Punishment is an act of ensuring that individuals suffer for engaging in activities that are against the law. In the criminal justice systems of many countries, it is lawful to inflict death to the offender, depending on the weight of the crime. In the United States, death penalty is usually held in reserve for first-degree murder crimes which in most cases are associated with horrific circumstances such as bombing and killing a large number of people. It was mostly used in the ancient times, although many countries still use capital punishment.
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The Use of Death Penalty
Death penalty has progressively been reserved by many countries. However, it is still being practiced in countries such as the United States, which is one of the developed countries that are still using death penalty as a form of punishment. It has continuously been used to eliminate those who totally do not observe the rules and regulations of the federal government. They are usually the most terrible criminals in the society. Death penalty is also used by other countries such as Singapore, Japan, china and many Muslim countries. However, there are calls by many human rights organizations that death penalty should be abolished. More than 130 countries have abolished death penalties. Philippines, Croatia and German Democratic Republic and many others have abolished death penalty.
Those who are for capital punishment normally feel safer with elimination of the criminals. They justify their argument in that once dead, the criminals can not commit more crimes against fellow human beings. Most of them have had experience with assumed reformed criminals, who after serving a jail term get back to crime and can even turn out to be on revenge missions. The common rehabilitation measures are actually not real punishment compared to death penalty. The offender suffers real pain according to the intensity of the crime. In the ancient times, people viewed death penalty as a way of avenging for crimes committed against human beings.
Capital punishment does not deter crime. This is because it undervalues human life thereby increasing the rate of murder crimes. In the United States, the murder rates have been known to increase after execution. According to William Bowers and Glenn Pierce (1974) in their brutalization theory, “the sensibilities of society are brutalized by state-sanctioned executions thereby making prospective killers less inhibited”. Capital punishment does not deter crime where it does not take time to plan it. This is because for a crime that does not take some time for the criminal to plan the offence, considerations about the consequences of committing it are usually absent. It is therefore not likely to prevent such a person from engaging in crime. The criminal will most probably act upon emotions. Crimes such as murder committed under such situations should not be subjected to capital punishment if it is meant to prevent people from committing such crimes (Rick Schaefer 2006).
Lack of certainty that an individual is actually the one who committed a crime is usually a problem in many criminal justice systems. More often than not, people are punished because of crimes that they never committed. A good example is the case of many death row suspects who have been freed after the realization of their innocence. This means that many innocent people have been executed because they can not proof their innocence. The cost of hiring lawyers is usually high and the poor might be unable to higher competent lawyers which may end up undermining justice. The irreversibility of punishment through death becomes very painful especially if it turns out to have been meted out on a person due to improper criminal justice systems. At times a person may be executed by mistake, which becomes problematic when the real offenders are known.
It usually turns out to be unbelievable for friends and family members when they realize that one of their own is on a death row. It causes much stress and pain before and after execution. Coming to terms with the reality is not easy, especially if the convict is a parent or a loved one. Reports of people who have died of stress because of their loved ones being sentenced to death are many. These people are normally subjected to suffering unnecessarily. The worst of all is the realization that the convict will be dead at a certain time. This is because the natural deaths of humans are very unpredictable, and even in periods of sickness or other disasters, it is usually difficult to tell if an individual will survive.
The feelings of desertion, fear and regret cause a lot of trauma and can have dire consequences on those who are left. In a religious point of view, it is apparent that doing something wrong to counter a crime does not actually yield desirable results. Suffering of the individual’s relatives and friends is unwarranted. If the convict is the bread winner for a family, a death penalty usually causes poverty and increased dependence on other people for the needs of the family. It would be better to allow a person to reform and provide for the family, thereby minimizing the pressure on the government and the society as a whole in catering for the needs of the family.
Human beings are unique in the sense that all of them react towards emotions. Criminals are no exception. They too have emotions of fear, rejection as well as pain. It is not justifiable for any human being to take the life of another. Most of the religions preach against it, although some justify the use of capital punishment. The justification is that once execution has been done to an individual, it eliminates the person, preventing him from committing the crime once more. Regardless of the extent of the crime, it is usually not prudent to kill fellow human beings. Many religions teach that people should do to others what they too would like to be done to them. In reality, those people who support death penalty on offenders would not like to face the same even if they committed crimes of an equal magnitude.
The psychological torture that a prisoner undergoes before the real execution takes place is usually enough punishment to make him reform. It is normal for a human being to suffer mentally due to the thought of dying at a particular time especially if the method of putting him to death is known. The imagination of the pain that will be inflicted on the convict is real mental torture. Death penalty should be reconsidered due to the pain that they cause to humanity. When a society becomes used to executing their own members, there happens to be a tendency of loosing the moral values that make up a community. People who witness the painful execution of others time and again do not find it hard to repeat the same acts. A society composed of merciless individuals can easily end up losing direction (Fang Z. 2005).
The abolishment of the brutal executions does not however give way for the methods that are regarded as less painful ways of executing criminals. Any action that takes the life of another should be avoided as much as possible. This is because capital punishment causes suffering to humanity in general. Public hanging is one of the methods that have been used to execute people who have been sentenced to death by many criminal justice systems. They usually have a negative impact on the society taking in to consideration that the observers are usually people of all ages. The executions happen in the view of children who rarely understand what it means to be sentenced to death. It is very hard for them to forget such executions through out their lives. It is an apparent denial of their right not to be exposed to such actions that are meted out on people by their fellow human beings. More over, capital punishment takes away the life of a person and it does not allow a chance for him to reform and become a productive member of the society.
Although it is important that the youth are punished for criminal acts especially murder, it should be understood that they are less mature and most likely to commit crimes out of utter ignorance. Sentencing them to death is not an appropriate way of punishing them. These are people who can be given a chance to reform and become productive in the society. On the other hand, the youth can easily be intimidated in to confessing about crimes that they never committed. Having little knowledge of the criminal justice system, the police can easily coerce them to confess by giving them the wrong information. There are cases where police have convinced ignorant youth to confess in order for them to be on the safer side or face harsh penalties. On confessing, they have been sentenced to death. This shows that there is need to review the death penalty for the youth.
There are many ways through which a criminal can be punished. The better ways of punishment ensure that an individual reforms and becomes productive to the society. The convicts can be given a life sentence and while serving it, they can work for the public and assist the government to reduce the cost of labor. This ensures that the prisoner is punished while being productive to the society. Terminating the prisoner’s life is not the best option since it is very expensive to take up his roles in the society. It is also unnecessary in the sense that it does not give an individual the chance to reform and rejoin the society. Capital punishment should be abolished because it has many negative impacts on the society as a whole.
- Bowers W. J. (1974). Executions in America, Lexington Books, Lexington, MA.
- Fang Z. (2005). “Criminal Justice” International Journal of Criminal Behavior & Research. Vol. 11 No. 1, July, pp. 25-41
- Rick S. (2006). Social Policy and Social Control: the Death Penalty in the United States and Worldwide, McGraw-Hill.