Death Penalty

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The death penalty has been a controversial issue for many years. It was established centuries ago and has been accepted by society. It was put into place to punish those who had committed an offense against laws of the institution that was in place at the time. Within our society the death penalty has been associated with several symbols. ‘An eye for an eye,’ is a symbol that has come to be the representation of the death penalty; which was one of the original ideas behind it. Times have changed and the death penalty is now used for more serious offenses and considered to be a deterrence. The death penalty should be abolished because it does not effectively deter crime. I will be discussing the lack of deterrence on the death penalty through the symbolic interactionism perspective. There should be no doubt afterwards that the death penalty is not a deterrence. There have been many studies done by criminologists on the deterrence effect and the death penalty. Many researchers have been able to show through their studies that there is a deterrence while others have shown that there is a lack of it. Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock, in Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists, analyze the studies that have been previously conducted by criminologist researchers and find many flaws within these studies. In order to support their theory, Radelet and Lacock, conduct a study of their own that questions the deterrence effect. Their study is based on a 2008 questionnaire from the top criminologists of the world; which consists of 12 questions that are based on the death penalty and deterrence. This study is similar to the one done previously by Michael Radelet and Ronald Akers in 1996; which also consisted of the leading criminologists of the world and their expertise on the matter.

Having the death penalty as a punishment does not necessarily mean that it will deter people from committing murder. Based on research by Benjamin Tyree, in Does the Death Penalty Deter Crime?, he introduces a study that is based on the analysis of two distinct hypotheses that answer this question. The first hypothesis relates to whether states that have the death penalty will have lower crimes punishable by death in contrast to states that do not have the death penalty. The second hypothesis relates to whether states with most executions will have fewer crimes punishable by death in contrast to states that have less frequent executions. In order to effectively make an accurate conclusion of his findings, Tyree uses two separate case studies for each hypothesis. The statistics of his analysis conclude that the hypotheses that are used in this study are not those expected. Since the time that the death penalty was enacted we have changed the way it is enforced because society has changed the crimes that are punishable by death. Society has created a reality where values and morals are instilled in us throughout the course of our lives so that we could interact with each other in an ethical manner. According to society there are certain things that are considered to be evil and wrong; therefore society is the one that re-creates the social change that is necessary. When one breaks the law, it is a symbol of straying from the norm. We should not let our beliefs cloud our judgment about the death penalty and the deterrence effect that was created by society. In fact, we should leave the deterrence theory to the experts. “88.2% of the polled criminologists do not believe that the death penalty is a deterrent, up slightly from 83.6% in 1996” (Lacock and Radelet, 2009, p. 501). Many of us would admit that if someone that we cared about was murdered the first thing that comes to mind would be the death penalty; a symbol of revenge. You would assume then that before committing murder the symbol that is represented by the death penalty would come to one’s mind and deter them accomplishing that. Another symbol that is...
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