Death Penalty

Death Penalty

A Chapter by Debbie Barry
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An essay against the death penalty. Written for SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology.

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Death Penalty


7/12/2010


 

The death penalty is an antiquated form of punishment that is no longer necessary for the good of society, and it should be abolished.  Many countries, including “28 European countries[,] have abolished the death penalty” (Bedau, 1992, para. 78).  Amnesty International (2010) reports that “[i]nternational death penalty trends are unmistakably towards abolition” (para. 1).

          The death penalty does not serve as an effective deterrent to crime.  Although Richard T. Schaefer (2009) writes that “sanctions against deviant acts help to reinforce society’s standards of proper behavior” (p. 176), “the consensus among criminologists is that the death penalty does not add any significant deterrent effect above that of long-term imprisonment” (Radelet and Lacock, 2009, para. 41).  If the threat of extended incarceration is at least as effective as the death penalty in deterring crime, then it is time to retire the death penalty.  Further supporting the abolition of the death penalty, especially in today’s poor economy, is the fact that it costs almost three times as much to employ the death penalty in a criminal case as it costs to sentence an inmate to a life sentence in prison (Schaefer, 2009, p. 177).

          Crime rates in the United States are high in comparison to much of the rest of the world for several reasons.  One reason is that American culture “has long tolerated, if not condoned, many forms of violence” (Schaefer, 2009, p. 175).  This tendency goes back to the birth of our country, with the celebration of the civil rebellion that came to be called the American Revolution.  The Wild West has been romanticized, as have organized crime activities, in literature, television, and movies.  Another reason for the high crime rate in the United States is that “[c]rime rates are strongly affected by economic” (Niskanen, 1994, para. 5).  The United States has been in a state of economic crisis for some time, which has added to the increased crime rate.

          The world view on the death penalty is split, with some countries, including Japan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the United States, continuing to execute criminals.  The trend, however, is toward finding alternatives to execution.  “In Great Britain, [the death penalty] was abolished … in 1971; France abolished it in 1981. Canada abolished it in 1976” (Bedau, 1992, para. 78).

          Juvenile criminals are of particular concern in a discussion of the death penalty.  Amnesty International (2010) reports that “juvenile offenders … face possible execution in Saudi Arabia” (para. 7).  In the United States, youths also face the possibility of the death penalty, and “many states, such as New York, set 13-yes 13-as the age of full criminal responsibility” (Blecker, 2006, para. 13).  Bradley (2006) reports that “the American Psychiatric Association … forbids diagnosing any patient under 18 as a psychopath or a sociopath” (para. 15) because children are not considered to have a fully developed understanding of what is and what is not acceptable in society.  Children, who are not considered to be responsible enough to make legal decisions, or to sign contracts, before age 18, cannot be held responsible for their behavior in the same way that adults are held responsible.  Blecker (2006) writes that "retribution is not proportional if the law's most severe penalty is imposed on one whose culpability or blameworthiness is diminished, to a substantial degree, by reason of youth and immaturity" (Blecker, 2006, para. 16).  I believe that the death penalty should be abolished worldwide.  Although I understand the emotional appeal of killing a person who commits a crime such as murder, treason, or child molestation, law and justice cannot be predicated on an excess of emotion.  It is hypocritical to sentence a person to death for the crime of killing another person.  That is, in effect, justifying murder by the government, and I find it to be abhorrent.

          The death penalty also removes any possibility of a conviction being overturned and of a convict being freed if additional evidence comes to light.  Death cannot be reversed, and there is the real danger that innocent people will be wrongly convicted and executed.

          On a simple, practical level, it is much less expensive to sentence a person to life in prison than to sentence a person to the death penalty.  Schaefer (2009) reports that “imprisoning a person for life costs $1.1 million, but sentencing a person to death costs $3 million” (p. 177).  With the difficult economy in the United States, it makes clear, financial sense for the government to save $1.9 million for each person who would be executed by instead sending these people to life in prison.

          The death penalty has outlasted its time, and it needs to be abolished.  It does not significantly deter crime, and it justifies the taking of human life.  It is financially costly, and it is morally costly in the risk of executing the innocent.  The United States should join the majority of European countries in doing away with the death penalty, and in encouraging the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world.

 


References


Amnesty International USA.  (2010).  International Death Penalty.  Retrieved July 12, 2010, from           http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty/international-          deathpenalty/page.do?id=1101074


Bedau, H.A..  (1992).  The Case Against The Death Penalty.  Retrieved July 12, 2010,            from http://users.rcn.com/mwood/deathpen.html


Blecker, R..  (2006).  "A Poster Child For Us".  Judicature, 89(5), 297-301.  Retrieved July 9, 2010, from ProQuest Database.


Bradley, C.M..  (2006).  “The Right Decision On The Juvenile Death Penalty.” Judicature,       89(5), 302-303,305.  Retrieved July 9, 2010, from ProQuest Database.


Niskanen, W.A..  (1994).  Crime, Police, and Root Causes.  Retrieved July 12, 2010, from    http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-218es.html


Radelet, M., & Lacock, T..  (2009).  “Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views     Of Leading Criminologists.”  Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 99(2), 489-       508.  Retrieved July 9, 2010, from ProQuest Database.


Schaefer, R.T.. (2009) Sociology: A brief introduction (8th ed.) New York, NY: McGraw           Hill.




© 2017 Debbie Barry



Author's Note

Debbie Barry
Initial reactions and constructive criticism appreciated.

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I have conflicting emotions regarding this issue. I believe in the constitutionally based premise that better for 10 guilty men to walk free than 1 innocent man die.
That said, barring juvenile offenders, there are people whose acts are so heinous, that even the most secure prison is not guaranteed (natural disasters that destroy buildings at a moment's notice) that even that highly unlikely scenario is enough to justify their death. I am speaking of child rapists/murders. Child rapists who do not kill their victims are not included in my (very) short list of those "who jus' gotta go". Anyone who can rape a child under the age of 10, and especially those who rape babies, are lacking an essential element in their DNA that qualifies them as humans.
So many stories have to come to light that expose law enforcement and judicial corruption that has put many behind bars for crimes they did not commit. Add that to the recent advances in DNA research and the recanting by witnesses who were frightened at the time by the real perpetrators or even law/judicial entities to speak the truth....well, this aspect of crime and punishment has become fraught with numerous problems that at a cursory glance seem insurmountable.
Another point: I agree that the death penalty is does not act as a deterrent. But instead, per the small part of the human race I refer to above, they...jus' gotta go.

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

1 Week Ago

Thanks for another honest, thoughtful review. I can honestly say that I agree with everything you w.. read more



Reviews

I have conflicting emotions regarding this issue. I believe in the constitutionally based premise that better for 10 guilty men to walk free than 1 innocent man die.
That said, barring juvenile offenders, there are people whose acts are so heinous, that even the most secure prison is not guaranteed (natural disasters that destroy buildings at a moment's notice) that even that highly unlikely scenario is enough to justify their death. I am speaking of child rapists/murders. Child rapists who do not kill their victims are not included in my (very) short list of those "who jus' gotta go". Anyone who can rape a child under the age of 10, and especially those who rape babies, are lacking an essential element in their DNA that qualifies them as humans.
So many stories have to come to light that expose law enforcement and judicial corruption that has put many behind bars for crimes they did not commit. Add that to the recent advances in DNA research and the recanting by witnesses who were frightened at the time by the real perpetrators or even law/judicial entities to speak the truth....well, this aspect of crime and punishment has become fraught with numerous problems that at a cursory glance seem insurmountable.
Another point: I agree that the death penalty is does not act as a deterrent. But instead, per the small part of the human race I refer to above, they...jus' gotta go.

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

1 Week Ago

Thanks for another honest, thoughtful review. I can honestly say that I agree with everything you w.. read more

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Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI



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I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..

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