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Death Penalty - Effective Solution or Legalized Interpersonal Violence?

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Essay title: Death Penalty - Effective Solution or Legalized Interpersonal Violence?

Death Penalty- Effective Solution or Legalized Interpersonal Violence?

Great controversy surrounds the issue of the death penalty, and if/when it is right to use this severe form of punishment. People on both sides of the issue argue vigorously to gain further support for their movements. While opponents of capital punishment are quick to point out that the United States remains one of the few Western countries that continues to support the death penalty, one must remember that Americans are also more likely to encounter violent crime than citizens of other countries since our culture is so full of aggressive cues for people to follow (Brownlee 31). Interpersonal violence is a shockingly common form of crime, and it involves one person unjustly hurting or violating someone in some way. Justice mandates that criminals receive what they deserve, and this idea of reciprocity demands that justice enforcers use violence against a particularly brutal criminal, if of course it is deemed a fit penalty. Thus, each case is unique, and so the punishment must fit the crime. If a burglar deserves imprisonment, then a murderer deserves death (Winters 168). Therefore, I hold the death penalty as a useful crime deterrent rather than an unjust exploitation of interpersonal violence.

The death penalty is not cruel or excessive. Rather, it is a necessary reaction to heinous crimes, and is a most suitable punishment for capital offenders. Seventy-five percent of Americans support the death penalty, according to Turner, because it provides a deterrent to some would-be murderers and it also provides for moral and legal justice (83). Deterrence is a theory that weighs the effectiveness of a punishment (does it reduce the crime rate?) and makes testable predictions, such as the idea that punishment reduces the crime rate compared to what it would be without a credible threat of punishment (Van Den Haag 29). The deterrent effect of any punishment depends on how quickly the punishment is administered, thus in order for the death penalty to be effectual it would need to be carried out soon after conviction ( Worsnop 16). Executions are so rare and delayed for so long in comparison to the number of capitol offenses committed that statistical correlations cannot be expected (Winters 104). So, one cannot judge the deterrent nature of the death penalty since it is often long-delayed.

The number of potential murders that are deterred by the threat of a death penalty may never be known, just as it may never be known how many lives are saved with it. However, it is known that the death penalty does definitively deter those who are executed. Life in prison without the possibility of parole is the alternative to execution presented by those that consider words to equal reality. People argue that a life sentence may actually be more agonizing, and a greater punishment for ruthless killers. I beg to differ. Nothing prevents the people sentenced in this way from being paroled under later laws or later court rulings. Some criminals are very good at finding loopholes, especially if they have a lifetime to research. Futhermore, nothing prevents them from escaping or killing again while in prison. After all, if they have already received the maximum sentence available, they have nothing to lose. For example, in 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court banished the death penalty. Following the lead of other states, Texas commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment. According to Winters, after being released into the general prison population, twelve of the forty-seven prisoners that received commuted sentences were responsible for twenty-one serious violent offenses against other inmates and prison staff. One of the commuted death row prisoners killed a fellow inmate, and another killed a girl within one year of his parole release (21). This does not imply that every death row inmate would kill again if released, but they do tend to be repeat offenders.

The occurrence of repeat offenders is a huge problem that society faces because it tells the story of an incompetent justice system. Criminals who have not been rehabilitated are being released, and since they have not learned from their mistakes, it is likely that they will strike again. Winters states that over forty percent of the individuals on death row in 1992 were on probation, parole, or pretrial release at the time that they murdered (107). Society has a right and a duty to demand a terrible punishment for a terrible crime. According to Walter Burns, an eloquent defender of the death penalty, execution is the only punishment that can remind people of the moral order that human beings alone live by (Hertzburg 4). Van Den Haag states that the desire to see crime punished is felt because the criminal gratifies his desires by means that the non-criminal has restrained from

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