The Immorality of the Death Penalty
Word Count: 1580
Capital Punishment was adopted by America when the state of Virginia carried out the colonies’ first execution in 1608 (“History of the Death Penalty”). Since then, usage of the death penalty has been instituted by 36 states, making execution the ultimate form of punishment. Although in theory the death penalty seems like a viable method of punishment, in practice, it has serious flaws that damage the integrity of the state. Capital Punishment has been falsely idolized as a deterrent, applied unfairly for generations, used as a vehicle for revenge, and made people blind to the fact that life in prison without parole is an equally acceptable form of punishment. The death penalty is an unjust form of punishment and America needs to find other alternatives instead of resorting to such an unjustified practice. Many proponents of the death penalty argue that “the fear of the execution chamber will restrain potential murderers” (Costanzo 95), defined as the deterrence theory. However, the usage of the death penalty is too infrequent to have any significant impact on criminal behavior (Reiman 38). Out of the 20,000 murderers convicted in America, only 300 were sentenced to death and then only 55 were actually executed each year (Bright 212). People are led to believe that “the death penalty is a better deterrent than prison sentences” (Pojman 206), however, “living in a cage for decades, surrounded by other dangerous criminals and stripped of all important choices” is a far more unbearable sentence then being executed (Costanzo 106). Louis P. Pojman in his article “A Defense of the Death Penalty” provides an analogy promoting the deterrence theory: every time a person kills an innocent, they’d be struck down by lightening, and after a while, other killers would notice this and think incredibly hard before they decided to kill as well. Then stating that “a great deal of crime is committed on a cost-benefit schema, wherein the criminal…” calculates their “chances of getting caught and punished in some manner” (Pojman 206). However, most murders are not premeditated, and are instead crimes of passion—where murders occur “under the blinding influence of hatred, rage, jealousy and fear” (Costanzo 104). Crimes that typically run in this general way are results from extreme emotion causing them to put aside their morals and lash out irrationally. Emotions override logic and the consequences never cross the perpetrators mind.
Under the normal guidelines of the deterrence theory, one would expect an increase in the rate of violent crimes due to the death penalty no longer being a restricting factor. However, states that instituted the death penalty show higher crime rates and issues with violence than those who have abolished it. During the abolition years in Florida when the Supreme Court declared the death penalty to be unconstitutional, the homicide rate in the state went down, proving the flaws in the deterrence theory. Florida now has the third highest death penalty usage rate in America—and problems with increasing crime rates (Decker). These statistics emphasize that there is no evidence for a correlation between deterrence and crime rates.
Moreover, the factor of demographics has a greater effect on crime rate than deterrence. According to experiments that analyzed the correlation between demographics and crime rates, it is shown that “homicide rates are more sensitive to demographic characteristics than they are to the effect of executions” (Decker). People that grow up in low-income slums where crime rates are higher are more naturally predisposed to crime, so deterrence will have little effect. Also, crimes that happen within one’s own race are more likely to have less aggravating circumstances because people favor members of their of their own ethnic group. Members of groups naturally have in-group bias towards those with whom they do not share common...
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