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Death Penalty College Essay Example

“To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice.” – Desmond Tutu

It is believed that the main issue of the death penalty as a punishment is a dispute between its opponents and supporters about the existence of the death penalty itself. Thus, humanity has been divided into two public camps – for and against, which express the current state of the public mind. Despite the evidently clear separation of the positions, the deeper involvement into the problem shows that the burning issue of the death penalty has been artificially created for political manipulation in the community. However, different views on the death penalty still exist, but I would rather not refer them to such abstract relations as “for-against”. It would be better to emphasize on the differences in death penalty evaluation. In my opinion, it is hard to judge about the favor capital punishment brings, and I consider such measures totally inhuman and cruel.

Death penalty is one of the most ancient forms of punishment. Initially, it appeared during the implementation of the old principle “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. According to this principle, fair punishment for causing the death of another person is the death penalty. In addition, the custom of blood revenge played the main role here. It existed in many societies and intended to replace the death penalty, carried out by the state.

In modern developed countries, a long trial period on different state levels, when the defendant has the possibility to appeal, precedes the death penalty decision. Often, this leads to the fact that it takes years or even decades between sentencing and execution (as well as oblivion or the death of the convicted person because of natural reasons). Only a representative of the state can authorize penalty, otherwise this action is a murder and is punishable by law.

Bureau of Justice Statistics show that by mid 2011, 95 countries abolished the death penalty for any kind of crime. Another 10 countries kept it only for serious crimes, committed during the war, excluding the possibility of the death penalty for the so-called ordinary crimes; 30 countries abolished the death penalty in practice or officially declared a moratorium on executions. Thus, far in the world, there are 135 countries that abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, and the 68 countries that retain and continue to apply measures.

It is easy to explain such growing tendency, designed to fight with capital punishment. The main reason against it is that no one is able to correct judicial injustice if the man is already dead. According to the Franklin Zimring’s survey, the judicial mistake has already killed 200 innocent people all over the world (p.34). In addition, he states that life imprisonment can easily perform main functions of punishment, therefore, protecting society from a potentially dangerous criminal actions and additional reasons to commit a crime. Criminals, sentenced to life imprisonment are completely isolated, doomed to spend all their life in four walls, and do not have any chance to enjoy a single visit from relatives.

According to many studies, the existence of the death penalty is not the best method to fight with the crime. The fear of death does not always stop the criminal, who thinks he will be able to avoid punishment. Crime solving is the right measure, which can help to decrease the rate. It is important to fight with wrongs before people commit them, but not after. Although, in general, this fact can find counterarguments. For instance, when Nazi Germany began to shoot people for ticketless travels, the number of such passengers had been sharply reduced. Nevertheless, the example shows nothing more than monstrous cruelty that claimed thousands of lives. Moreover, to some extent, death penalty encourages crime because some people might think that if the state has the right to kill, why is it not possible for the man to follow the example. Humanity is one of the most essential democratic state attributes. Firstly, it is the recognition of the human’s life value and state must be the first to realize its significance.

From the Christian point of view, any murder is a crime. You cannot say that the death penalty is a necessary self-defense of society against the criminal world; there are other ways to protect innocent people from it. Therefore, such penalty is a murder, not justified in the eyes of God, which is sin in another words. We can say that killing murderers is not the murder of a man because the killer cannot be considered a person. However, we are still people and it is necessary to think about how to keep the human inside of every human being. No one has the right to take the life, given to a man only once.

The main reason of the negative attitude to the problem is that the death penalty implementation requires people. Penalty execution is an action, disfiguring normal human. None of the possible technical tricks is able to restore his mind and get rid of the feeling that he is killing a defenseless man. He is killing him not in the chase or because he is dangerous, he is killing without any risk to his life since he has to do it because of someone else having a will and power for such actions. Meanwhile, the executioners themselves often admit that they do not consider those criminals being people. They say that it is enough to read the report on the criminal in order not to feel any sorrow. Yet, in fact, the executioner is the “legal killer” and the existence of such a profession is appalling. Death is terrible for everyone in its nature. The offender killing will not bring the victim back and it will not bring relief. The thirst for bloody revenge is not a choice of the civilized man of the XXI century. As Anthony Kennedy said:

“When a juvenile commits a heinous crime, the State can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity”.

Finally, the most extravagant and disputable is the statement that everyone can become a criminal. Life is complicated and sometimes people have to choose the crime in the cases when they see no other way out. Under certain conditions (genetics, social environment and life circumstances), each of us could become a criminal. Supporters of the death penalty argue that the existence of the capital punishment makes citizens feel the sense of fear and respect to the rule of law, which will result in a reduction in the number of crimes. In addition, supporters say that in countries where the death penalty is not applied, the crime rate is lower than in countries where the death penalty is not forbidden.

However, it is likely that in this case the abolition of the death penalty is not the cause, but rather the consequence of the crime reduction. The countries where the situation is favorable cannot afford to abolish the death penalty and it is possible that a favorable environment was achieved because of the prolonged use of it in practice. This raises a legitimate question. Our country in the whole history of the development did not neglect the death penalty, but the crime rate here is still quite high.

At the same time, it cannot be said that there is a point of view that the most serious crimes were committed either in a state of emotional tension, when a person is unable to control himself and his feelings, which prevail over reason, or by people, who are not initially able to adequately assess their behavior, being mentally ill. In this case, it is hardly worth talking about the death penalty as crime prevention. Nonetheless, it is possible to speak about other forms of punishment, including life imprisonment.

Everything, which takes a person’s life forever, is evil. A man is born for the creation, harmony and life. Looking at the problem from the general philosophical and humanistic view, death penalty is a crime. Sudden and complete abolition of the death penalty cannot lead to the immediate positive results. It is important to consider the broader context of the interdependence of all socio-economic, political, legal, spiritual and moral factors. Society must suffer the rejection of the death penalty to become strong and rich enough to live by the rules, not the exceptions.

After analyzing the role of the death penalty in the life of society, I have come to certain conclusions. Prior to the study of this topic, I seriously thought about the issue of the death penalty and believed, as most of the people did, that the death penalty should be retained and applied on a large scale. I thought that it is an effective measure to combat crime, and that the offender must suffer revenge for the committed offense. However, with the deepening into this problem and its careful consideration, my attitude to capital punishment has been slowly changing. Moreover, I am an ardent opponent of the death penalty now. Punishment in general and the death penalty in particular, are not the best tools to fight against crime.


Zimring, Franklin. (2003). The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment. New York: Oxford University Press.

Anti Death Penalty. (2011, July 20). Reasons to be Against Death Penalty. Retrieved April 26, 2013

Bureau of Justice. (2011, December 20). Statistics. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from