Criminal Justice Paper on Should All States Abolish the Death Penalty

Criminal Justice Paper on Should All States Abolish the Death Penalty

The topic of death penalty is a subject that has been greatly debated across the world, particularly in the United States. Despite the fact that there are many supporters of the death penalty in the States, there is also a huge amount of antagonism. Death penalty entails a form of capital punishment in which a criminal proven guilty of a major crime is sentenced to death by the court. The most acknowledged forms of execution are hanging, shooting and lethal injection. Some nations like the U.S. use electrocution, gas chambers and lethal injections to execute the convicted person. In the US, there have been efforts to minimize the pain following the execution through the introduction of an electric chair. Nonetheless, in some parts of the world, added pain is purposely delivered during the execution, for instance, in the Islamic nations. In Nigeria, for instance, the executions are undertaken in public by the firing squad. As for the US,  there are thirty-three states in which death penalty is allowed as a mode of punishment and seventeen states, which have obliterated it (Death Penalty Information Center). There is an assertion that death penalty should be legal throughout the nation and states should not abolish it. There are several reasons as to why death penalty should be legal in all states, and they are discussed below.

The execution of convicted individuals through capital punishment significantly deters citizens in the states from committing different types of hard crimes. This is because the majority of people’s utmost fear is death, and, as a result, if they are sure that the death is the likely consequence for their actions, they would not engage in such actions. According to Ernest van den Haag (1975), a professor at Fordham University, it is evident that capital punishment will scare offenders from getting involved in criminal activities as compared to other forms of punishments. The professor alleges that most people fear death that is intentionally perpetrated by law and booked by courts. Moreover, death penalty is the only forfeit that could prevent a life sentence offender currently serving life jail from trying to kill a guard (Death Penalty Curricula for High School).

Many studies have proven that capital punishment is the strongest restraining the society has in deterring murder cases. Therefore, since the society is interested in preventing murder, capital punishment as the most efficient deterring punishment available needs to be incorporated to reduce the number of hard crimes. According to a research conducted by Isaac Ehrlich in 1973, it was evident that in every execution of criminals, the lives of seven victims would likely be saved. This figure was projected based on the previous data on recidivism of hard criminals (Chan and Deborah 6). Capital punishment is also efficient in preventing recidivism, which entails the rate at which former convicted offenders return to committing crimes after their release. Several laws assert that recidivism for hard criminals is punished with the capital punishment in case they hard specific crimes in the past; thus, the criminals who served the appropriate term would be less likely to commit the crime under the threat of death penalty.

Nonetheless, some researchers argue that there is no tangible evidence of deterring capabilities of death penalty. One of the reasons they base their spat is that death penalty is often carried out after a long detention. Therefore, prisoners remain on death row sentence for many years before being executed. This process erodes the efficacy of deterrence since sentences that are conducted quickly serve as better illustrations to others. Therefore, even though, death penalty is effective in preventing possible criminals from committing a crime, it would be even more significant if the legal processs were undertaken speedily instead of having inmates on death row for several years.

Death penalty also needs to be permitted in all states because it provides a just retribution. Warranted punishment morally safeguards the society through reinstating the impartial order by making the offender pay an equivalent price for the mischief committed (Gerber, Monica and Jonathan 62). Generally, when an offender commits a crime, it interrupts the society’s normal way of living because the criminal tempers with people’s peace and takes away lives or significantly harm them. Therefore, allowing death penalty reestablishes order in society and appropriately castigates the criminals for their wrongdoing.

Despite the fact that some may consider this as a form of revenge, retribution is not inspired by malevolence, but rather, it is incentivized by the requisite for justice and the norm of lex talionis, or, in other terms, an eye for an eye. According to the acceptable definition of retribution, the concept of malice is proven, which states that it is a state backed, rational retort to wrongdoing, which is vindicated provided that the state is the casualty when a crime takes place. Nonetheless, the antagonists of this idea question the morality of death penalty, which has resulted in a heated debate for decades. They argue that death penalty represents an immoral conduct for any institution to take the life of a citizen despite the circumstances of the case. This is because the fundamental responsibility of the state is to protect the rights and that capital punishment violates human rights (Dieter, 2002).

Nonetheless, this argument is repudiated by Immanuel Kant who emphasizes that a society that is not enthusiastic to claim a life of someone who has also claimed a life of another individual expresses the best definition for being immoral (Sorell, 1987). This implies that it is dissolute to not suitably chastise a person who has committed murder. Additionally, the methods used in execution are human because there are no cases of torture or any form of cruelty that criminals are subjected to. In the US, the states that allow death penalty sentences use lethal injection, hanging, electric chair or shooting.

Moreover, the inmates on death row are first given a huge dose of a numbing, which ensures that they do not feel any pain during the execution process (Bosner). This implies that the execution process is made as civilized as possible to reduce the pain and suffering that inmates would experience during the procedure. Even though, the concept of morality is very different for many people depending on thir outlook, it is significant to acknowledge the elements entailed in capital punishment, which denotes that morality in the execution is upheld and put into consideration before anything else.

According to the eighth amendment to the US Constitution, the law prohibits cruel and unusual chastisement of individuals (Blocher 278). This has provided many opponents of capital punishment with a basis for argument that execution is harsh and a strange punishment that infringes the Constitution. Nonetheless, as indicated earlier, it is apparent that capital punishment needs to be allowed in all states since no violation of the law is done; all the receivers of the death penalty are treated compassionately with no amount of torture. Specifically, the anesthetic ensures that the offenders do not feel any form of pain and the only practice that could be considered painful is when the IV is injected. Nonetheless, this is normal because it is used in medical facilities on a daily basis for even healthy individuals and is not regarded unconstitutional. Several appeals have been made at the US Supreme Court, but the court has maintained death penalty as legitimate in all the cases. For instance, 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”. The Supreme Court has, therefore, not proven that capital punishment is unconstitutional, and consequently, the argument for death sentence obliteration is invalid.

Another point given by death penalty opponents is that there is a likelihood of executing a blameless person. Several scholars have argued that this misjudge has occurred frequently. However, it is extremely uncommon incidence, which has never occurred in the US since the capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. It is apparent that no single system of justice can yield 100% results constantly. Additionally, any system that depends on human evidence is likely to have certain shortcomings and inefficiencies. Nonetheless, there is a minimal risk associated with inconvenient court procedures. Hence, the certainty of an error in the process should not be used as a basis for abolishing death penalty in states. Additionally, death penalty cases are costly and are undertaken in a slightly higher standard. The due process entailed in such cases involve much longer period, which provides the court with adequate time to ensure that the victim vindicated is guilty before condemning him/her to execution (Bedau 457). This is significant in reducing any errors that could cause the sentencing of an innocent individual. Therefore, even though, there is a little likelihood for mistakes involved in death sentencing due process, it does not provide a basis for the abolition of death sentence in all states.

Despite the fact that there is a disproportionality regarding death sentence cases involving races, classes and lesser crimes where the minorities frequently receive the death penalty, it is also proven that they are the main culprits of serious criminal activities in the US. In this case, the minorities encompass the lower income earners who are overrepresented on death row. Nonetheless, this is not a result of discrimination but because of the increased rate at which such groups take part in criminal activities. In most cases, it is evident that poverty enhances criminal activities. This situation makes it likely that the low income earners in the United States are often sentenced to execution as compared to the higher income earners. Additionally, the minority population in the US are disproportionately poor, which is also another indicator that they would engage in criminal activities in search for their daily living, hence, more likely to receive the death sentence. 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.”

This implies that regardless of an individual’s race or economic status, the law should take its course. If one is culpable of an offence, he/ she must receive the fitting punishment, which may be death sentence.

Death sentence entails an intricate subject to approach since many people have different understanding and inclination over it. However, capital punishment is healthy option for any given society because it deters likely criminals from committing crimes. Moreover, it serves as retribution to lawbreakers and it is moral according to the standards unto which it is accrued. Some opposing opinions against capital punishment do not have a strong basis when scrutinized at a closer range. It is significant that the US as a nation is unified over the subject instead of having some states employing death sentence whereas others do not. Capital punishment can be an effective method of passing judgment to convicts who have committed some of the most awful delinquencies acknowledged in the society, for instance, murder. Therefore, it is significant that laws must be passed in all states to make death sentence legitimate and enable proper justice to be served in the nation.


Works Cited

Bedau, Hugo A. The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies. New York [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997. Print

Blocher, Joseph. “The Death Penalty And The Fifth Amendment.” Northwestern University Law Review 111.1 (2016): 275-293. Academic Search Premier. Accessed 31 Jan. 2017.

Bonsor, Kevin. “How Lethal Injection Works” 3 May 2001. Accessed 01 February 2017.

Chan, Janet BL, and Deborah Oxley. “Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Review of the Research Evidence, The.” BOCSAR NSW Crime and Justice Bulletins (2004): 24.

Death Penalty Curricula for High School. “The Death Penalty Prevents Future Murders: Agree.” Michigan State University Comm Tech Lab & Death Penalty Information Center. (2013). <> Accessed 01 February 2013.

Dieter, Richard C. “The death penalty and human rights: US death penalty and international law.” Lancet 1 (2002).

Gerber, Monica M., and Jonathan Jackson. “Retribution as revenge and retribution as just deserts.” Social Justice Research 26.1 (2013): 61-80.

Sorell, Tom. Moral theory and capital punishment. Basil Blackwell, 1987.

Van den Haag, Ernest. Punishing criminals: Concerning a very old and painful question. New York: Basic Books, 1975.