The practice of execution as a form of punishment for crime committed is not a new practice. All through the different eras of human civilization there are certain crimes that have been considered as only punishable by death. In many ancient African and Latin societies, crimes such as witchcraft and murder could not be condoned and the only feasible technique to wipe them out was to execute the perpetrators; the rationale behind this was that if confined for a little while and then released, there existed a very high probability of the culprits repeating their crimes. In the modern times however, the debate on whether or not a judicial system in any nation should hand down the death sentence has been clouded with a lot of controversy and the possibility of coming to a consensus on the issue seems bleak. Despite the fact that opponents of the death penalty feel convinced that the practice should be stopped, the death penalty is indeed a very effective means of deterring offenders from committing crimes and punishing them when they do (Shepherd, 2005).
The death penalty deters the commitment of crime as well as the criminal. According to Penman and Riemann (1998), the death penalty acts as a deterrent of felony; this implies that executing convicted criminals is a very effective method of lessening or reducing the rate of crimes. When would be criminals contemplate on their eventualities on an electric chair or the hangman’s noose in case they are apprehended, they are more likely to change their minds about committing crimes. The knowledge that they may be apprehended and imprisoned is not a scary thought for many hardcore criminals who have been in jail over and over again. In such light, the death penalty is more effective in deterring crime as opposed to imprisonment. In addition to this, it is important to note that the death penalty is usually handed down as a punishment for the offender having killed someone else. The only fair and just recompense for the victim and their family is that the offender faces the same eventuality that they brought upon their victim; this way the family of the victim will get justice and a sense of closure. The deterrent role played by the practice of executing convicted criminals is also evidenced by the fact that criminals who care a lot for their families and loved ones may be reluctant to involve themselves in crimes which might lead to their being executed. This is because they do not want to cause their loved ones pain or cause them suffering by their death.
In addition to this, the death penalty is very effective in the deterrence of aggressive crimes such as murder, manslaughter, homicide and armed robbery. According to Raveled and Leacock (2009) a study was conducted by the Emory Group between 1996-1997 to ascertain whether or not the death penalty is indeed effective in lessening the frequency and occurrence of homicidal crimes. After investigating statistical data from more than three thousand and fifty counties, the study successfully revealed that capital punishment reduces homicide by eighteen murders in all the counties that were studied. In the second study carried out by the group it was ascertained that the most reduced cases of killings were the killings of passion and those involving family members.
Shepherd (2005) asserts that apart from its role in deterring crime, the death penalty or capital punishment, as it is often referred to, is also very efficient in reducing the congestion and overpopulation that has been witnessed in many modern day prisons and jails. The sustenance of convicted criminals in any correctional facility is a costly affair; apart from being housed and fed, there are many inmates, especially the elderly ones, who suffer from a myriad of diseases and require constant health care. This imposes a greater burden on the innocent tax payer who has never engaged in any act of felony. To reduce such congestions and unnecessary costs from convicted criminals, the death punishment is the best solution (Penman and Riemann, 1998).
Define and Day (2009) assert that in the United States of America, the rates of suicide among the criminals who have been convicted and are on death row is approximately seven times higher than that of the country’s average. This is evidence enough that being executed has a propensity to instill fear in would be criminals which in turn hinders them from committing crime. According to Walker and Box (2008) the death penalty is the most effective form of deterring crime to be discovered by the human civilization; this is due to the fact that it has an aspect of finality and closure to it. After the offenders have been executed the legal systems as well as the society can relax and have peace of mind knowing that the criminal is no longer around to hurt innocent people.
On the other hand, however, there are those who are convinced that the death penalty is not the best solution in the management of crime. According to Raveled and Leacock (2009) one of the advantages quoted by the proponents of the death penalty that of providing closure, is the very same challenge that faces capital punishment. Once a convicted criminal has been executed, there exists no possibility of ever bringing them to life even when new discoveries have been made in their cases. Sometimes, after a criminal has been convicted, new evidence might crop up that proves their innocence and leads to their release. This however, is not possible if they have already been executed. In addition to this, some of the critics of the death penalty have argued that the sentence may be handed down on a person discriminately. In the United States of America, for example, it has been argued for the longest time now, and confirmed by statistical data that an African American individual is more likely than their European American counterparts to have the death penalty imposed on them (Penman and Riemann, 1998).
Conclusively, there are several arguments that have been raised in this essay in support of the death penalty, also commonly referred to as capital punishment. Firstly, the death penalty is death penalty is very effective in the deterrence of aggressive crimes such as murder, manslaughter, homicide and armed robbery; it also deters criminal due to the fact that after they have been executed, they are no longer a threat to society. Moreover, apart from its role in deterring crime, the death penalty or capital punishment, as it is often referred to, is also very efficient in reducing the congestion and overpopulation that has been witnessed in many modern day prisons and jails. Prisoners are also very expensive to cater for and it is not fair that innocent tax payers be burdened to support people who have proved to be social misfits and unable to cohabit peacefully with others in the society (Delfino and Day, 2009).
Nevertheless, Radelet and Lacock (2009) state that the issue of the issuance of a death sentence on a convicted criminal is a very sensitive one. Due to the fact that the controversy surrounding the issue is not about to end soon, it is important to put in place certain mechanisms that will ensure that the convicted criminals are assured of justice through out the whole process of their cases. In case they cannot afford their own lawyers, such criminals should be provided with a state advocate to represent them; they should also be allowed to appeal the death sent4ence ruling, if they so desire. The legal justice and judicial, officials in any state should be devoted to the rule of justice; they should possess moral and ethical characters to try criminals and hand out their rulings fairly without being influenced by political forces of the conceptions they might have about the criminal’s race, creed, socio-economic status or nationality (Walker and Bix, 2008).
Delfino, M. and Day, M. E. (2009): ‘Death Penalty USA, 2001-2002’ MoBeta Publishing
Radelet, M. L. & Lacock, T. L. (2009): ‘Do Executions Lower Homicide rates? The Views of
Leading Criminologists’ THE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW & CRIMINOLOGY Vol. 99, No. 2
Shepherd, J. (2005): ‘Deterrence Versus Brutalization: Capital Punishment’s Differing Impacts
Among States’ 104 MICH Literature Review 203, 205-06, discussed in Shepherd, supra note 49
Walker, I. and Bix, B. (2008): ‘The Death Penalty’ ABDO
Pojman, L. P. and Reiman, J. H. (1998): ‘The Death Penalty: For and Against’ Rowman &