Death penalty refers to the execution or killing of a person by the state as punishment for crime. It is also referred to as capital punishment. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. Life imprisonment means that a person found guilty of a serious crime is sentenced to spend the rest of her or his life in prison. Compared to other forms of punishment (except capital punishment), life imprisonment is the most severe forms of criminal punishment. In countries where capital punishment have been abolished, life imprisonment serves as them most severe form of punishment.
In this research paper, the issue of how effective death penalty and life in prison in deterring crime will be discussed. The death penalty and life imprisonment decrease the crime rate in a given society or state, while at the same time increasing crime. The positive and negative effects of death penalty and life imprisonment will be discussed into details.
In the modern world, the death penalty has been used as punishment for murder, treason or as part of military justice. Other crimes that may result to death penalty include, drug trafficking, sexual crimes (rape, adultery, sodomy) and religious crimes where one may formally renounce their religion. Life imprisonment is also given to the offenders of the same crime, in states where capital punishment has been abolished. There has been controversy about death penalty all over the world. The paper will first discuss on which ways death penalty and life imprisonment deter crime and later how it encourages crime.
Both death penalty and life imprisonment act as effective ways of discouraging would-be criminals from unlawful action. Since the society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder, and that is death penalty (Death Penalty Curricula for High School. 1 Nov. 2001). Where murderers are sentenced to death, or life imprisonment, potential murderers will think twice before killing for fear of also losing their own life. It is argued that punishments that are swift are always the best. Whatever people fear most is likely to deter them most.
Punishment of offenders through death penalty and life imprisonment is important in stabilizing the society by balance of justice. Every time a life is taken through a crime, the balance of justice is disturbed. A good example is the case of murder of a family in Truman Capote book, “In cold blood.” The murder of almost all members of a family in Kansas, triggered people’s urge for killers to be caught and punished for their offence. The disturbance of balance of justice triggers a rule of violence in that particular society. In order to restore the balance, a murderer’s life has to be taken or be punished severely. Lack of balancing justice promotes the society in using crime as a way of making the offenders pay for their crimes.
Death penalty and imprisonment promotes the value of life a society places on protecting lives. Crimes may result to loss of so many lives over a short time. Any lesser punishment that may be given to the offenders may be seen to undermine the value society places on protecting lives of its members. Consequently, taking of lives through crimes will increase since the offenders can easily go unpunished whenever they commit a crime. If the death penalty or life imprisonment is given to offenders, the society member will give value to protecting human life. This discourages capital crimes.
The punishment works very well to protect the society from future crimes that may be committed against them by already arrested offenders. The society requires to be protected from crimes that an offender may commit against them over and over again. Vicious criminals may be killed to prevent them from committing the crime again. Both death penalty and life imprisonment prevents future crimes, both a deterrent and as a form of permanent incapacitation.
In any society set up, the concept of fairness is applied. People believe that offenders must pay for all their crimes fairly. This means that, all crime perpetrators should be punished on basis of the magnitude of offence committed. To the society, death penalty and imprisonment is a fair way of making offenders pay for their crimes. This is believed to be a very effective measure of correcting any wrong in the society. The society develops trust towards the judicial system, and is willing to work with the military authority to arrest offenders and prevent crimes.
On the other hand, death penalty and life imprisonment may work to increase crime and violence in the society. If the punishment is considered as a form of revenge, it is seen as extending a chain of violence. Those who are involved in any way to the executed offender may feel an urge to make those who were linked to executing the offender pay for it. This is then followed by other criminal activities in the revenge mission. Vengeance is a strong and natural emotion that may encourage criminal activities as “payback.”
The severe punishment system may be unreliable in some states. For example an offender may fail to be punished accordingly due to some inefficiency in the system. This creates lack of faith of its citizens in that system. This is likely lead to the people handling criminal offenders on their own without involving the authority. The society develops illegal ways (crimes) of punishing offenders who the system cannot punish.
Execution of offenders denies them a chance to change their bad behaviour or habit in committing crimes. Role models are very important in any growing society. Given a chance, the changed offenders may act as an inspiration tot hose that are already criminals or would-be criminals to change their ways. This would be a positive direction in preventing crime in the society.
Death penalty and life imprisonment may be discriminatory and may promote crime through those who feel marginalized. Wrongfully convicted persons may be as a result of unfair trials. For example in Iran courts, women were vulnerable to unfair trials because their high illiteracy rates made them more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit (Amnesty International USA, Jan. 15 2008). Executing innocent people creates unbalance in justice, which in turn may encourage unlawful behaviour.
Capital punishment is tainted with race and class bias (NCADP – www.ncadp.org). According to this report, 95% of those sentenced to death are poor and racial minorities who cannot afford a private attorney. Offenders who can afford a private attorney though guilty may be free to propagate more criminal activities.
In summary, death penalty and life imprisonment contribute to increase and decrease of crime rates in the society. the people have a great responsibility to protect human life, either of victims or offenders.
Capital offences are unacceptable in any given society. They are crimes that under mine the value of human life. Though the crimes committed are so serious that they deserve equal penalty, taking another life does not replace the lost life. All over the world, it is the responsibility of the governments or the people to devise better ways of punishing offenders, other than those that undermine the value of life that is being protected.
Amnesty International USA, 2008.
Abolish the Death Penalty. Web.
Death Penalty Curricular for High School. 2001.
Michigan State University Comm. Tech Lab and Death Penalty Information. Web.
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). Web.
Truman C.1993.In Cold Blood.