The use of capital punishment in the justice system is a hotly contested subject in today's society with each side of the debate making valid arguments. The contesting sides hint no signs of agreeing soon. Whereas the pro-death penalty debaters argue in its favor as a perceived means of deterring crime, reducing prison costs and retribution, the opponents argue against it believing that it is immoral nature and the lack of fool-proof in the court verdicts.
One of the common arguments for the death penalty is that it serves to deter crime. The ultimate goal of the criminal justice system is "doing justice" or "deterring others" (Dezhbakhsh, Rubin & Shepherd, 2003). Therefore, to reach these ends, the criminal justice system should use tough punishments such as death penalty as a means of warning those intending to engage in the crime of severe consequences.
Also, the death penalty has been thought to be a remedy to the escalating prison costs due to a high number of inmates sentenced to life imprisonment. Currently, the United States' criminal justice system is holding 2.2 million people behind bars at an estimated $270 billion per capita. Out of these inmates, about 160, 000 are serving life imprisonment with 50,000 having no chance of parole (Nellis & Chung, 2013). Proponents argue that there is no need of incurring taxpayers costs for such a huge population that does not contribute to the economy or meets for their expenses and they should be hanged.
Moreover, proponents of capital punishment support the act because of retribution. The death penalty is awarded as retribution for a heinous crime such as killing someone. It is believed that the only way to serve justice for the family and friends of the deceased is to hang the offender.
On the other hand, opponents of the death penalty argue that killing is immoral. Many argue that man cannot give life and he has no right to take away what he cannot create. Therefore, capital punishment is immoral and goes against God's will.
Another opposing argument and most weighty one is that court verdicts are not fool-proof (Gupta 886). Innocent suspects may be awarded death sentence. For example, a lower court may issue a death penalty for an individual, but when the decision is appealed, a higher court ends up reversing it. The problem is when the reversal comes after the innocent has been killed and cannot be brought back to life. An example of such instance was that of Dr. Hawley Crippen hanged in 1910 for being accused and found guilty of murdering his wife Cora (Gupta 886). Crippen maintained being innocent until he was killed. Later studies have revealed that DNA found in the corpse was not for Cora.
Also, the increased use of laboratory investigative techniques n criminal justice leading to death penalty issuance may be faulty. For example, in West Virginia, a serologist has been found to have falsified test results in hundreds of cases which resulted in innocent people being sentenced to lengthy imprisonment (Gupta, 2013). If the death penalty were to be used, such souls would have been lost unfairly.
Overall, the death penalty remains a weighty subject that has pros and cons balancing each other. Whereas it may be thought to deter crime, act as retribution and reduce imprisonment costs, it may equally lead to killing innocent people. It is even morally unjustified.
Dezhbakhsh, H., Rubin, P. H., & Shepherd, J. M. (2003). Does capital punishment have a deterrent effect? New evidence from postmoratorium panel data. American Law and Economics Review, 5(2), 344-376.
Gupta, M. C. (2013). What are the Pros and Cons of Death Penalty? Which Method of Execution is Best. Medilaw.
Nellis, A., & Chung, J. (2013). Life goes on: The historic rise in life sentences in America. Washington, DC: Sentencing Project.
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