Why is the death penalty such a controversial issue? Why is the issue one that can be argued and have many different opinions on the issue? Is the death penalty fair? The death penalty by definition, is the legal authorization to kill an individual as a punishment for a crime that the individual committed. It is government sanctioned action, which is also known as Capital punishment. Some of the most common crimes that would receive the death penalty if found guilty of committing the crime are murder, espionage and genocide (crimes against humanity). The death penalty significance or symbolic meaning is that it might deter other murders, that ultimately protect our world from the criminals that want to harm us.
The issue of capital punishment concerns many people and brings up debates on the topic itself. It is an extremely complex issue for society and those complexities will be identified throughout this report. These issues have been problematic for hundreds of years, even in the events of the Salem witch trials where they had similar issues and concerns about the death penalty for many reasons. They had the same arguments and controversial opinions on the topic as we do in today's society.
Capital punishment dates way back to the 15th century and was created in Delaware. Many of the first methods of capital punishment was hanging an indivdual for attemping to kill an another person. Capital Punishment was introduced to The United States. Which was orginated from Britain, where they would hang those who committed murder, as well as many other possible crimes and convtions. In Britain, it was popular to hang those who committed crimes in front of the town. They were seen as very festive events and the people of Britain enjoyed watching these events take place. Attending those beheading and hangings were normal and became something that was apart of their culture. It started to occur and become increasingly more common and normal in the 15th century. The number of capital crimes committed or attempted in Britain increased dramatically throughout the centuries.
In the 16th century, it had been estimated that around seventy two thousand people had been executed in Britain. There were various ways of execution, such as boiling a person, burning at the stake, beheading, hanging an individual and stoning one to death. Many of these executions were carried out for reasons such as treason, adultery, marrying a jewish individual, or denying that you commited a crime when there was evidence that you did, even if it was a small crime.
In 1700’s, almost two hundred crimes were accounted for the death penalty punishment. Crimes that are convictable for the death penalty, were not ones that necessarily punishable by the death penalty, they were small crimes for the most part. Russia was the first popular country to ban the death penalty in their country. Then Europe created a movement to ban capital punishment in their country, because they believed that the death penalty was too harsh and that it went against their rights as humans, this was a common occurrance in 1753. English men used capital punishment in America even when it was a colony that was not a country yet. The death penalty was a issue that was controversial amongst the english men who formed America. Benjamin Franklin was against the death penalty, but they did not do away with the punishment while they wrote the Bill of Rights. In 1846, Michigan was the state that first revoked the death penalty. Ten states eventually ended up revoking the option and punishment of the death penalty in 1917. Then, by the 1950’s the death penalty had gotten less common and was seen as harsh and cruel. Ever since the death penalty has been in existence, and for around the last fifteen years it has had those who support and along with those who disagree with the death penalty.
As identified, the death penalty has been an extremely controverisal topic for many years. It is a controversial subject because of the ethical, moral and religious beliefs, as well as the cost of imposing a death penalty conviction. Research has identified that the cost to employ the death penalty is higher than allowing the convict to receive a life without the option for parole conviction. We as citizens and taxpayers are the bill payer for these criminals. There is also the issue of wrongful convictions.
There are approximately fifty six countries including the United States that maintain the death penalty within their criminal justice system as a possible punishment for these crimes. Several states have already done away with the death penalty, but some states have also kept the death penalty around for many reasons. There are thirty one states within the United States that still allow the death penalty to be carried out. However, there are twice as many countries that have abolished the death penalty.
There are many people who are in support of the death penalty, we should discuss some of the positive outcomes of capital punishment and then discuss the negative outcomes. Those who believe in and support the death penalty usually praise the deterrent effects it has on societies in the United States. As citizens, we all want to prevent violent crimes from happening within our neighborhoods and societies if at all possible. This is why many people support the death penalty knowing that it is often the punishment for someone who commits murder or crimes against our country. The ultimate goal is that the execution itself would prevent people from comitting murder.
Another positive outcome is that capital punishment is viewed by some citizens as a deserved punishment for terrible crimes committed. There are some people that believe a criminal can be rehabilitated and should be given another chance to be an effective or participating member of society. Some people even give sympathy to a criminal or their family throughout the trial. The criminal justice system and law should be able to address the actions of the accused with consequences terrible enough to discourage others from committing similar crimes.
There is a point in time when someone who commits a horrific crime is most likely beyond the point of rehabilitation. For this reason, many people hold the viewpoint that the criminal should receive the punishment that is equal to the crime they committed. It is thought that capital punishment prevents the criminal from committing another terrible crime against an undeserving innocent person if they were to be released back into society rather than put to death. The argument has been made that by following through with the death penalty conviction, it keeps the criminal from influencing their prison mates who may consider committing violent crimes when they are released from prison. There is always the chance that a prisoner may escape. If the criminal has been put to death for their crime (s), then there is no chance of an illegal escape. If the escape was successful the criminal holds a high possibility of committing another violent crime towards innocent people that may get in the way during the escape or while running and hiding from law enforcement, hunting family members of their original victim and even possibly jurors, prosecutors and judges that were part of their trial and conviction.
The death penalty can also prevent prisons from becoming overcrowded. There are more than two million people incarcerated in the United States. Approximately $700,000 of these prisoners are violent offenders. What are some of the negative outcomes of the death penalty? One of the top negative outcomes is the cost associated with the death penalty versus the cost of a life in prison sentence. The average cost of a case without a capital punishment conviction is $740,000 according to the Death Penalty Information Center, whereas the average cost of a capital punishment conviction is well in excess of $1 million. Then there are the costs of housing prisoners on death row versus those serving life sentences. Apparently, the cost to house a prisoner that received a death penalty sentence is almost $100,000 more per year than a prisoner living in general population, and statistics show that the average time spent on death row in the United States is fifteen years. All said, it may cost more than $1 million to house a death row inmate than a general population inmate.
Most people feel that a death penalty sentence for a criminal convicted of homicide will bring justice to the victims family and friends. And, while it is the ultimate form of justice, it doesn’t always provide the satisfaction to families that people think it will. Research conducted indicates that when a perpetrator is given a life sentence without the option for parole that families experience better overall mental and physical health. Data collected from states that allow capital punishment convictions indicates that they have higher murder rates than the states that don’t support the death penalty. The research showed that when four states abolished capital punishment their murder rates lowered.
The issue of wrongful convictions is one to be considered, and since the late 1960’s there have been more than one hundred fifty people cleared after their initial conviction of a capital crime. Given that’s over a span of fifty years and results in about thirty three percent of the capital crime accusations, it’s not an alarming number, but it should definitely be zero. We should consider how our view would be if a family member, friend or self was wrongfully convicted of any crime let alone a capital punishment crime. The methods used to collect evidence and DNA from crime scenes and the handling and transfer of samples has improved immensely over the past fifty years, so one would hope that wrongful convictions are lessening or becoming nonexistent.
There are many different judgements about the death penalty, where lines have been drawn through history including discussions surrounding rehabilitation for criminals and if they can be helped or if their behavior can be corrected. While prisoners are incarcerated they go through some rehabilitation programs in hopes that when they’re released and once again have their freedom that they will never commit another crime that jeopardizes their freedom or that could place them back in jail or prison. They have access to psychiatrists to help them deal with mental health and disorders and psychological issues. They can also take classes to learn basic reading and writing skills, or to take classes to learn skills or trades that will prepare them for their release and help them to get a job or career. Research consistently shows that rehabilitation programs or time spent in prison accessing these resources generally doesn’t have successful rehabilitative effects on criminals, and they usually return to a life of crime upon release. Some experts actually think that they may learn new or better ways to commit crimes through their peers during imprisonment. They may also make new connections to the criminal world to pickup with upon release. For many prisoners, they are pushed deeper into a life of crime. There are a smaller percentage of prisoners that suffer enough during imprisonment and don’t want to experience that life again that it manages to keep them from returning to a life of crime.
The death penalty debate will continue to be controversial or a topic of discussion. It is a worthy debate because freedom of speech, opinion and religion are part of our rights as humans. There will always be differing viewpoints on this topic and it’s healthy to have discussions about it. More Americans are in support of the death penalty than those who are against it, but opposition is increasing. Additionally, significantly more republicans (72%) support the death penalty compared to democrats (34%).
The federal government has not executed anyone since 2003, but Attorney General William P. Barr said the government will resume executions in December 2019/January 2020. After almost two decades of no executions, five prisoners convicted of child murders will be put to death. The Justice Department and Trump administration have reinstated executions that will be carried out using a three-drug cocktail injection. The cocktail has been controversial itself, but this is the method that will be used. The five men to be executed were convicted of heinous crimes against children and they range in age from 37 to 67. Adults were killed as well by some of the murderers in addition to the child killings. These cases fall under federal jurisdiction because of how or where they were carried out. Some of the inmates scheduled to be executed committed crimes that fall under the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Mr. Joseph Biden was the lead sponsor for the bill.
The death penalty is a controversial issuenthat has postive parts about it and negative parts about it as well. My original thoughts on the death penalty leaned more in favor of. Throughout this process and the research I have conducted on this issue, I have learned more about the history of and varied viewpoints surrounding it. The topic is so complex and is difficult to draw a hard conclusion, because someone’s intent and reason for being guilty of a capital crime can vary. This is why it is so important to have a jury to deliberate the facts of each case. An example that plays in my mind of two varied circumstances are one - a woman defending her children from a father that is physically abusive and through defending them she kills her husband. Should she receive the death penalty for defending her children from their father? Two - a serial killer such as Ted Bundy that seeks and stalks the women he preyed upon with the intent to rape and kill them. Should he receive the death penalty?
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below