Evaluating The Need To End Capital Punishment Criminology Essay

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Since biblical times, capital punishment has been used as a form of formal social control for people who have been convicted of serious crimes (Mahood, 2003). Over time, capital punishment in the United States of America has changed from a public spectacle to an event conducted behind prison walls. A predetermined number of persons are allowed to witness the event as established by the Department of Corrections, if a state is carrying out the execution or by the Federal Bureau of Prisons if it is a federal execution (Mahood, 2003). An author by the name of Albert Camus wrote a collection of essays that was published in a 1966 book. In one of the essays titled "Resistance, Rebellion, and Death", Camus wrote the following:

"An execution is not simply death. It is just as different from the privation of life as a concentration camp is from prison. It adds to death a rule, a public premeditation known to the future victim, an organization which is itself a source of moral sufferings more terrible than death. Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life" (Camus, 1966).

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A website, titled "Death Penalty News and Updates" which anti-death penalties advocate by the name of Rick Halperin maintains information on capital punishment in the United States of America. In one section of this website Halperin reports that as of March 30, 2010, the American Justice system has preformed "premeditated murder" (Camus, 1966) of 1200 human beings since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976 (Halperin, 2010a). This paper will explore the idea that capital punishment has had its time as a form of social control in the United States of America and it is time for the United States Supreme to Court to rule that capital punishment to be cruel and unusual punishment which would bring an end to "premeditated murder" (Camus, 1966) at the state and federal levels. Thus with the end of capital punishment, the American Justice system will begin sentencing inmates convicted of first degree murder to a prison time of life in prison without the chance of parole. It is important to study capital punishment in the United States because there is a movement in the United States that is underway trying to abolish capital punishment in the United States of America. Abolishing capital punishment will move the United States of America with many other western nations that do not have capital punishment as a form of formal social control.

Literature Review:

In the article "Estimates of the deterrent effect of alternative execution methods in the United States: 1978-2000", it was discovered that the electric chair scared people from committing a capital offence after the electric chair has been used to execute an inmate (Zimmerman, 2006). Thus, when a condemned inmate has died in the electric chair the murder rates decreased for a short period after the execution occurs (Zimmerman, 2006). Comparing that with the other methods of execution (hanging, lethal gas, lethal injection, firing squad), these methods of executions had no results in the crime rates after an inmate is executed by one of these execution methods (Zimmerman, 2006). The article also informed the reader that lethal injections can be compared to when a person has a medical procedure performed in hospital setting (Zimmerman, 2006). In the conclusion section, Zimmerman writes the following "the recent adoption of lethal injection in place of electrocution (or lethal gas) in many death penalty states might not be a desirable policy option if lawmakers hope to use capital punishment as a deterrent to crime" (Zimmerman, 2006, p. 935).

In the article, "Where the state kills in secret" this article describes the history of capital punishment in Japan. It also explains in detail how the death penalty sentence is carried out. In Japan, executions are preformed in secret (Johnson, 2006). A small number of people know when an execution is to take place. These people include the Minister of Justice, the Prison warden and the prosecutor who handled the condemned inmate's case. People in Japan, believe that the death penalty it is the ultimate criminal section that a person can receive (Johnson, 2006). The following are three examples out of a long from the article that list how Japan keeps the death penalty a secret. The condemned inmate will not be a told until a one hour before the execution is to take place; this avoids protests and court appeals. Second, the execution team is only informed when the team arrives for work that day. Prison officials believe that team members will call in sick if they know what they will be doing the next day. The execution team cannot turn down this assignment because prison officials believe it is an extreme honor to be chosen for the team and third the family of the condemned inmate is informed after the execution has taken place (Johnson, 2006). There is also a denial that the death penalty is carried out in Japan and information on this topic is not readily available. This secrecy creates an undemocratic nation in a democratic nation (Johnson, 2006). Japan carries out on average four hangings per year and has the lowest homicide rate in the world (Johnson, 2006). "From 1995 through 2004, 99 [people] were sentenced to death" (Johnson, 2006, p.267). When a death row inmate sentence becomes finalized the death sentence will be carried out, "and because fewer death sentences are reversed on appeal in Japan than is the USA, the state that kills in secret is a more vigorous killing state than previous studies have supposed" (Johnson, 2006, p. 267).

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The third article titled "Life without parole, America's other death penalty: Notes on life under sentence of death by incarceration", describes what life without parole really is truly called a true-life sentence. The authors inform the reader that this is equally painful as the death penalty because the inmate knows that he or she will never be released from prison unless an appeal is successful in the court system (Johnson & McGunigall-Smith, 2008). In many United States Death Rows, prisoners are isolated from other prisoners. Thus reducing the risk of dangerous activities of these prisoners on the other hand lifers are usually mixed in with other prisoners are pose the risk of them exploding into dangerous activities that could kill prison officials or other inmates (Johnson & McGunigall-Smith, 2008). The article proves this is not correct; in fact, lifers are more likely to follow the prison rules because they do not want to be placed in segregation cells for the remainder of their lives (Johnson & McGunigall-Smith, 2008). "As a practical matter, it is life without parole that is the sure and swift sentence, not the death penalty. Moreover life without parole is increasingly popular with the public. Support for the death penalty drops dramatically when the sanction of life without parole is an option" (Johnson & McGunigall-Smith, 2008, p.332).

A report from the Death Penalty Information Center titled "Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis looked at capital punishment as a form of formal social control. In the first part of the report it describes that the death penalty is expensive "that is draining state budgets" (Death Penalty Information, 2009, p.8). Police chiefs ranked "the death penalty as the least efficient use of taxpayers' money" and these chiefs would "like to increase their spending on community policing, programs to help drug and alcohol abuse and neighborhood watch programs as more cost-effective ways to use taxpayers' money" (Death Penalty Information, 2009, p.9). "Police chiefs do not favor use of the death penalty is that they do not believe it deters murders. Only 37% of those polled believed the death penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides. Fifty-seven percent (57%) agreed: The death penalty does little to prevent violent crimes because perpetrators rarely consider the consequences when engaged in violence. Only 24% of the respondents believe murderers think about the range of possible punishments before committing homicides" (Death Penalty Information, 2009, p.12). Eighty-eight percent of criminologists concur with the Police Chiefs that the death penalty act as a deterrent to homicide (Death Penalty Information, 2009). Also eighty-seven percent of these criminologists believe that ending the death penalty would decrease murder rates (Death Penalty Information, 2009). The article describes that a state that has capital punishment will spend more money to incarcerating a person on death row (Death Penalty Information, 2009). During a capital murder trial the state of Kansas spends $508,000 for death case compared to $ 32,000 for non-death penalty case (Death Penalty Information, 2009).

The article titled "A critique of contemporary death penalty abolitionism" describes the arguments in favor of abolishing the death penalty in the United States. One of the main arguments in this article is that "the calculated killing of a human being by the state involves by its very nature, a denial of the executed person's humanity "(Kauffman-Osborn, 2006, p. 366). Many people in favor of abolishing the death penalty believe that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. It is a denial of the executed person's humanity and once the death penalty is carried out, we cannot bring the executed person back to life if new evidence comes to light that would have cleared this person. The article describes in detail these points in the article. First, the ACLU strongly believes that the death penalty is state sanction violent homicide. Secondly it is also a struggle in sovereignty that governments are allowed to murder there citizens but citizens are not allowed to murder. Lastly different culture groups are more prone to receive the death penalty then other groups (Kauffman-Osborn, 2006). One these groups are African Americans (Kauffman-Osborn, 2006). In another study titled "Persuasion and resistance: Race and the death penalty in America" it proves that different culture groups are more prone to receive the death penalty then other groups (Kauffman-Osborn, 2006). This article examined the resistance of attitudes to arguments against capital punishment among whites and African Americans (Peffley and Hurwitz, 2007). The article by Peffley and Hurwitz discovered that many African Americans believe that a bias is presence in the criminal justice system and are not supportive of the death penalty. On the other hand, whites do not believe in this racial bias and are supportive of the death penalty (Peffley and Hurwitz, 2007). To place numbers in this discussion 50 percent of African Americans are oppose of the death penalty compared that with 35.04 percent of white Americans are oppose of the death penalty (Peffley and Hurwitz, 2007).

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Deterrence Theory and Capital Punishment and Two Founding Fathers Theories

Many American government officials believe that capital punishment would deter people from committing capital murder crimes. The theory these government officials believe in is called the deterrence theory. The deterrence theory model is "on the belief that the pain caused by punishment will deter future criminal actions. Punishment is imposed to keep criminals from reoffending (specific deterrence) and to prevent others from committing a crime in the first place (general deterrence)" (Eschholz et a1., 2003, p. 158). This theory "is [also] based on the idea that the threat of punishment must be severe enough to counter the benefits or pleasures that the criminal would receive from the crime. In addition, the punishment must be administered swiftly so that potential criminals will see a clear cause and effect relationship between the crime and the punishment" (enotes.com, 2010). We will now move to two of the founding fathers of the deterrence theory. Cesare Beccaria is one-these founding fathers of the deterrence theory. Beccaria was not an enthusiast of long standing forms of punishment to the human body; he believed that the amount of punishment must be just enough to deter a person from crime ("Cesare Beccaria," (n.d.). Beccaria did not believe that capital punishment was the correct method of formal social control on people who have committed serious crimes ("Cesare Beccaria," (n.d.). In Dr. Stephen Downing's Social Control course, he lectured on Beccaria. Downing informed the class that Beccaria suggested and emphasized that punishment should only be as much as is necessary to deter individual pursuits to fall back into the world of crime (Downing, lecture 3, 2009). Beccaria also believed that an offender must be able to reintegrate into society, once he has served his punishment for the crimes he had been convicted of committing (Downing, lecture 3, 2009). If an offender were executed, Beccaria's belief of reintegration into society would be an impossible task to accomplish because the state has committed state sanctioned murder on one of their citizens ("Cesare Beccaria," (n.d).).

The second founding father was named Jeremy Bentham. Bentham's perspective on punishment was greatly influenced by Beccaria. Bentham identified the sources of motivation as the key to understanding what was involved in the encouragement of law-abiding behavior. Bentham was against capital punishment. He preferred harsh punishment to the death penalty. Bentham and other theorists throughout the years have imagined a perfect, well-ordered society ("Jeremy Bentham- Criminology," (n.d.)). Bentham believed that "punishment should never be more than what is necessary to outweigh the value of the offence" (Deutschmann, 2007, p.132). Bentham wanted to achieve this through legislation. Bentham was optimistic that the nature of man could change when he was imprisoned. Today researchers continue to take up this idea as they go forward in their search to explain, control and to prevent deviant acts ("Jeremy Bentham- Criminology," (n.d.)).

Deterrence theory states "that the punishment must be administered swiftly so that potential criminals will see a clear cause and effect relationship between the crime and the punishment" (enotes.com, 2010). If this was true than why are condemned inmates waiting ten to fifteen years on Death Row to have their sentence carried out by a small number of American states (Death Penalty Information Center December 2008). A perfect example is California Death Row inmate, Scott Peterson when he was sentenced to death, former Court TV anchor Nancy Grace told her viewers that Peterson will probably die on death row by natural causes instead of the state of California carrying the execution.

With the electric chair scaring people from committing a capital offence after the electric chair has been used to execute an inmate (Zimmerman, 2006). American government officials have been moving away from using the electric chair and lethal gas to lethal injections. To further illustrate that this we can look at the execution statistics from Rick Halperin website for the years 2007 to 2010, we would discover that 4 inmates were electrocuted as compared to 139 inmates were executed by lethal injection (Halperin, 2010b). Another example that lethal injection has become like a medical procedure performed in hospital setting (Zimmerman, 2006), is when Commonwealth of Virginia attorney Paul B. Ebert witnessed his first execution in November 2009, when DC sniper John Allen Muhammad was executed by lethal injection. Ebert "said that to him lethal injection was an anticlimax, as it appeared Muhammad simply went to sleep (White, 2010).. Electrocution, Ebert said, appeared to have more finality to it. It was a little more vivid" (White, 2010). Ebert also stated afterwards. "It felt more meaningful and impressive. But it was still a much more gentle death than [how the Powel's victim was murdered}" (White, 2010). Paul Powell was put to death in the state of Virginia by the electric chair on March 18, 2010 (Halperin, 2010b).

In Japan where the state executes in silent what kind of deterrent is this? Japanese citizens know that their country has the death penalty but does not know when the state carries out an execution until after it has been carried out. What Japan needs is to end capital punishment because there is no need to allow the state to carry-out an execution when the country of Japan has the lowest homicide rate in the world (Johnson, 2006). Instead Japan can sentence convicted inmates to life in prison without the chance of parole.

If capital punishment were to be abolished in the United States of America, the sentence for first degree murder would be life without the chance of parole in prison. What greater deterrence the American Justice system would have if the American citizen has the knowledge that if they commit murder then they will die in prison. Also the American Justice system has allowed television cameras inside prison walls to document the daily of life of a prisoner and correctional workers. Remember the deterrence theory model is "the belief that the pain caused by punishment will deter future criminal actions. Punishment is imposed to keep criminals from reoffending (specific deterrence) and to prevent others from committing a crime in the first place (general deterrence)" (Eschholz et a1., 2003, p. 158). Thus life in prison without the chance of parole for murderers meets the specific deterrence and future studies will have to be done on general deterrence when capital punishment is abolished.

Deterrence theory is at the meso-level on the level of reality. A person decides if he or she will commit a criminal act thus creating action by police officers to arrest and detain this person. This person will go before the American Justice system to answer for his or her action or actions once he or she is arrested. This theory is a formal theory because deterrence theory is based on punishing people who have committed crimes and it tries to prevent others from committing criminal activity.

Conclusion:

Capital Punishment is premeditated murder. Since 1977 the United States of America as committed 1200 premeditated murders (Halperin, 2010a). The death penalty as a whole costs the American Justice system millions upon millions of dollars to prosecute, detain and execute inmates who have been convicted of first degree murder. The money can be used for other areas in the criminal justice system (e.g. community policing, alcohol and drug abuse). Future research should focus on the countries that do not have the death penalty but sentence convicted first degree murderers to life in prison without the chance of parole. Does life in prison without the chance of parole deters people from committing murder should be an area of study. Also what other forms of formal social control can be established to deter people from committing criminal activity. Since biblical times, capital punishment has been used as a form of formal social control for people who have been convicted of serious crimes (Mahood, 2003). It is time for the United States of America to move into the 21st century and abolish capital punishment.