Reflections on the Death Penalty
For centuries the death penalty has been used to as a punishment for the crime of taking another’s life, but does it really have the desired affect on the populace to discourage others from committing the same offense? The first established death penalty laws date as far back as the Eighteenth Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon, which codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes, and now in the year 2007 we still sentence men to death, with enough given circumstances. Should we as an ever evolving society still carry out punishments on our fellow man with the direct intent to end another person’s life? This compare and contrast essay is about the pros and cons of the death penalty and whether or not it is a proven deterrent to criminals and whether or not it is a humane form of punishment in today’s culture.
Our society has always used punishment to discourage potential criminals from committing unlawful actions, since society puts the highest interest in preventing murder it should also use the strongest punishment available to prevent murder. The purpose of the death penalty is to deter would be killers and force them to think twice about such actions, “Even though statistical demonstrations are not conclusive, and perhaps cannot be, capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because people fear death more than anything else”(Ernest van den Haag). According to Isaac Ehrlich in 1973 who employed a new type of study found that for every one inmate who was executed at least seven lives were saved because others fared the consequences of similar actions. Even if there are such slim results it still seems worth it if the things in which we are saving are lives, “Sparing the lives of even a few prospective victims by deterring their murderers is more important than preserving the lives of convicted murderers” (Ernest van den Haag). Another study shows that the death penalty only shows such slim results because of the fact that once the death penalty is handed down it often takes years to be carried out, which in most cases the public doesn’t even remember the time the actual crime was committed and seemingly makes it less important.
Extensive studies have shown that the death penalty is at best no more of a deterrent than a sentence of life in prison. Some criminologists in the field today even feel that “the death penalty has the opposite effect: that is, society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder” (William Bowers of Northeastern University). It seems that the effect of our own government publicly killing people are actually having the opposite effect on those they are trying to protect and serve, making death and killing another person, a thing acceptable if only certain conditions are met. Having the opposite than the desired effect is not the only flaw in the death penalty it seems that in regions across the globe those that do not employ the death penalty tend to have lower murder rates than those that do. According to Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox “those executed in Texas were not deterred by the existence of the death penalty law. I think in most cases you’ll find that murder was committed under severe drug and alcohol abuse” (Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox). The majority of the people caught are not deterred my the death penalty because they often do not even have the time to way the consequences of there decision so caught up by either there own rage or anger they often see nothing else.
It seems that our current society call’s for the death penalty for the taking of a life, but is this sort of retribution truly just? Many people believe that only the taking of a murderer’s life restores a type of balance to the community, and sets an example to those who would have previously thought to follow his/her path. Often it seem that people are caught up in...
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