court rejected the use of statistical evidence to prove that the death penalty was imposed in a discriminatory or arbitrary way. Later studies have confirmed the disparity in the treatment of African-American and white killers.” (Capital Punishment. (2002). In World of Criminal Justice, Gale. Farmington, MI: Thomson Gale. Retrieved December 09, 2008, from “”). The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) states that you are more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death if you are black rather than being white. The numbers grow significantly higher if you are black and have killed a white person, and the numbers decrease if you are white and you have killed a black person. This is a good reason why we should not have the right to use the death penalty. This country is supposed to be non-racist, a place of equality and if our justice system has those defects in them, then they should not be allowed to make decisions involving those defects and in no way should the U.S be trusted with the death penalty.

Some would ask but what about the justice for the victims’ and their families? Why do we care more about what happens to the convicted more than the justice for the victim? I truly believe that justice is the first thing that should be solved. But no matter how many people you incarcerate and no matter how many people you sentence to death, nothing could ever bring that person back. Nothing in the world could ever take the pain away. Justice for the victim would be teaching what is morally right and would help people who often feel as though they have no other choice but to harm someone to focus their anger or depression on something else. If we murder those who have murdered it is just making us as bad as they are. Justice is to stop future acts of crime. There are some who are convicted who shouldn’t get another chance because they feel as though what they did was right but almost in every case most of the convicted probably repented what they did. What if murderers felt like they were creating peace by killing and maybe they felt justified like we do when we kill them.

Most people I believe are mixing retributive justice with revenge. The anger someone goes through when losing a loved one to an act of violence is unbearable, but sometimes we have to put our feelings aside and decide what would have the best outcome. I understand it is easier said than done but if we cannot get over our personal feelings than we should not have the right to make a decision of such serious nature like the death penalty. Every other country has abolished Capital Punishment. Why hasn’t the U.S.? This is because our minds are in the wrong place. Before we even decide to make it a regular form of punishment we need to fix the loose ends in our system and make sure it is an equal conviction for everyone. As I stated before, in the end capital punishment is just a vicious game of vengeance not justice and no one is winning and this is why capital punishment should be abolished.