Over the course of humanity, one’s actions make an impact on himself and society that leaves the doer either rewarded or punished. Where the person intentionally harms another that ends their life, society has viewed justice according to the Code of Hammurabi as “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” to punish the criminal on height with the offense committed. Capital punishment has been the ultimate method to reassert the wrongness of the crime, its offense to society, and justice for the victims involved. Amid where developed nations have discouraged and intrinsically abolished the death penalty for all cases, including rape, murder, and treason under the pretext that the punishment demeans human dignity in the third millennium, it is assured that some situations still justify its use in order to address social and personal dignity and correspondence to misdeeds made. In the twenty-first century, capital punishment is still a justified method of justice and punishment in the modern world in extreme crimes that violate human dignity for it serves to improve society’s integrity and wellbeing through crime deterrence and compassion for victims.
Committing crimes that intentionally end human life has always been a vicious offense to society that creates a sense of insecurity of society and awareness of the feasibility of such crimes. Where humanity strives to maintain their lives and sense of security, capital punishment satisfies the utilitarianism principle as the act tends to gradually lessen the tragic pain of the victim’s families and, society’s pain of vulnerability, while affirming the victim’s human dignity. John Stuart Mill interprets the utilitarianism principle as society and individual pursuing happiness on parity by stating, “As a means of making the nearest approach to this deal, utility should enjoin, first, the laws and social arrangements should place happiness or the interest of every individual… in harmony with the interest of the whole” (Mill, 2013, 92).
While the interests of the victim(s) and society concur, capital punishment tends to show parity with the crime committed as the grotesque violation of human life is as expensive and valuable as the criminal’s life he is about to lose. Brian Calvert evaluates Locke’s interpretation of utilitarian punishment as it being on height with offense by stating, “The penalty will be determined by and be proportionate to the seriousness of the transgression…by the considerations is what will also serve to fulfill the goals of restraint and reparation” (Calvert, 1993, 215). Regardless of modern thinking and era, the death penalty is another way to punish the criminal while recognizing that the victim’s violated dignity and life is honorable to what the criminal failed to notice. To sanction on the criminal is the way to make clear that there is no punishment strong enough to remedy the loss of a human life as a debt to society and therefore is acceptable that the criminal’s life be ended for society’s safety.
Where gruesome crimes prevail in the modern era, any individual offenses to human life sets an example of an overall danger of such occurrence throughout all society. Where the criminal’s intention to harm poses such vast danger, capital punishment serves as a tool for human protection of those who do not share the same heinous mindset as the criminal. Carol Steiker emphasizes of the need to protect the community as a majority to the whole through deterrence by stating, “…punishment is justified as the product of human agency: the duty to punish derives from the will of the wrongdoer in choosing to offend… punishment is justified in order to protect human agency from private threats” (Steiker, 2005, 774).
In relation the utilitarian principle, the need for individual and collective happiness is satisfied by acting in deterring the criminal through the ultimate punishment in order to rule out any repetition of loss, bloodshed, and tragedy on any other person. Where punishment through judicial death is admissible for taking away human life, the value of such penalty must be the price for the acting at expense of people’s safety and wellbeing. Others may ask in doubt, “Is capital punishment expensive than the potential benefits of other methods of punishment?” While the costs are not monetary, Catalina Popa addresses the influences of the outside world shaping minds of potential criminals in contrast by arguing, “Punishment must clearly outweigh whatever benefits might be derived from a life of crime in the minds of potential criminals. Punishment must be severe” (Popa, 2010, 65).
In the goal to protect society’s happiness and distance from pain in the name of utilitarianism, capital punishment must be enforced according to the severity of the crime and potential dangers that would have posed and have been avoided on a larger scale. Where both collective and individual wellbeing must be accounted for, human life is preserved and valued at all times, including when others fail to do so and are punished.
As the need for capital punishment tends to benefit society as a whole, so must it affect on part of victims and the offender correspondingly. Where the victim’s survivors long for justice through punishment on the criminal and reasserting the victim’s dignity and memory, it fulfills utilitarianism in striving for absence of pain. Leo Barrile reviews the survivor’s perspective of justice and punishment in favor of capital punishment by stating, “Most of the survivors see the death penalty as just, deserving, and warranted for the murder. The most common sentiment expressed by survivors is justice… The punishment is seen as fitting the severity of the crime and as validating the suffering and loss of the victim” (Barrile, 2010, 246).
The importance of capital punishment for justice is straightforward when the purpose of the penalty is to show that there are consequences for human actions that violate the value of human life to the fullest and to the same degree. The consequence on the criminal for his act serves in benefiting the survivor’s need for security and restoration to happiness amid tragic losses, while the criminal faces his fate parallel to the brutality of the crime according to utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill addresses the need for people to receive what they deserve based on their actions in the name of utilitarianism by arguing, “…it is universally considered just that each person should obtain which he deserves; and unjust that he should obtain a good, or be made to undergo an evil, which he does not deserve” (Mill, 2013, 95). For both nature and society, capital punishment is an instrument to satisfy the value of justice and deservedness for the good doer and wrongdoer, respectively, in politically doing what is best to restore the state of fairness for all sides in relation to the actions and severity endured. In the name of utilitarianism, even if the punishment is flawed, the means of enforcing the penalty enables to create the greatest benefit on society at the most while intending to achieve tranquility and security for the survivor and dignifying the victim.
While most of the world has abolished the death penalty, the punishment’s intentions are still effecting in protecting society and survivors, responding in consequence to the criminal’s misdeed. The value of human life is regarded through the whole process in focusing on the victim loss on the survivors to promote benefit and recover and teaching others of the evilness of the crime. In general, the purpose of justice for both sides represents that capital punishment must be seen as a contemporary instrument of justice for human life correspondingly in seeing the reason and purpose through the murder by the criminal and the pain inflicted on the victim and survivors.
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