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The Death Penalty as a Deterrent to Crime

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Essay title: The Death Penalty as a Deterrent to Crime

The Death Penalty as a Deterrent to Crime

Brutally murdered by a man no one would have suspected, an innocent twelve-year old girl was taken from her mother. Although, this poor girl's mother was stricken with grief and anger, she did not wish for this murderer to die for her own sake, but to protect other innocent girls like her own. She sat and watched, staring into the eyes of the man who had killed her daughter. She watched as they inserted the needle containing the fluid that would take his life.

Is it morally unjust to execute criminals after they have committed a certain horrific crime upon another innocent victim? Until mid-twentieth century, this had been the tradition of practice, dating back to ancient times. In the United States especially, capital punishment is a hot topic of discussion and controversy. It is a difficult issue with many different points of view. Some are pro death penalty, others against the death penalty, and yet others with mixed feelings. So many different questions originate when the topic of the death penalty arises. Some of these are cost, sentencing equality, religious beliefs, the possibility of executing the innocent, and deterrence. These are just a few of the heated issues to consider. The death penalty is deterring crime, showing that individuals in the United States will be held responsible for their actions.

Some of the first death penalty laws can be dated as far back as the Eighteenth Century. This was a time when death was the only punishment for all crimes. These death sentences were done by means of beheading, drowning, beating to death, and burning alive, among others. From 1823 to 1837, the death penalty was eliminated, in Britain, for over 100 of the 222 crimes punishable by death. In 1967, after many legal challenges through the courts, executions were stopped in the United States. Finally, the Supreme Court placed a suspension on capital punishment in 1972, although later allowed it in 1977, under certain conditions (Changes).

Cost plays a major role in the death penalty. Opposing views say that it is far more expensive to execute someone than to give them life without parole. On the other hand, many others disagree. It has been estimated that life without parole cases will cost 1.2 million to 3.6 million dollars more than that equivalent to using the death penalty. On average, a life without parole sentence lasts thirty to forty years, while the annual cost of imprisonment is 40,000 to 50,000 dollars for each prisoner or more, each year (Lowe).

Cost increases are based on a few major points. The increases in prison cost include judicial decisions regarding prison conditions and the national inflation rate. Life without parole sentences are considerably more expensive in the medical aspect of cost, including huge costs of geriatric care (Kramer). Another major cost is the possibility of injury or death caused by a fellow violent inmate. Life without parole inmates are more likely to be violent because they do not fear additional punishment, other than the possibility of losing privileges. Death row inmates may be inclined to do the same, but the difference is that they may only be imprisoned on average six years, verses fifty years for the life without parole sentence. Death penalty cases prove to be significantly less expensive, than the death penalty equivalent life without parole cases (Lowe).

There are many questions on the limitations of the death penalty. Should race, mental illness, and age play a part in the deciding, if an individual should receive the death penalty? In 2001, 1,969 prisoners under sentence of death were white, 1,538 were African American, twenty-eight were American Indian, and thirty-three were Asian. These statistics only prove that these sentences were not racist (Bureau of Justice Statistics). However, mental illness, should be a factor to be considered during sentencing. Each individual case will be different, and it is up to the jury and judge to come up with a fair sentence. In 1992, the United States ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It states that the death penalty not be used on those who committed their crimes when they were younger than the age of eighteen. However, the U.S. reserved the right to execute juvenile offenders (Changes). The average age of arrest was twenty-eight in 2001; two percent of inmates were age seventeen or younger, and the youngest inmate under death sentence was nineteen (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Juveniles who are of an age to understand right and wrong should be punished according to their actions.

As with all controversial subjects, the argument of religion is very touchy. In the Bible teachings, we are told to obey God's will and uphold the laws of man. Man has a god given right to make

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