A Punishment Equal to the Crime

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Candidate George W. Bush stated, on October 17th 2000, during a debate with Al Gore, "I don't think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge. I don't think that's right. I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other people's lives" (Bush). Eighteen years later we are still facing the same question; is the Death Penalty a justified means of punishment?

Here in the United States we are quite divided when it comes to the subject of the death penalty. In our country we have a large portion of our population who oppose the death penalty however, there are many supporters in favor of it as well. Currently, there are thirty-three states in which the death penalty is legal and seventeen states that have abolished it (Death Penalty Information Center).I am personally in favour of capital punishment and believe that the death penalty should be legal throughout the entire country. Because most people fear death, I feel that using capital punishment would help to deter people from committing murder and other heinous crimes. Just knowing that the possibility of death could be a consequence for their action might help our country control illegal activities.

The poet Hyman Barshay stated: "The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing its beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down" (Barshay). Ernest van den Haag, a professor at Fordham University, wrote about the issue of deterrence:" capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because people fear death more than anything else. They fear most death deliberately inflicted by law and scheduled by the courts. Hence, the threat of the death penalty may deter some murderers who otherwise might not have been deterred. And surely the death penalty is the only penalty that could deter prisoners already serving a life sentence and tempted to kill a guard, or offenders about to be arrested and facing a life sentence" (Death Penalty Curricula for High School).

Isaac Ehrlich conducted a study in 1973 in which he found that for each execution of a criminal, seven potential victim’s lives were saved (Death Penalty Curricula for High School). By showing other potential criminals that heinous crimes are not going to be tolerated, we could deter them from committing future crimes. There have been many studies following Ehrlichs that had similar results. Recidivism is the rate at which previously convicted individuals return to criminal activity after their release. By implementing the death penalty throughout the United States we may be able to keep this rate down as well. One might make the argument that if the criminal is executed he has no opportunity to commit crimes again.

Because it often takes years for capital punishment to be carried out on an individual, it can be argued that deterrence is not accurate reasoning behind the argument and that its data is inconclusive. I believe that punishments being carried out in a timely manner would assist with the deterrence point of view. Van Den Haag makes the argument that handing out capital punishment is our strongest deterrent against heinous crimes. His argument has been studied and proven many times. "Since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder " (Death Penalty Curricula for High School). Many in our society are disturbed by crimes, therefore, taking away their peace of mind. It is thought that by handing out the death penalty order is restored to society and the criminals are adequately punished for their crimes. Their world and sense of peace seem restored. Victims friends and families often feel a sense of retribution when the death penalty is carried out. Many view this as revenge, but this retribution is not motivated by malice, rather it's motivated by the need for justice and the principle of lex talionis "an eye for an eye" (Green).

This lack of malice is proven in the simple definition of retribution: "retribution is a state-sponsored, rational response to criminality that is justified given that the state is the victim when a crime occurs" ("Justifications for Capital Punishment). By implementing the death penalty, one could say that the scales of justice have been put back in balance. The morality of the death penalty has been widely debated for years. Those against capital punishment believe that it is immoral for the government to end a life under any circumstance. Immanuel Kant argues that "a society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral" ( Kant, ProCon.org).

I believe that it is immoral to not properly punish an individual that has committed outrageous crimes. If carried out in a humane way at no time is the criminal subjected to torture or cruelty. The thirty-three states that have legalized the death penalty all use lethal injection; "the days of subjecting a prisoner to hanging or the electric chair are long gone in the US. Inmates are first given a large dose of an anaesthetic so they do not feel any pain"(Bosner). This initial anaesthetic is the humane part of ending one’s life. The criminal suffers no pain. An argument put forth by those who oppose the death penalty is the possibility of executing an innocent person. Steven D. Stewart, the Prosecuting Attorney for Clark County Indiana, very effectively refutes this argument: " No system of justice can produce results which are 100% certain all the time. Mistakes will be made in any system which relies upon human testimony for proof. We should be vigilant to uncover and avoid such mistakes.

Our system of justice rightfully demands a higher standard for death penalty cases. However, the risk of making a mistake with the extraordinary due process applied in death penalty cases is very small, and there is no credible evidence to show that any innocent persons have been executed at least since the death penalty was reactivated in 1976 The inevitability of a mistake should not serve as grounds to eliminate the death penalty any more than the risk of having a fatal wreck should make automobiles illegal " (ProCon.org) Stewart believes that death penalty cases are held to a much higher standard, therefore, the process in these capital punishment cases takes a great deal longer.

It would make since that the courts want to be certain they are sentencing the correct guilty person to death. This diligence helps to eliminate the possibility of executing the wrong person. He also points out that although there is a small possibility for mistakes to be made, this does not mean capital punishment should be abolished. There is the possibility of mistakes in everything we do in our everyday lives. As a society, we cannot stop doing things with the possibility of error. We must move forward with law and order. The United States Constitutions eighth amendment was created to prevent cruel and unusual punishment. Those who oppose capital punishment believe that execution is a form of cruel and unusual punishment and therefore is in violation of the Constitution. In the case of Furman v. Georgia, the court stated, "The punishment of death is not cruel, within the meaning of that word as used in the Constitution. It implies there is something more inhuman and barbarous, than the mere extinguishment of life" (Lowe).

The Supreme Court has not found capital punishment to be unconstitutional and has repeatedly upheld the death penalty as being constitutional in cases they have presided over. After a death row inmate is strapped down to the table and they begin administering the anaesthetic, the criminal feels no pain. In my opinion, the only part of the process that could be considered painful is when the IV needle breaks the skin. Administering injections, blood draws and IVs are used on a daily basis at medical facilities throughout our country therefore we do not see this act as inflicting pain. From the point that the criminal is put to sleep, they are unaware of the manner in which their life is actually going to end.

To me this argument over using humane ways to kill the criminal is just a waste of time and effort. It has been proven that minorities and those with lower income levels Crime And Punishment Essay are overrepresented on death row. This is not due to discrimination; this is due to the higher rate at which these groups commit a crime (ProCon.org). It has been argued that poverty breeds criminality; if this is true then it makes sense that those at a lower income level would more frequently be sentenced to execution than those at higher income levels. It has also been proven that more minorities are poor than not, and therefore they would also be more likely to receive the death penalty.

Ernest van den Haag said it best: "Punishments are imposed on persons, not on economic groups. Guilt is personal. The only relevant question is: does the person to be executed deserve the punishment? Whether or not others deserved the same punishment, whatever the economic or racial group, have avoided execution is irrelevant" (ProCon.org). Many will acknowledge that in the United States there is evidence of discrimination throughout our criminal justice system. By this admission do we assume that there must be d discrimination when handing out capital punishment as well? The U.S. Solicitor General, in his brief for the case of Gregg vs. Georgia, argued that sophisticated sociological studies demonstrated that capital punishment showed no evidence of racial discrimination (Carrington). In these studies, he compared the number of crimes committed with the number of crimes that actually went to trial in addition to the number of guilty verdicts rendered.

Studies showed that guilty verdicts were consistent across all racial boundaries and that no discrimination had occurred. I believe that a criminal’s race should have no bearing as to the punishment handed down to them. If they receive the appropriate punishment for their crime, then I feel that justice has been served. The law knows no colour of skin. In this instance, I believe that capital punishment is truly black and white.

Coming to one single conclusion over capital punishment can be difficult because people tend to have extreme varying views on it. In my opinion, the death penalty is an asset to the United States. It is important that our nations states unite on this issue as well. I believe that if the death penalty were used swiftly and more often we would see a dramatic drop in our nations crime rates. "Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done." (Budziszewski).

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A Punishment Equal to the Crime. (2020, Aug 20). Retrieved July 20, 2024 , from

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