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Capital Punishment

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Essay title: Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is the execution of a perpetrator for committing a heinous crime (homicide), and it is a hotly debated topic in our society. The basic issue is whether capital punishment should be allowed as it is today, or abolished in part or in whole. My argument is that:

1) Capital punishment is not an effective deterrent for heinous crimes.

2) Life imprisonment can be worse of a punishment than death, not as

costly as execution, and better for rehabilitation.

3) The innocent can be wrongly put to death.

Conclusion: Capital punishment should be abolished.

Though capital punishment might seem like the only way to get revenge, it is morally unjust. Who are we to decide whether a person should live or die? It is morally wrong, individually or through government action, to seek revenge on a murderer by means of execution. The death penalty violates our right to life.

Capital Punishment is Not an Effective Deterrent

As justification for capital punishment, deterrence is used to suggest that executing murderers will decrease the homicide rate by causing other potential murderers not to commit murder from fear of being executed themselves and obviously the murderer who is executed will not kill again. This position may seem initially correct, and indeed, in a USA Today Poll, 68% of respondents agreed that the death penalty is an effective deterrence for crimes. However, some research suggests that rather than deterring homicide, state executions actually may cause an increase in the number of homicides (Stack, 1990). This phenomenon has been called the "brutalization hypothesis" and it suggests that through proposition, modeling, or by legitimizing killing, the death penalty actually causes an increase in homicides. Thus, the brutalization hypothesis is a reason for opposing the death penalty.

On the other hand, a study prepared for the UN in 1988 showed that abolishing the death penalty shows no significant change in the number of crimes committed. Since Canada's abolishing of the death penalty in 1975, homicide rate actually decreased 27 percent (up to 1993).

Life Imprisonment

Life imprisonment can be worse of a punishment than death for many convicted murderers. Instead of an easy out, these people will have to live out their lives without many of the freedoms and rights you and I take for granted. These people will be told when to wake, when to eat, when to work, and when to sleep. They will live out the rest of their days with the same monotonous routine, and after a while, many become so accustomed to it, that they lose their skills for live on the outside.

Some of those who support the death penalty base their argument on the fact that it is a cost-effective alternative to life imprisonment. However, it may be more costly to execute an inmate than to have that person serve a life sentence (Amnesty International, 1987). A 1982 study in New York concluded that the average capital murder trial and the first stage of appeals costs U.S. tax-payers 1.8 million dollars (Bohm, 1987). It is estimated that this is less than it would cost to incarcerate someone for one hundred years. Other sources estimate that it can cost up to 2.2 million dollars to obtain and carry out a death sentence (Johnson, 1990). The principal factor in this cost is the appeals process, which lasts an average of ten years and is deemed necessary to reduce the likelihood of the execution of an innocent person.

Obviously, the execution of a murderer deems him/her incapable of murdering again. However, those who support the concept of rehabilitation say that imprisonment is effective in preventing murderers from killing again. Murderers have the lowest rate of re-committing a homicide than people who have served time for other offenses (Johnson, 1990).

The Innocent

With convictions and executions, there is always a chance that someone was wrongly filed with charges. What are we to do with these people? In a study of capital convictions from 1900 to 1986 conducted by Radelet and Bedau, 350 cases were identified in which defendants were mistakenly convicted of crimes they did not commit, and of these 350, 24 were executed. Though 24 un-called

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