Criminal Justice Paper on Death Penalty

Death Penalty

  1. Explain how Supreme Court decisions influenced the evolution of the death penalty

Death penalty has existed since the introduction of English Common Law. Any person that was convicted of felony offense was faced with a death sentence as was required by law. The practice has existed in the United States (U.S) for a longer period as compared to other countries like UK which abandoned capital punishment earlier. Not only murder was subject to capital punishment, but also major violent crimes like kidnapping, burglary, arson and possession of firearms. The intervention of the US Supreme Court initiated evolution of death penalty since the 1970s. For the first time in the 1970s, the Supreme Court intervened and questioned the Georgia death penalty by ruling that the practice was unconstitutional because the Jury was given the power to determine if murder offenders would face death or life imprisonment (Marcus, 2007). The court gave supporting reasons why the practice was unconstitutional. The court got involved in the whole process of the practice and removed any faults within the system. This action effectively invited questions and concerns about the practice which has since resulted in renewed laws which are more considerate. The Supreme court’s decisions on more other cases like Woodland V North Carolina advocated for definition powers of the jury and the need for consideration of the offender’s characteristics or circumstances of the crime .The laws amended today can be explained by the evolution of standards that define a maturing society.

  1. Explain the financial impact of the death penalty on society. Include at least one specific cost associated with the death penalty

One of the reasons many Americans advocate for capital punishment is because of a belief that it is less costly to carry out a death sentence as compared to life imprisonment. It may appear reasonable to think that terminating someone life is cheaper as compared to associated costs of maintaining a prisoner for life, but imprisoning someone for life without (LWOP) which is mostly an alternate of the death penalty in most countries, is very expensive. One example of costs associated with LWOP is costs of constructing, financing and operating a maximum security cell. According to Costanzo and White (1994), the estimated average total costs of LWOP is about $925000.This makes the cost of LWOP very high, but the costs associated with capital punishment are even higher. American is said to be in a position to save much taxpayers money upon abolishing the death penalty.

  1. Explain the social impact of the death penalty on society

The death penalty is a very complicated matter when it comes to its effects on the society. The benefits of the death penalty to the society are mostly falsely described. The moral consensus on the issue of death penalty drives people into believing that the punishment is justified. The society supports the moral benefits of categories like rehabilitation and retribution, but the death penalty is a more harsh punishment that should be carefully handled. The society faces unfairness when it comes to the death penalty because it is mostly administered disproportionately on the poor, marginalized people, and the people of color (Unnerve and Cullen, 2012).These people are likely to find themselves convicted for a death sentence because of unfair economic and social issues. An example is people found in the inner cities of places like Chicago who are subjected to acts of violence like gangs, and in one way or another either through defense, find themselves charged with murder. This is unfair to the society considering the death penalty is a traumatizing thing. The society remains to be faced with unfair jurisdictions and associated consequences of the procedures. The minority group is the most affected even with so many reforms implemented to make a difference.


Costanzo, M. & White, L. T. (1994). An overview of the death penalty and capital trials: History, current status, legal procedures, and cost. Journal of Social Issues, 50(2), 1-18.

Marcus, P. (2007). Capital punishment in the United States and beyond. Melb. UL Rev., 31, 837.

Unnever, J. D. & Cullen, F. T. (2012). White perceptions of whether African Americans and Hispanics are prone to violence and support for the death penalty. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 49(4), 519-544.