Is the Death Penalty a Deterrent to Crime?

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The capital punishment debate is highly controversial and divisive. It encompasses many moral and ethical aspects of human justice. Capital punishment is the sentencing of a convicted criminal to death. The main issue, and the topic of this essay, is whether or not the death penalty is an effective crime deterrent because it certainly isn’t moral. The concept of retribution that some of our societies are so obsessed with goes against basic human ethics and principles. As Indian civil rights activist Mahatma Gandhi famously said: “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Also, the criminal trials held to determine the criminals’ guilt are rarely clear cut. They require a certain level of personal judgment from the judge and or jury. The possibility of condemning an innocent person to death should be reason enough to abolish this barbaric practice. The organized legal government killing of criminals is morally wrong and does not deter people from committing crimes. What it does, in fact, is encourage a culture of violence and teaches people that in some cases, it is acceptable to take another human being’s life. To date, the death penalty has been abolished by 139 countries and is retained by 58. (Amnesty International, 2011) The following essay will examine various arguments for and against the use of capital punishment. Many people argue that the death penalty is there for good reason; that it deters crime and is an appropriate punishment for those sentenced to it. They argue that it is just and necessary. Why should a murderer be allowed to live after taking someone else’s life? Why should we let rapists and pedophiles live among us? Where is the justice in that? Executing these criminals is making our streets safer, at least by not having the murderers and rapists themselves around. When it comes to the deterrence argument, it is very difficult to obtain statistics on how many people were deterred from committing a crime due to knowing that the death...
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