Capital Punishment should be Abolished
Evidence suggests that the death penalty does not deter people from committing crimes. It is a cruel and cold blooded form of punishment and there have been instances where innocent people were sentenced to death and later found to be innocent.
The most common methods of execution are hanging and shooting. Countries like the U.S. use electrocution, gas chambers and lethal injections to dispose of the convicted. Some countries, like the U.S., have tried to minimise the pain of execution by introducing the electric chair. In some parts of the world, more pain is deliberately inflicted on the condemned, such as in the Islamic countries and Nigeria. In Nigeria the executions are done in public by a firing squad. The convicted are executed slowly, by firing bullets at intervals, starting at the ankles. In Islamic countries the condemned are stoned to death. But there are special rules for these executions; (Amnesty International article1), “The Islamic Penal Code of Iran stipulates: “In the punishment of stoning to death, the stones should not be so large that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them.”1 This is the kind of cruelty which is inflicted on the executed in those countries. Other methods of execution, like the electric chair and hanging, are also quite cruel to the convicted. That is one of the reasons the death penalty should be abolished.
Does the death penalty really deter criminals?
There is very little valid evidence to suggest that capital punishment deters criminals. The most recent study of research findings on the relationship between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations Committee on Crime Prevention and Control, in 1988, has concluded that:”this research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment.”1. Many murders are committed under the influence of alcohol and drugs, some murderers might be mentally ill. If one of these factors influenced a person, how could he/she control and asses what he/she is doing or be deterred from committing the crime? It would be impossible, and after the incident he/she might not remember it. A cover story in the “Time”3 presents a report about a man called Doug McCray, then 32. He had a reasonable education after dropping out of college one and a half years later to enlist in the army. He was given a medical discharge seventeen months later. He married and went back to college. But his marriage didn’t last long and he dropped out of college again and turned to alcohol. Sometime between October 13 and 15, 1973 a woman was raped and beaten to death. He was arrested and charged with murder because he was drunk and could not tell where he was at the time of the murder. The FBI had matched his palm print with the one found in the women’s apartment. Ten years later McCray still doesn’t know if he was guilty or not. He was found guilty and is in Florida’s death row. This anecdote clearly indicates the possibility of executing a person who might not have committed the crime.
Some emotionally ill people would see death as the only route to freedom, so the death penalty does not deter them at all. If the death penalty does not deter many people, then why would you want to introduce it in the first place?
A better deterrent is needed, which would make finding the culprit easier and quicker, making it impossible for criminals to get away with what they have done. If such a deterrent was found then criminals would have second thoughts of commiting the crime because they would think that they might get caught. Criminals who plan their crimes very carefully, won’t be deterred by the death sentence because they would believe that they won’t be caught.
Delay is also what makes capital punishment less of a deterrent, because it minimizes the chances of a convicted criminal ever being executed. Usually when a person is sentenced to death, it would take years until he/she would be executed. In the U.S. it takes an average of three years for, a so called capital case, to work its way up to the highest court. If an appeal is made it would delay the execution by five to ten years. “Willie Francis, 17, survived a sub-lethal shock from the electric chair in 1946. It took another year for him to be executed.”3 This kind of delay would not be likely to deter many other criminals.
A study made in the U.S., of death row inmates has found that 62 percent were unskilled workers, 60 percent were unemployed and a majority of these people were represented by lawyers with less than five years experience. Clifton Duffy, former warden of San Quentin Prison in California, and others have testified that capital punishment is “a privilege of the poor.” People who are inadequately represented are more likely to lose their case and this is what makes capital punishment unfair because poor people are more likely to be sentenced to death than rich people.
Murder cannot be cured by murder. The death penalty is cruel, inhumane and above all irreversible. It does not deter and isn’t as effective as life imprisonment. Hugo A. Bedau, professor of philosophy at Tufts University says, “The death penalty guarantees that the person on whom it is inflicted will commit no more crimes. He is prevented, not deterred, from so doing. But death, is too high a price to pay when studies show that convicted murderers rarely commit another violent crime. To prevent the occasional repeat murder, everyone convicted of criminal homicide would have to be executed- a policy too brutal to consider and one that would require dozens of legal killings each day.”
The United Nations began urging worldwide abolition on the grounds that,”every human has an inherent right to life.”
It can be seen that there is no logical reason for reintroducing capital punishment. The fact that there is no evidence to support the view that it deters criminals, that it is irreversible and an inhumane punishment suggests that capital punishment should be abolished worldwide.
1)”Simply Living” Vol.4 No.4 1989, “The Green Pages:Amnesty International, Campaign to abolish the death penalty”
2)Encyclopaedia Britannica, Britannica center, Instant Research service, “The debate over capital punishment”, “Arguments for abolition of death penalty”
3)”Time”, January 24, 1983, “An Eye for an Eye”