Arguing Against Capital Punishment

Topics: Death Penalty, Murder, Prison Pages: 5 (1591 words) Published: September 30, 2013
In the debate over capital punishment, the opponents argue that capital punishment should not be practiced because it has a civilizing effect and practicing capital punishment has do deterrent effect. On the other side of the debate, the supporters argue that capital punishment should not be abolished because it is just retribution and has a deterrent effect. In this paper, I will argue that capital punishment should not be practiced.

In the article titled, “The Folly of Capital Punishment,” Jeffrey Reiman concludes that capital punishment is less just. Reiman has four arguments against capital punishment.Reiman states that an argument for capital punishment being a deterrent would have to be based on speculation, as there is no solid evidence that capital punishment would deter more people than the idea of a lengthy or life imprisonment. Reiman then states that if the situation is examined using the social sciences, they reveal no difference in deterrent effect between life imprisonment and capital punishment. Reiman also mentions that, because of the high number of privately owned guns and the fact that police also carry guns, a criminal already chooses to face higher chances of death when they break the law, so it becomes difficult to imagine capital punishment being a deterrent for law breakers.

Reiman also makes a response to Van Den Haag’s deterrence argument. He says that if you suppose that there is a deterrent effect from practicing capital punishment, but there is also a deterrent effect from not practicing capital punishment and performing one weakens the deterrent effect on the other, then performing either one will still put lives at risk, but choosing not to perform capital punishment can spare at least one life.

Reiman also states that capital punishment is in a class of horrible things comparative to torture. He shows that capital punishment, although it is not intended to cause pain, causes an amount of psychological pain that becomes a form of torture because the person knows that they are going to die before it happens. Imprisonment is also painful, but it is a reflective pain with moments of reprieve. The pain caused by knowing you are going to die strikes you with the same urgency as being tortured, a pain so sharp that while it is being administered, the only thing you could wish is for it to stop. Also, because a human takes the criminal’s life, capital punishment takes away the consolation of death being inevitable.

Reiman shows that it is a sign of advancement in a civilization when that civilization chooses to enforce less harsh or brutal punishments. He acknowledges the argument that there have been trends throughout the course of history which were clearly not advances. He counters this argument by showing that there is no harm in choosing to not practice capital punishment, and that there are some good things that come from not practicing capital punishment.

Practicing capital punishment manages to send a negative message about the hard heartedness of the people willing to enforce it. By choosing not to practice capital punishment, a civilization sends a message to the rest of the world that killing is not right and we do not have to show this hard-heartedness to our fellows. Reiman also mentions that a modern state has an obligation to set an example for states that are still developing.

In the article titled, “The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense,” Ernest Van Den Haag concludes that capital punishment is just. Van Den Haag has two main points for capital punishment; it is a deterrent and it is just retribution. The rest of Van Den Haag’s argument is rebuttals against his opponent.

Van Den Haag claims that capital punishment might be a deterrent. He acknowledges that there is not very much solid evidence to indicate this, but argues that the lives of the innocent are worth more than the lives of criminals, which can be only negative in value. Thus, if it would save even one...
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