Assessing The Death Penalty

There are two ways in which one can look at judicial penalties and convictions. One is to look at them as retributive justice which is centered around the criminal, and which seeks penalty for the sake of punishing criminal. The other way is to look at penalty as a deterrent, with the objective of preventive crime. In the second case, a stronger penalty, such as death sentence, is expected to protect the victim as well as the potential criminal.
Assessing the Death Penalty
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The need for capital punishment is a matter of endless debate. People in many Western countries oppose it vehemently. The Christian ideal of forgiveness as well as votaries of criminal reforms demands that we discard it. Yet, everyone is not so sure. Why did we have it in the first place ?

Opposition to Death Penalty

Many people in developed countries view the death penalty as barbaric and uncivilized. It is opposed on many different grounds. While those with religious bent of mind often oppose it on the ground that such penalty is devoid of all compassion and humanity and hence should

be abhorred, many oppose it on the ground that every offender, even the most detestable deserve a second chance. Others argue that no human has a right to takes any other human’s life. There are a multitude of arguments against the death penalty, which in most developed countries is considered unacceptable.

Why do we have Death Penalty?

Most civilizations had a provision of death penalty, with a purpose of ensuring justice. Though not always, the death penalty was often resorted to respectable people of society acting as judges. It will not be correct to say that death penalty was their revenge on the people who committed the crimes.

Actually, the death penalty is not a revenge of the people. It has a greater social purpose, that of creating a deterrence against crime, by the same offender, or by other offenders.

The human behavior is controlled by incentives. For most people, disincentives in the form of peer rejection, social boycott or loss of honor are enough to prevent them from indulging in crime, but the danger of somebody crossing the line always exists, and if there are a few murderers who can maraud the streets


for a few years, hordes can take them as precedence or role models and millions of lives will be in danger because of them. Not only will they impose a huge suffering by killing people but they will also impose suffering from the mere loss of safety among the people.

Death Penalty as Credible Deterrence

In a way, death penalty is like sacrificing the life of an individual offender, for the welfare and safety of the many.

In fact what it does is to reduce all crimes for which the death penalty is levied. When the deterrence caused by death penalty is perfectly effective, then nobody commits a crime and nobody gets death penalty either. Merely having the provision of death penalty does not cause anybody’s death. In fact it saves lives, not only of the victims, but also those of potential offenders. Even if a few are killed by it, it may be bad overall if the number is minuscule, as it allows all the rest to be able to live in peace and enables the human civilization to continue harmoniously on the path of progress.

However, one must not lose sight of the fact that a credible deterrence needs very effective investigation and trial systems that ensure the real facts are discovered and brought to public attention, and their integrity preserved to ensure that justice invariable prevails. The justification for using death penalty is intricately linked to the efficiency and integrity of those who make use of these provisions.
 



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