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Death Penalty

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Death Penalty

Death Penalty

The death penalty is a controversial topic in the United States today and has been for a number of years. The death penalty was overturned and then reinstated in the United States during the 1970's due to questions concerning its fairness. The death penalty began to be reinstated slowly, but the rate of executions has increased during the 1990's. There are a number of arguments for and against the death penalty. Many death penalty supporters feel that the death penalty reduces crime because it deters people from committing murder if they know that they will receive the death penalty if they are caught. Others in favor of the death penalty feel that even if it doesn't deter others from committing crimes, it will eliminate repeat offenders. Death penalty opponents however feel that the death penalty actually leads to an increase in crime because the death penalty desensitizes people to violence, and it sends the message that violence is a suitable way to resolve conflicts. Death penalty opponents also condemn the death penalty because of the possibility of an innocent person being put to death and because it can be unfairly applied. Throughout this essay I will contrast the two positions of the death penalty. Death penalty opponents feel that the death penalty must be abolished because it cheapens the value of human life. The death penalty desensitizes people to murder and violence because, by executing people, the state sends the message that violence is an acceptable means of resolving conflicts. Death penalty opponents defend their claims that the death penalty actually causes an increase in crime citing statistics such as that in California, between 1952 and 1967 there were an average of 6 executions per year. From 1968 until 1991, there were no executions. In the period from 1952 to 1967 the murder rate was double that of the murder rate in the years from 1968 to 1991. Also the average murder rate in states with the death penalty is 8%, whereas in states without the death penalty the murder rate is only 4.4% ("Deterrence"). Another argument that death penalty opponents point to is the fact that states that abolish and then reintroduce the death penalty do not seem to have any change in their murder rates (Bedau). People opposed to the death penalty also point to the fact that over half of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty, including all other major industrialized, democratic nations. In the five countries with the highest homicide rates that do not impose the death penalty, the murder rate is 21.6 murders per 100,000 people. In the five countries with the highest homicide rates that do impose the death penalty, the murder rate is 41.6 murders per 100,000 people ("Deterrence"). Furthermore, the United States has the highest crime and murder rates of any of the other major democratic nations, all of which have abandoned the death penalty. In 1965, Great Britain called for a five-year suspension on executions following a recent decline in the imposition of the death penalty and growing anti-death penalty sentiments in the country. In 1969, the government abolished the death penalty altogether because there had been no surge in homicides or crime (Flanders 45). Death penalty opponents feel that these statistics lend credibility to the argument that the death penalty does not cause a decrease in homicides and in some instances may even lead to an increase in murders. Another valid point that death penalty opponents use is that the judicial system is not flawless, and that in the United States the death penalty is handed down unfairly. One example of the unfair application of the death penalty is that women make up only 1% of the death row population in the U.S., even though women are responsible for 20% of the homicides that occur in the United States. In addition, minorities are far more likely to receive the death penalty than whites. For example, 90% of the people that Federal prosecutors seek to execute are black. These statistics are blown even further out of proportion when one looks at the punishments that killers of whites receive versus killers of blacks. In Maryland, a person who kills a white person is 7 times as likely to receive the death penalty as the killer of a black person. Furthermore, 90% of people executed in The United States were convicted of killing whites, even though minorities account for over half of the homicide victims in The United States. According to the National Coalition For the Abolition of the Death Penalty, of the 486 people executed in the United States only 6 were whites convicted of killing blacks ("Executing"). These are all valid arguments that are against the death penalty, but on the other side of this issue there are also very valid

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