Last Updated 08 Oct 2020

Death Penalty in Man’s Society

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For centuries, controversy has surrounded the place of the death penalty in man’s society. Several arguments have been advanced in support of and against the practice. Advocacy towards repletion of the penalty altogether has increased in the recent times. This has led to its abolition as a form of punishment especially in the industrialized nations. Officially known as the Capital punishment, Advanced Learners English Dictionary defines it as the ‘execution of a person by a state as punishment for a crime. ’ Most of these crimes are capital.

Historically, capital punishment was mostly carried out by beheading victims, hence the origin of the name, “capital” which a Latin word meaning “to punish by the head,” Atwood & Mary (2004). In the earlier societies, death penalty was perhaps ‘misused” or “was too regularly used’ Amlie, T. & Mitschow, C. (2004) without properly structured legal procedures. According to Banner & Stuart (2002), it was practiced in “nearly all societies” to punish those considered criminals as well as to coerce society members to obey the governing authority.

The act was carried out in the most humiliating manner. In the Roman Empire for example, people were executed by either being thrown off the “ Tarpeian Rock” an elevated rock so they would fall to their death or were first executed and their bodies hurled to river Tiber so that “dogs and carrion fowl’ would feed on them. Some of the other crude methods of the earlier civilizations included Burning to death, boiling to death, crucifixion, beheading, disembowelment, dismemberment, and even burial of victims while still alive.

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Technological advancement has led to the creation of better techniques like electrocution and lethal injection, Johnson, Robert (1998), however some of the penalties like, execution through the firing squad or hanging, are still considered too crude to be acceptable in the 21st century by the opponents of the penalty. Most historical writings reveal that, capital punishment was considered natural and even a necessary form of punishment for a wide range of crimes. From the philosophical and religious perspective, it was viewed as an appropriate or even necessary form of punishment.

Historical Religions, as testified by religious books such as the Bible, Koran, gives support to this, though some religions such as Buddhism has always opposed the death penalty. As man continues to progress, his interest on death penalty has continued to decrease. It is no longer considered as an appropriate punishment for a majority of cases. In the United States, as early as 1860, some northern states had abolished the death penalty altogether, though some still imposed it for only two crimes: murder and treason, Banner, Stuart (2002).

In the present society, the penalty is only carried out in cases of premeditated treason or murder in most societies while in others as a result of rape, adultery or sodomy. In conservative countries, for example China, it has been seen in cases like human trafficking, and even corruption. Geographically, the penalty is carried out in all European states. In the United States, the penalty is still retained by the federal government as well as 36 of its states. Should the penalty be re-introduced in states and countries in which it has been abolished?

This question has been asked over and over again. Most of those who support this form of punishment have presented various arguments. One of the major arguments in support of the death penalty is that of deterrence. Convicted criminals are seen as threats to the society as a whole. Death sentence is therefore necessary if they are to be “deterred” from committing more crimes. Opponents on the other hand are of the view that the convicts may reform and even make meaningful contributions to the society.

They therefore advocate for life imprisonment as opposed to death penalty, Solotaroff, Ivan (2001). Opponents, however see death penalty as being expensive to the state and the tax payer in comparison to life imprisonment. Proponents, on the other hand are of the view that guilty individuals may also be “let off the hook’ An example is the 1985 case in which a 13year old girl named Karen Patterson was shot dead by a neighbor Joe Atkins who had been released from prison after only 10 years for murdering his step-father, Bigel, Alan I. (1997).

“Justice” as proponents of the penalty calls it and “vengeance” as the opponents call it, death penalty is seen as the only form of justice for the capital offenders such as violent criminals and murderers. However, arguments against the practice it is also seen as preserving the dignity of the victims of the crimes as they and their family and friends feel that justice has prevailed. Other critics however consider the practice a cruel and an unusual punishment. Due to this criticism, in 2007, the United Nations made a resolution calling for the universal ban of the penalty.

According to State of New Jersey. (2007), out of 151 member states who participated in the process, 99 voted in support of the resolution. The form of punishment has also been viewed as a “cruel and unusual punishment. ” Death penalty is seen as cruel since it inflicts injury to the accused both physically and psychologically. They also oppose the policy based on potential application to cases of innocent individuals. These critics see the possibility of conviction of an innocent individual as being enough for the state to abolish the death penalty altogether.

The punishment may erroneously be applied to the cases of innocent individuals. One of the other chief arguments against the death penalty is the sanctity of human life. Most religions consider human life holly. As a result, no man is permitted to take the life of another man, Turow, Scott (2003). A study by New Jersey State on the relevance of death penalty to the state laws found that the penalty served no legitimate cause. It also found that the cost of death penalty as greater than the cost of life in prison without parole.

On a study it carried out on the spending of the Office of the Public Defender spending on death penalty, it would estimated that elimination of death penalty would save $1. 46 million per year not to mention the time involved in processing these cases, State of New Jersey. (2007). I am of the view that capital punishment should be re-introduced so as to effectively defend human lives against unchecked attacks. That as long as there is an accountable and just legal system which will ensure that no innocent men are victimized, death penalty should be carried out to ensure justice and respect for human life and dignity.

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