Capital PunishmentAfter centuries of nearly universal implementation, the death penaltyremains a deeply debated political issue. While one execution takes place, othermurders occur, and the question still stands: Will the death penalty safeguardsociety and deter murder, or will it not? The death penalty cannot be considereda proper economical and moral means of punishment to deter those who mightcommit capital offenses, or can it?In the past, capital punishment horrified people, which deterred themfrom committing crime. In England, the country from which the United Statesadopted the death penalty, the death penalty was imposed for a rather largenumber of offenses in an effort to discourage people from committing crimes.
Methods of inflicting the death penalty have ranged “From stoning in biblicaltimes, crucifixion under the Romans, beheading in France, to those used in theUnited States today: hanging, electrocution, gas chamber, firing squad, andlethal injection”(Bedau 124). There were drastic penalties for such seriouscrimes as homicide. Execution was a suitable punishment for those times. Today,though, the law is not as strict. This leads potential criminals not to fear thedeath penalty because government today uses more “humane” methods of execution,rather than the brutal punishment that history portrayed. People who oppose the death penalty say that “there is no evidence thatthe murder rate fluctuates according to the frequency with which the deathpenalty is used” (Masur 153).
It is more likely that the convict would beparoled instead of being executed because of the present practice of allowingunlimited appeals. Convicted criminals are not exposed to cruel punishment, butrather given a long waiting period. If the criminal is put to death, it isusually done as mercifully as possible. One problem with the death penalty, presently, is that crime is notdecreasing, but rather increasing. If capital punishment is supposed to detercrimes such as murder, it is not serving its purpose. Even philosophers, such asBeccaria, Voltaire, and Bentham of the Enlightenment Period, argued that “thedeath penalty was needlessly cruel, overrated as a deterent, and occasionallyimposed in fatal error” (Fogelson 89).
Another problem with the death penalty is the enormous amount of moneybeing spent on implementation. It costs taxpayers millions of dollars more toexecute a criminal than to lock him up for life. The number of prisoners ondeath row has been steadily increasing and will soon meet all time highs. Thisfact brings up the question of economic feasibility of the implementation, aswell as the question of weather the death penalty is actually an effectivedeterrent to crime. Currently, Texas leads the nation in both death row population and inthe number of executions.
Texas has 351 condemned men and 4 women awaitingsentence, and has had 46 executions since 1977. These prisoners spent an averageof eight years on death row and cost Texans an average of 2. 3 million dollarsper case (“Execution” B8). The legal process a condemned prisoner goes throughis very lengthy and costly.
A person is only given the death penalty for certain crimes in Texas. Adeath sentence is handed down if a person is convicted of the murder of a policeofficer or fireman, murder during certain felonies, murder for pay or reward,multiple murders, or murder during prison escape. Once a criminal has beensentenced, he or she can appeal the decision. In addition to the courts appeals, the cost of an average of $180,000per case, the $150,000 prison cost also escalates the economic burden to thestate. This cost does not include the $21,000 execution cost or the $19,500needed for extra security (Van den Haag 123). To have a death row prisoner meansthat the state must provide police, fire, and public safety protection.
Theyalso require special housing units, extra guards, food, and around-the-clocksecurity (Van den Haag 123). To cut down costs, several alternatives to the death penalty have beendiscussed by public officials. One alternative is to sentence criminals to lifeimprison without possibility of parole instead of execution. Although this planwould save millions of dollars, it would create problems in the prison system. The end result would be killing each other and killing prison guards without thethreat of serious consequences (“Execution” B8). In the following interview with the U.
S. Attorney, Demetrius Bevins’aide, some interesting responses were made:Q:What do you think about the death penalty?A:Depending on the circumstances of the crime, on some criminals it shouldbe enforced. On others, they should just get life in prison. Q:What do you think is the best method of execution?A:I think the best method is lethal injection. Is is the mo. .
. . . st humane, andin my opinion, the least expensive. It involves much less preperation than theelectric chair, and it is safer and cleaner. Q:Do you have any suggestions for alternative solutions to the deathpenalty?A:Yes.
Life in prison with absolutely no possibility of parole. The following is an interview with local attorney Chuck Hardy. Q:What do you think about the death penalty?A:I think it serves its purpose. I think it cuts down on crime, and frommy experience with the prisoners I have met, most if not all are scared of thelethal injection method used here in Texas. Q:What is the best method of execution?A:The electric chair. It is scarier than lethal injection because one mustfirst go through intense pain.
With the lethal injection, one just goes to sleepand never wakes up. Q:Do you have any suggestions for alternative solutions to the deathpenalty. A:Doing hard time in a maximum security prison and never seeing the lightof day. In legal history there is a tendency “to leave cruel executions behindand to humanize’ capital punishment by the pursuit of technical perfection”(Bockle 43). The death penalty is a form of torture trying to be justified withadvanced technology. How does this form of torture differ from the torture thattakes place in “Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, South America, Guatemala, Bangladesh,Afganistan, and even Israel?” (Bockle 4).
The techniques in those countrieswould certainly be considered to go against human morality, but the end resultis the same, a man dies. In this country, the debate goes on as to weather ornot the death penalty is in fact going against human morality regardless of hoe”humanly” it is done. Some people turn to the Bible to determine what is right, but the Biblecan be interpreted as arguing either way. The Old Testament can be interpretedas arguing for the death penalty. This interpretation is formulated from thepassage in which God sentences Cain to walk the Earth without food or humancontact.
Cain killed his brother Able, and therfore was punished by banishment. This type of punishment would be impossible to impose on an individual at thisday and age. Those for the death penalty justify the use of capital punishmentas a necessary for the preservation of the society of the twentieth century. The same Old Testament can be interpreted as against the death penalty. The quotation, “Vengeance said the Lord, is mine, and if anyone kills Cain, itshall be taken on him sevenfold,” is most accurately interpreted as anti-deathpenalty (Berns 11). This statement steers society into allowing God to take careof the sinful individual in His own manner.
Cain was banished and considered anoutcast just as the prisoner is an outcast from society. Many questions have been raised as to the effectiveness of the deathpenalty, and whether it should still be used today. Everywhere in the UnitedStates the death penalty has been under fire. The awareness of the people andarguments made by lawmakers have led to an anti-death penalty sentiment in theUnited States.
Arguments in favor of the death penalty, such as “the punishmentfitting the crime” and the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrentagainst crime, are made. These ideas are the basis for pro-death penalty viewsamong the population and court systems of America. Important legal arguments against the death penalty are usually madefrom what is stated in the Constitution. Many people believe that the deathpenalty is unlawful because it violates the cruel and unusual punishment clausesunder the eighth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution (Punishment 82). Another argument that the abolitionist group make is that the death penaltyviolates the discriminatory clause of the Constitution.
Of all executions thattook place in the United States between 1930 and 1966, over half of those whodied were black (Punishment 2). The controversy over capital punishment began in the eighteenth centuryand continues today. Throughout the world innocent people are executed inseveral inhumane forms which the United States should not follow. Today thereexists a raging debate on wether the death penalty is economically, morally, andlegally justifiable, or still just cruel and inhumane. BIBLIOGRAPHYBedau, Hugo Adam.
“Capital Punishment. ” Collier’s Encyclopedia. 1990. Berns, Walter.
For Capital Punishment. New York: Basic Books, 1979. Bockle, Franz, and Jacques Pohier. The Death Penalty and Torture.
New York: TheSeabury Press, 1979. “Execution Costs an Average $2. 3 Million in Texas. ” San Antonio Light.
9 Mar. 1992, B:8. Fogelson, Robert M. Criminal Justice in America. New York: ARNO Press, 1974.
Masur, Louis P. Rites of Execution. New York: Oxford U. P.
, 1989. Van de Haag, Ernest. Punishment of Criminals. New York: Basic Books, 1975.