The Death Penalty Deters Murder
The Ethics of Capital Punishment
Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF), "Death Penalty Deters Future Murders,” November 15, 2007. Copyright © 2007 by Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF). www.cfif.org. Reproduced by permission.
When discussing moral justification for capital punishment, one of the main issues is whether the death penalty actually deters criminals from committing murder. To answer that question, two professors from Pepperdine University in California conducted a research study, and their results indicated the answer to be yes. In fact, their evidence correlated each execution with approximately seventyfour fewer murders the following year. Therefore, statistical evidence shows that the death penalty does prevent future murders and is thus justified. In the neverending debate between capital punishment proponents and abolitionist [people who want to end the death penalty], one ongoing point of contention centers upon whether the death penalty actually deters future murders in America.
Of course, one should note that even if capital punishment had no demonstrable deterrent effect upon crime or murder in America, several other justifications for its imposition would nevertheless remain. Three philosophical and moral justifications for criminal punishment exist.
justification, which is perhaps most ingrained in basic human nature, is what we commonly know as "retribution." This elementary moral justification asserts that one who commits an illegal or immoral act should himself suffer for having committed that act. Or, in common parlance, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Although some people consider this a vulgar, unfortunate or improper justification for imposing criminal penalties upon other human beings, the simple fact is that it continues to constitute an important basis for criminal law and punishment. Agree or disagree, our society generally believes that a bad deed should not go unpunished.
Society aspires to create a criminal justice system that deters future crimes by making an example of those who commit them.
traditional justification for criminal penalties is what we know as "incapacitation." Very simply, this holds that by removing a criminal from society through imprisonment or capital punishment, the criminal is thereby incapacitated from committing additional crimes. Indeed, this partly explains why crime rates in New York City fell so dramatically under the tenure of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. According to his theory, the same small segment of society tended to commit both the seemingly "minor" crimes as well as the "major" crimes. Thus, removing those who committed supposedly "minor" crimes incapacitated them from committing future "major" crimes if allowed to remain on the street, and crime plummeted. In similar fashion, capital punishment serves this incapacitation rationale because it permanently removes our most vicious criminals from society, thereby eliminating any threat of future crime that they pose while in prison, after escape or after parole.
traditional justifications for criminal law is that of "rehabilitation." In other words, in a perfect world, imposition of criminal penalties would serve to rehabilitate those who commit crime, whether through education in prison, or teaching the more fundamental truism that "crime doesn't pay." Obviously, capital punishment does less to serve this particular justification, apart from the possible improvement that a murderer can undergo between capture and execution.
The Death Penalty Should Be Abolished
Amnesty International, September 2007. www.amnesty.org. Copyright © 2007 Amnesty International. Reproduced by permission.
Every human being has certain basic human rights, the most fundamental of which is the right to life. The death ...
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