Should we abolish capital punishment?should capital punishment be abolished ?????

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Capital punishment should not be used in society. There are many reasons for its abolishment. 

The first reason comes from the human factor.  As long as men are making the decision concerning a man's life, there can be no absolutes.  Unless it has absolutely been determined that a person was responsible for taking the life of another person, then capital punishment should not even be a consideration.

When DNA began to be a viable part of the evidentiary aspect proof of guilt or innocence, several cases were examined and the defendents were found to be innocent.  They had been incarcerated in death row for years, and yet were not guilty.  As long as there is the chance that the jury system might find someone guilty that did not commit the crime, capital punishment cannot be used. 

In addition, it has been found that capital punishment is rarely a deterrent.  For those crimes, that are not premeditated a person does not stop to consider what the ramifications of the crime might be.  Many law enforcement agents have spoken out against capital punishment as a deterrent:

A recent survey of the most leading criminologists in the country have found that the overwhelming majority did not believe that the death penalty is a proven deterrent to homicide. Eighty-eight percent of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide, according to a new study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology

Similarly, 87% of the expert criminologists believe that abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates.

Use of the death penalty is far more costly than keeping a person in prison for life. The court system allows many years of appeals.  A man can be on death row for 12 to 15 years waiting for his final appeal.  The additional cost of confining an inmate to death row, as compared to the maximum security prisons where those sentenced to life without possibility of parole ordinarily serve their sentences, is $90,000 per year per inmate. With California's current death row population of 670, that accounts for $63.3 million annually."

This is a comparison between the death penalty and life in prison:

  • Annual costs per innate on death row is $90,000.
  • In California, for the death row system the cost is $137 million per year. If continued estimates expect the costs to increase to $232 million per annum.
  • The cost of keeping prisoners incarcerated for life is $11.5 million per year.

The last reason that I have for abolishing the death penalty comes from a personal belief that I do not think that it is the responsibility of society to take the life of another human being.  I understand that there are despicable people who have committed heinous crimes.  However, it is my belief that those lives should be left to the hands of God.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is my opinion that capital punishment should be abolished, for at least a few reasons.  First, it is too late to just apologize in the case of erroneous conviction. The convict is dead.  We are now learning that many erroneous convictions occur, particularly those based on witness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable.  The mastery of DNA analysis has allowed us to see that some convictions were erroneous, but certainly there have been many more.  Second, one of the purposes of punishment is to discourage others from committing crimes, but this has been demonstrated to be staggeringly ineffective in the case of the death penalty.  There is no evidence that shows that the use of the death penalty reduces crime today.  Third, I am always skeptical of any process that falls more heavily upon minority groups.  Most people who have been put to death or who are on death row are African-American or Latino.  I, too, believe that we are all capable of good and evil, no matter what racial or ethnic group we belong to, and the conclusion I draw from the statistics is not that these groups commit more crimes, but that we are more likely to convict people in these groups.  This alone makes the death penalty a problem for me.  Justice should fall equally on all, not on people of color.  For some people, there are religious reasons to abolish the death penalty, since many people believe that life and death should be in the hands of a higher power, not within the hands of people.  I would imagine that other people will respond with even more reasons than these, while there will be those who argue that there should be capital punishment. 

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am happy to be the first person to back the continued use of capital punishment. I cannot argue with most of the comments made in the previous posts, and I don't believe the death sentence serves as a deterrent to murder or rape. However, I believe that life-long criminals who repeat the same crimes of murder, rape, child molestation, etc., over and over again after weak-kneed judges deliver light sentences and allow them to rejoin society have no right to continue their uncivilized behavior--be it in prison (on the tax payers' dollar) or on the streets. Many killers and rapists have long rap sheets, in many cases exceeding 20 and 30 convictions. Neither prison nor compassion will change such people, and I believe the death sentence is a fitting punishment for people who absolutely refuse to conform to civilized societal standards. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main reason for abolishing capital punishment is that it is irreversible.  You can’t bring someone back to life, so you can’t kill a person!  My favorite quote on the subject is actually from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends. (Book 4, Ch 1)

This is the strongest argument for me because it is true that no single person can see everything.  The person who commits a heinous crime should not be allowed to commit one again, but also should not be killed.

Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think we should abolish capital punishment. There's ample evidence that the criminal justice system makes errors in judging capital crimes. Since DNA evidence have been permitted in courts, there have already been numerous pardons of wrongly accused people put on death row. There are all kinds of racial and class prejudices built into laws, the way that laws are enforced, and the way that courts pass judgments. On top of all that, there's plain old human error. I'd rather spare the life of the guilty than wrongly take the life of the innocent.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wow. It is interesting to see the unanimity of responses to this question. I have to agree, I do not support capital punishment. I think that from a functional point of view, it does not act as a deterrent, and looking at the question any other way, in my opinion, puts people in the position, as pohpei observes, of making a judgement that I don't feel anyone, even the state, should be entitled to make. It boils down to retributive justice, or revenge, and I don't think that should be the purpose of the law in our modern age.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For me,  the problem with capital punishment is that we cannot as human beings truly judge which of our fellow humans deserves to live or die.  It is too hard to say that one person's crimes are so heinous that the person deserves to die while another's crimes are not quite bad enough.  So we end up administering the death penalty in ways that reflect our prejudices.  This is not a good thing.

discussion1984 | Student

Yes, capital punishment should be abolished. First, it's not clear the punishments should match. Just because I trick someone, that doesn't mean I should be tricked. Proponents automatically assume an eye for an eye. But what is the rationale? Second, it seems reprehensible that the state should commit the same crime a person has committed. For instance, it seems reprehensible that the state should cut a person into several peices because a person cut a person into peices. That's what capital punishment amounts to, killing a person who has killed (in most cases). Third, if a person is actually innocent, there is no reperation available for killing someone convicted of killing but who was actually innocent. The cost of a mistake in the system is too great. Lastly, punishment is a right to cruelty. When the state punishes in this way, it is preforming the greatest form of cruelty. We should try to overcome punishment as justice and instead aim for reperation. Everyone wins when there is reparation, even if an injustice has occured.

mailtogaurav | Student

the punishment should be just but the question is ,is there no other way . i personally believe that every human being has evil and good characters . there is only a need to improve one drive one . there is always  a another way it may be difficult but certainly more appropriate .