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Is capital punishment ethical?


Capital punishment is the practice of death penalty as a penance for particular offenses. In America, for instance, close to 20, 0000 individuals have been legally sentenced to death since the colonial period (Bohm, 2011). Currently, the opposition of mortality penalty has become stronger in many countries, thus, giving the criminologists the opportunity to predict its eventual demise. The controversial issue of capital punishment has an extreme moral implication, particularly to the religious people. Brugger (2014) argues that capital punishment is a significant penalty in the modern society; however, there is a need to regulate it. The question posed in this essay, though, is whether capital punishment should be moral or not when it comes to correcting law breakers.

In many countries, the death penalty is still enforced and is often used in federally related cases. Nonetheless, Flanders (2013) argues that the capital punishment is a cruel and unusual measure to do away with extreme criminal acts. In addition, he states that death penalty is a direct abuse of individual’s right to life. Another argument is that death penalty is similar to the ancient days of servitude when the states constitution did not focus on the citizen’s bill of rights (Charles & Durlauf, 2013). In essence, many people have been against death penalty either because of its brutality or due to the absence of effectiveness. Therefore, modern-day critics contend that a murder, either committed by the government or by an individual, is morally wrong and cannot be justified. As such, many people are against this practice because it has the negative impact on the victims (Geltner, 2014). For instance, research indicates that the mental anguish results after one is condemned to death. As Geltner (2014) puts, a death penalty is a kind of a torture, and this act has been rejected by the human rights departments across the globe. Further, the opponents of a capital punishment maintain that when the state executes killers to proclaim that murder is wrong, it demoralizes its moral power and denies the value of human life (Durlauf & Nagin, 2010). According to Brugger (2014), the death penalty is expensive when implemented. Therefore, authorizing a court to kill wrongdoers lowers the credibility and integrity of the government of that state. This implies that the government is not concerned about the dignity of human beings. As such, there is no need of having capital punishment in the modern societies.

Background Research

The issue of capital punishment begun in the United States before other countries adopted it. History depicts that the United States had a method of death penalty since the colonial period. According to Gillespie, Loughran, Smith, Fogel, and Bjerregaard (2014), the first documented lawful murder in American colonies took place in around 1608 in Virginia when Captain George Kendall was killed for the offense of espionage for France. Since then, the criminalities suitable for a capital punishment have changed. For instance, before the American Revolt, the serious wrong doings that deserved a death penalty included blasphemy, witchcraft, bestiality, idolatry murder, conspiracy, rebellion, poisoning, manslaughter, sodomy, adultery, and bearing false witness in capital cases.

Various methods of executions included hanging, crucifixion, boiling to death, electrocution, drowning and firing squad. The selection of certain means of punishments in the 19th century, for example, relied upon the condition of the convicts (Gresham & Reschly, 2011). In different occurrences, the determination of the strategy was justified during the offense. Witches and apostates had to be burned at stake. The death penalty was imagined for a wide cluster of violations including burglary and robbery regardless of the possibility that nobody was physically hurt at the scene (Hurwitz & Peffley, 2010). In any case, the French upset presented a more obtuse execution strategy, guillotine approach that involved cutting off the head of a convict.

As such, the Grand Duke Leopold II of Habsburg impacted the primary choice to annihilate the death penalty in 1786 (Hurwitz & Peffley, 2010). The Duke scratched off the punishment and requested to harm all the execution instruments in his country. From that point forward, numerous nations battled against the death penalty because of a few reasons, for example, infringement of human rights. The issues required in the examination of the death penalty accentuate on two primary parts. First, this mercilessness is dissected from a point of view to decide if the use of capital punishment prevents wrongdoing and limits the danger of recidivism (Kim & Sikkink, 2010). The evidence for this matter is sought in states where executions occur. Second, supporters and opponents of a capital punishment should identify whether this sentence can be acknowledged on moral grounds to solve the issue of whether it is lawful for human beings to kill one another.

Today, the application of a capital punishment is devastatingly linked to a murder. It is worth of noting that the Colonial Americans used the death penalty less often than courts despite the rising criminal cases (Manski & Pepper, 2013). Research shows that the number of the executions increased significantly during the 19th century. Such changes as the introduction of murder and the elimination of killing from the public realm were also enacted. In some states, discretionary death penalty laws replaced those that authorized capital punishment for anyone convicted of a serious offense (Kim & Sikkink, 2010). Additionally, the power of executions was changed from regional to state control. Individual towns were no longer accountable for death penalties. Instead, the state became the killer. Later, the number of crimes punishable by death was decreased, and some states began refusing from the death penalty (Kramer, 2011). The number of murders then dropped immediately due to the emergence of the civil war. Two questions that need to be answered in the remaining sections are as follows. Does death penalty help to deter crimes in the society? Are human beings justified in killing other people?

Data and Analysis

From the research, it is found that many individuals believe that capital punishment is an effective way to frighten criminals and lower the rates of offenses throughout the globe (Manski & Pepper, 2013). Statistics prove that having death penalty does not prevent crimes. In fact, some studies have shown that the act seems to increase the rate of offense. A survey in the United States, for instance, analyzes that nations which support the capital punishment have a higher crime rate than the states that do not practice it (Metz, 2010). In 2008, for instance, Kramer (2011) analyzed that the level of criminality in the regions with a death penalty was about 5% while the crime rate in places without the capital punishments was close to 4%.

This analysis clearly shows that the crime rate in the states where capital punishment is not practiced is lower than in those regions with the death penalty (Metz, 2010). In Canada, for instance, capital punishment is unlawful. In contrast, some states in the United States have legalized this malicious practice. Studies indicate that America’s crime rate was higher than that of Canada, causing them to rank first in crime rates throughout the world (Manski & Pepper, 2013). These statistics indicate that regardless of a capital punishment, criminals are not learning their lesson with such violent tortures. Therefore, the death penalty is not an effective deterrent.

Another thing derived from the data collected is that laws are formulated to encourage youths not to commit offenses and reveal the impact of having committed an offence to citizens. Therefore, a capital punishment is counterproductive in enhancing the taking human lives and encouraging juvenile violence (Paternoster, 2010). Since the death penalty is not avoiding crime, there is a probability that it is supporting taking human life. In essence, everyone is taught not to kill, and committing murder is considered an immoral activity. As Reggio (2014) puts, murder is wrong regardless of the race, gender, background or character of the offender. Committing homicide is still evil, and death penalty encourages the notion that taking one’s life is not a crime on particular grounds (Manski & Pepper, 2013). In reality, capital punishment influences vengeance, even if the family of the victims or any person linked to the case is not directly involved in killing the accused one.

Another thing is that every human being is entitled to a fair trial according to the states’ law. For that reason, all courts must abide by this rule (Manski & Pepper, 2013). Discrimination is a problem that arises when discussing capital punishment. The economic bias created can cause bad judgment and wrongful conviction that can end the life of a convicted person. In the US, for instance, there is a problem when it comes to the death penalty and racial discrimination (Uhl??ov?, 2011). As a matter of fact, African-American citizens comprise of up to about 13% of the population, but they represent nearly 34% of executions (Van den Haag & Conrad, 2013). Therefore, death penalty fails to demonstrate the equality necessary to protect people’s lives.

Implications and Recommendations

From the findings, it can be stated that many people have opposed the capital punishment since the beginning of its era. During this time, the supreme court of the United States has declared that the death penalty is in agreement with the constitution (Van den Haag & Conrad, 2013). This declaration is contrary to the 8th amendment of the US constitution that forbids cruel and unusual punishments. However, there has been an extensive proof to indicate that the courts are impetuous, unfair, and ethnically biased in the way they put some people to prison but others to death. For instance, about 51% of the African-Americans were subjected to capital punishment (Van den Haag & Conrad, 2013). This analysis shows that American judges are most likely to levy the capital punishment on blacks than on whites accused of the similar crime.

As stated, murder exhibits the absence of respect to a human life. For this reason, the death penalty is repugnant, and any rule of state allowing killings is ethically immoral (Yost, 2011). Scholars who are against a death sentence ensure that all religious doctrines, morality, and ethics are clear. For instance, the policy needs to state that human beings should not harm each other or commit murders. With this in mind, the capital punishment could be put into a court case based on the jurisdiction and appeal of the magistrate. Bohm (2011) states that the only way in which a capital punishment may be proved is when condemned have offended outside the line of tolerable human behavior (Charles & Durlauf, 2013). From an individual point of view, it seems that states spend many resources in enacting this bill. The funds could be used to do other things that could benefit the country more than a death penalty.

According to the study conducted in Florida, researchers have revealed that the state spends approximately $3.2 million per individual (Gillespie et al., 2014). In California, it was found that the nation spends close to $ 1000 million annually in capital punishment cases (Brugger, 2014). The region of New Jersey has also had the capital punishment for more than 13 years, and this is seen to cost tax payers money (Flanders, 2013). Perhaps, the high costs come about because the magistrates and the lawyers must put more effort and time in preparing and reviewing the issues to affirm that life is at stake. Besides, hearings in such cases are attended by attorneys general, inmate lawyers, the head of the department of rehabilitation and correction, as well as the prison warden (Durlauf & Nagin, 2010). Unfortunately, these experts are paid by either the state or the federal government using the taxpayers’ money. Since the cost is expensive, Kim and Sikkink (2010) suggest that life sentences without parole will serve much better; otherwise, the states will be fixated on a process that drains the government resources.

Another factor that makes the death penalty costly is housing. Offenders sentenced to life in prison may be mixed with other criminals with petty cases, but death row convicts are always kept in solitary confinement or managerial separation (Hurwitz & Peffley, 2010). These sites cost high due to tight security. A survey in Kansas conveyed that a death row prisoner costs about $49,380 million to accommodate per year while other prisoners cost nearly $ 24,690 million (Durlauf & Nagin, 2010). With these expenses, there is no need of implementing the death penalty. In other words, the capital punishment is an uncivilized, inequitable and unfair act. So, there is no reason to stoop to this level of practice.

Historically, capital punishment depressed people, and this discouraged them from being involved in an offensive act. In England for instance, the death penalty was imposed for a large number of crimes in an attempt to discourage individuals from committing offenses (Flanders, 2013). Research indicates that the techniques of perpetrating the capital punishment have ranged from stoning, crucifixion, and beheading to those applied in the US currently (Geltner, 2014). As mentioned, such methods include electrocution, lethal injection, firing squad, hanging, and gas chamber, all classified under the practice of torture. Even so, there were severe penalties for such serious crimes as the homicide. During those times, the execution was an appropriate punishment (Geltner, 2014). Today, the law is not strict, and some states have taken a step to eradicate execution of the criminals. Due to this act, potential criminals do not fear capital punishment because the governments have initiated more humane methods of homicide instead of the brutal punishment portrayed in the history (Van den Haag & Conrad, 2013). The states have taken this measure because they value human life, and there is a need to protect it as stated in most nations’ constitutions.

Individuals who are against capital punishment say they that there is no evidence that the rate of murder is fluctuating according to the extent to which the death penalty is applied (Yost, 2011). In this context, it is imperative to parole the convict rather than executing him or her due to the present practice of allowing endless appeals. Instead of exposing the convicted criminals to brutal punishment, Brugger (2014) argues that there is a need to give them an extended waiting period. One challenge with the capital punishment is that crime is not decreasing, but it rather continues to rise. If capital punishment is required to avoid cases such as executions, it is not aiding its use. Hurwitz and Peffley (2010) also argue that the capital punishment is pointlessly inhuman, exaggerated as the deterrent and often executed in serious cases.

Many questions have been asked based on the effectiveness of the capital punishment and whether there is any need for applying it in today’s societies (Flanders, 2013). In the US, for instance, the issue of the capital punishment has been on fire. Insofar, the cognizance of citizens and the debates made by legislators have influenced the fight against death penalty particularly in America (Van den Haag & Conrad, 2013). The argument for the capital punishment featuring the offense and the efficacy of death penalty as a preventive measure against crime are made. These ideas are the fundamentals for pro-death penalty outlooks among the citizens and the American court policy.

The significant arguments against the capital punishment, however, are made in accordance with the constitution (Durlauf & Nagin, 2010). Many citizens believe that the capital punishment is illegitimate because it infringes the human right to life. According to the abolitionist group, the death penalty infringes the discriminatory clause of the constitution. Researchers have analyzed that innocent individuals are being executed in several inhumane forms throughout the world (Hurwitz & Peffley, 2010). Today, there is a real debate as to whether the capital punishment is moral, economically, and legally justifiable or just cruel and inhumane. Sincerely, it is important to regard this brutal action as immoral, legally unjustifiable and inhumane and look for better methods of dealing with lawbreakers.

Many people believe that the application of a death penalty as a measure of avoiding serious offenses is not helpful because there are many murder cases on a regular basis across the nations (Uhl??ov?, 2011). For this approach to function better, and work as deterrence, the convicts must think critically on the consequence of wrong doings before committing the crime. First, he or she must be aware of the people who have been punished in the past for the offense that he or she has committed (Paternoster, 2010). Secondly, the criminal must know that what happened to another person can as well happen to him or her. Therefore, it is impossible for death penalty to function as a deterrent due to human nature to overlook guidance and to self-learn.

From the above implications, it is recommended to introduce a system of protocols into the court policy to bar prospective wrongful suits (Charles & Durlauf, 2013). In this case, one of the concerns to be raised is the divergent action that can be prompted depending on the state that the offense has occurred to fulfill the requirement for execution. Another recommendation is that the concept of people being morally responsible, with justice being viewed concerning proportionate punishment, should be seen prevail.

One more recommendation is to oppose capital punishment by creating awareness to both the government and the public that murder is intolerable, and it violates the constitution (Flanders, 2013). For countries such as the United States that considers capital punishment as lawful, it is advisable to change the bill and declare this malicious act as inhuman, brutal and unlawful because it does not deter further crime from occurring. Instead, the nation needs to design better methods such as the provision of more rehabilitation centers to prevent further criminal activities from occurring.

Another advice is to involve sequential punishment rather than death penalty when one is convicted (Charles & Durlauf, 2013). Subsequent sanctions entail life in prison without bail, which is less expensive. Further, it gives the suspect an opportunity to make significant transformations in his or her life and to make positive contributions to the society (Hurwitz & Peffley, 2010). During this period, the suspect may be given a chance to prove that he or she is not guilty because capital punishment sometimes is imposed on innocent individuals, especially when a proper investigation is not done.

Another offer is that the assembly should declare that the capital punishment has no legitimate place in the penal system of modern civilized societies (Gillespie et al., 2014). The assembly should also regard that the application of death penalty is similar to torture which is seen as being inhuman and degrades punishment, according to the Convention of Human Rights.

One more point, the States need to strengthen justice system structures by ensuring that they have the adequate ability to investigate crimes, ensure that the victims are supported, and enhance appropriate legal assistance to vulnerable parts of the society (Gresham & Reschly, 2011). The nations should also advance human rights education in the context of the curriculum for citizenship studies. Finally, there is a need to respect both regional and international human rights laws and standards related to capital punishment.


To recap, the argument about capital punishment continues for many years. Although it is controversial and talked about the issue, the truth remains that the death penalty is wrong and should not be reinstated. The death penalty is morally wrong because it goes against almost every religion and its teachings. It also denies citizens considerable freedom such as the freedom of life. Also, it violates the law since many states regard the act as illegitimate. One of the most pressing issues with the death penalty is that there is no room for error. Many innocent individuals have had their lives taken away due to the flaws in the legal system. Capital punishment does not lower the crime rate. In most cases, the nations that allow the act have a higher crime rate than those without it. The death penalty also mobilizes the youths to commit violent acts. In reality, death penalty encourages the murder of a human being. Therefore, capital punishment is an inhumane act that the governments must stop if they value human life.


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