The implementation of capital punishment in the United States today has become a seldom-used means to deter crime. The death penalty was established in order to punish those who are guilty and to discourage those who contemplate committing heinous crimes from doing so. Society has backed down from its very supportive stance on the death penalty since being barraged with propaganda that says capital punishment is cruel and unusual. Most of the crimes committed by those who face execution can be listed as either cruel or unusual, though. Through analyzing the effectiveness of deterrence, the ineffectiveness of life sentences, and the morality of capital punishment, the significance of the death penalty can be shown.
Deterrence refers to the suggestion that executing murderers will decrease the rate of homicides by causing potential murderers not to commit murder for fear of being executed themselves. The fear of punishment is enough to dissuade many people from taking extreme actions. Since 1990, Harris County, a single county in Texas has had more executions than any other county in any state in the United States, according to David Bragdon, a Government/Pre-law major from North Carolina. During the period between 1990 and 1995, Harris County has had a forty-eight percent drop in crime, the greatest decrease in the United States. In Harris County, the highest homicide rate was in 1981, one year before the death penalty was reinstated in Texas. This directly indicates that the implementation of the death penalty correlates with a drop in the homicide rate(Guernsey,9).
Deterrence is effective when properly put into practice. Many people have argued that the cost of executing a prisoner is higher than keeping him incarcerated for life. The annual cost of incarceration is $40,000 to $50,000 a year for prisoners who are serving life terms without parole(Wekesser,2). Executing a prisoner is much more cost effective in the end. The death penalty costs reside mainly in appeals costs. Life without parole prisoners get the same appeals and should be considered to bear the same costs. If we only allowed appeals that are relevant in proving an individual’s innocence and eliminated the many more that are used merely as delaying tactics, it would save a large amount of taxpayer money(OBrien,160). Life without parole, based on economic reasons, is not a definitive argument against the implementation of the death penalty.
Morality has always been a major issue when discussing the capital punishment. It is not morally sound to take any other human being’s life unless it is justified. Killing someone is not right, but the death penalty is necessary to protect a person’s right to live. As Americans, we should not have to live in fear of these felons. Society must be protected from the criminals who pose a threat to the members of that society. Sometimes the only was to benefit both society and even the individual is by administering the death penalty. According to author Carol Wekesser in The Death Penalty (Opposing Viewpoints), executing someone should not be viewed as murder; it is punishment inflicted by society on a deserving criminal. Moral views should not affect the justice system so greatly in such cases. First, deterrence, if correctly utilized, is effective in the prevention of crimes as established previously. Furthermore, there is clear evidence to support the fact that the cost of imprisoning an inmate for life greatly outweighs that of executing him or her. Moral issues also have to be put aside when determining whether or not an individual deserves a penalty such as death.
Support for capital punishment has steadily decreased because people are not researching the facts that they are being given, but merely accepting the blind truths about how ineffective the death penalty has become. These facts prove that capital punishment should be implemented more in our society to help curb crime rates and make our America safer.
Guernsey, JoAnn Brenn. Should We Have Capital Punishment?. Minnesota: Lerner Publications Company, 1993.
O’Brien, David M. Constitutional Law and Politics, Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton and Co. 1994. pp 154-161.
Toufexis, Anastasia. Seeking the Roots of Violence. Time. April 19, 1993.
Wekesser, Carol. The Death Penalty (Opposing Viewpoints). California: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1991.