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A Permanent Death - Capital Punishment

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Essay title: A Permanent Death - Capital Punishment

A Permanent Death - Capital Punishment

There are five basic reasons that society uses when imposing "punishment" that I've been able to conclude from my readings. I will discuss these societal concepts and show that the death penalty does not serve to further them. As a result William Smith should not be subject to the death penalty and in fact the same should be abolished from our system of "punishment".


Deterrence is basically defined as "the punishment should fit the crime." Under this concept, the individual committing the crime and society are prevented from committing this action again. In the case of the death penalty, an individual kills another human and he is "punished" for it by death. Punishment is supposed to be a temporary penalization for a wrongful action. Death is far from temporary. One is to learn from one's mistakes. How can the person learn if they are paying for their mistake with their life? In Ernest van den Haag's article, "The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense" he states, "The death penalty is our harshest punishment. It is irrevocable: it ends the existence of those punished, instead of temporarily imprisoning them." (Haag, 251). By imposing the death penalty the individual does not learn from their mistakes and neither does society.


Under this concept, punishment should be economical. As Haag points out, "...the monetary cost of appealing a capital sentence is excessive." (Haag, 253). Further, "...actual monetary costs are trumped by the importance of doing justice." (Haag, 253). Additionally there are specific costs associated with keeping an inmate on death row, (i.e. the cost of the specially built prison blocks, the need for maximum security, etc.) and more. These costs clearly out weigh the regular costs incurred to house a regular inmate. Deterrence is clearly not served by imposing the death penalty and society aims for justice are thwarted.


Society demands that the punishment should fix the harm it has done. By sentencing a person to death no harm has been fixed. You can not bring the murdered person back by taking the prisoner's life. "Punishment-regardless of the motivation is not intended to revenge, offset, or compensate for the victims suffering or to be measured by it." (Haag, 253).


The community demands that justice be served. Would justice not equally be served and in fact may be better served by life imprisonment? I believe it would be a worse punishment to endure a life sentence in prison. The individual is deprived of his liberty. He will then suffer and live the rest of his or her life within three lonely walls and a set of bars. It gives the individual time to think and wallow in his own guilt.

Someone kills another. The State then proceeds to kill him for doing so. This is not punishment but revenge. Revenge is inconsistent with society's demands that justice be served because the punishment has to fit the crime. Justice Brennan has insisted that the death penalty is "uncivilized, " "inhuman," inconsistent with "human dignity" and with the "dignity of life." (Haag, 254). Brennan speaks of moral imperatives. It is morally wrong for someone to kill someone. If so, then the state is committing a morally wrongful act. As they say, "two wrongs don't make a right."


Society desires for its members to reintegrate themselves into society. Punishment includes preparing the person to reenter society and lead a productive life. Without doubt, if you impose the death penalty there is no opportunity for rehabilitation.

Overview of the William Alvin Smith case

William Alvin Smith robbed and killed the owner of a grocery store in Georgia when he was 20 years old. He turned himself to the police and signed a confession. The local jury condemned Smith to the electric chair but a federal judge ordered a new sentencing hearing for Smith on the grounds that he lacked the ability to understand the significance of waiving his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present. Smith has the mental capacity of a ten-year-old.

Analysis of the William Alvin Smith Case in Relation to Society's

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