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Capital punishment is used to refer to the death penalty that is passed in a judicial process to execute a person when convicted and found guilty for a capital and hard offense. This is the mandate of a government when the judicial process is over with a convict to execute the killing mostly associated with serious and hardcore crimes. This form of punishment is considered to be the ultimate for a crime since once carried out; there is no repeal of death. However the alternative that can be preferred instead of death penalty or capital punishment is life imprisonment carried out without parole although many countries prefer capital punishment. When comparison of these two approaches are considered, a sharp debate has been ongoing whether it is ethically acceptable and the justification for the same. Capital punishment has been actively practiced in 58 countries across the world with 95 revising the punishment to a life imprisonment or abolishing it all together (Isaac 16).
This form of punishment is carried out in four most populated countries (United States, People's Republic of china, Indonesia and India) resulting to approximately 60 per cent of world's population be subjected to such kind of punishment. Besides it is used to punish criminals of capital and hard offenses, other societies have used capital punishment for political reasons. Political rivalry and suspicion has caused people to be executed especially when those in power want to suppress political dissent within their jurisdiction for fear of competition or overthrow. The offenses that attract such kind of punishment include treason, murder; drug trafficking, rape and espionage which countries in support have argued it's the only way to promote justice for such offenses (Lissy 11).
In US, nearly 13,000 people have undergone this type of punishment since colonial periods, with at least 150 people executed daily by 1930 up to 1972 when Supreme court abolished the offense. This trend was alarming and the public failed to support capital punishment besides several legislations that challenged this form of punishment, due to the efforts, the execution rate in the US reduced nearly to zero by 1967. This was also boosted by the pronunciation of the ban of capital punishment by the US Supreme court in 1972. However this directive was reversed in 1976 giving individual states powers to convict independently. This witnessed many states reinstating capital punishment. Texas has the highest cases of executions followed by Virginia. Since the ban was lifted, US have carried 784 executions in all the states. Majority of these executions have been involving males with only four females (CUADP 1).
Other countries that have completely abolished capital punishment include Canada which has the worst punishment for capital crimes as life imprisonment. However, over 70 per cent of adult population in not only Canada but also in US supports the execution of capital punishment in their countries. The position Canada has adopted has been widely supported by Roman Catholic Church as well as liberal churches (Peter 19).
In order to determine whether capital punishment is logical and ethical, a review of pros and cons is carried out and discussed below.
Reasons in support of capital punishment
The concept of prison has been used to support execution since they define prison as a place when ex-convicts will stay for sometime then released back to the society. Prison serves as a separation place for criminals from the wider population and their safety; it's also used as a form of punishment by itself as well as a rehabilitation place. Therefore the logic behind prison is that convicts will eventually rejoin the public but those convicted with capital crimes ought not to ever leave prison therefore deserve to be executed. The cost involved has also been a factor of vital considerations. It's argued that, the cost of imprisoning a person for life is exorbitant than executing therefore execution considered and preferred. The logical consideration of safety for all the concerned individuals has been advanced to support capital punishment (Hugo 45).
Since the convicted persons for capital punishment are violent individuals, the safety of prison guards, other prisoners and general public in case the convict escapes have been considered paramount. Therefore safety of all the stakeholders dictates and justifies continuity of capital punishment. The severe crimes should as well be accompanied by a severe punishment for justice to prevail. Although life imprisonment has been considered as the worst punishment, this form has a possibility of leniency since the convict has chance for escape from prison; therefore, the most severe punishment for severe crimes is execution. Many argue that for justice to prevail and avenge the victims of crime in a constitutional and legitimate manner, the magnitude of punishment should equal the magnitude of crime committed; therefore capital punishment. This is referred to as eye - to eye justice, therefore it is logical that the equivalent punishment for murder is death (Robert and Staurt 237).
When a capital punishment is imposed, it acts as a deterrent to other criminals who may be contemplating of committing similar crimes therefore reducing crimes in the society. When capital punishment is carried on an individual, the crime he commitment would not be repeated on another person since he is gone unlike when he is reprimanded in prison where he has likely chances of parole and escape to continue with his crimes. Religiously, many faith affiliations organizations across different religious believe in death for capital crimes like adultery, for instance Muslims and early church had death as a punishment for this crime. When carried out to crimes like murder, it's arguably that it's a form of vengeance and justice to the victims because they consider execution as the only way to feel satisfied for the atrocities they experienced in the hands of the victims (Robinson 8).
However despite these appeals and pros for continuation of capital punishment, there have been prepositions that have been advanced against the execution of human beings regardless of the crimes they committed. These arguments state that there are other humane and acceptable forms of punishments that can be carried out to serve a better lesson than executing the victim as discussed below.
Reasons against execution and capital punishment
The action itself (execution) is not humane; by executing a human being, the act is considered unjustifiable even if the victim was a hardcore criminal. However, humane is a concept that is subjective to different beliefs, cultures, education, religious beliefs and varies with legal system of a country. For instance, drug traffickers in some countries like China face death sentences if found guilty while the same does not apply to some other countries like Jamaica, therefore executing a person because of drug trafficking in Jamaica is not humane but doing the same in China is considered humane. Life imprisonment has been proposed as to execution. Prison has been advocated for hard criminals since they will never get an opportunity to interact again with other members of the society (Patrick 34).
By sentencing convicts to life imprisonment, this may even transform them for good and become totally rehabilitated to fit once again in the society but when it's done without any chances of parole brings serious issues. When a criminal is imprisoned for life because of been suspected for a crime as opposed to death, the action offers the victim another opportunity for a better life if indeed it was a mistake or wrong identity and later people realize that the convicted person was indeed innocent. If capital punishment was administered immediately, the action could not only amounted to violation of human rights in the most cruel and inhuman manner, but would have also denied an innocent person an opportunity to life (Trevor 78).
In consideration to fairness, the execution of a criminal cannot compensate the crime he committed. If the individual murder a person, by executing the victim does not bring back to life the person he murdered, therefore it does not guarantee a capital punishment to repay for the crime he commitment. Human rights activists consider capital punishment as a cruel way and manner of violation of human right to life, and consider that there is no crime that can warrant such kind of human right violation. They argue that it's only God who can terminate the existence of a person and that every human being is entitled to basic fundamental rights one being right to life. Therefore regardless of the crime committed, other alternatives should be explored but not in violation of fundamental basic human rights through execution. When a criminal is executed immediately after conviction, he does not have an opportunity to amend whatever wrong he committed. If other alternatives like life imprisonment were explored, the victim would have sufficient time to probably amend some or all the crimes he did and also has an opportunity reforming to a better person who the society can accept back. Furthermore if the person was innocent but convicted guilty, execution can be an unfair treatment but if another alternative was sort, the victim would be proven innocent and granted his freedom as opposed to execution where nothing can be reverted (Patrick 41).
It is considered immoral, unethical and not logic for a state to kill its own citizens. These actions of a government are considered barbaric and unacceptable in the face of justice; however this preposition is subjective to different laws of countries. This process has been described as costly when a victim has been convicted for execution. The numerous appeals to judicial proceedings block the judicial systems of many courts like the US which delays other vital proceedings which their cost implications are more than execution. It is highly considered that, life imprisonment of a victim subject to little freedom of none altogether coupled with poor quality of life is a better punishment that even deters other criminals from offenses. Therefore the discussion has highlighted several good reasons in support and against capital punishment. There are also good and justified reasons to support and oppose capital punishment as well. There are a wide range of beliefs held by the citizens concerning capital punishment, therefore the government's action of execution or not should reflect the wishes of majority in the society.
CUADP," Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Retrieved on April 15th 2010 from: http://abolition.org/www.cuadp.org/index.html
Hugo Adam, The death penalty in America: current controversies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998
Isaac Ehrlich, "Capital Punishment and Deterrence: Some Further Thoughts," Journal of Political Economy, 3(6) 12-78, 1977.
Isaac Ehrlich, "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment A Matter of Life and Death" American Economic Review, 7(1) 15-29, 1975
Lissy Petrezselyem, Capital Punishment in Contemporary US America: Development and Debate, Washington, GRIN Verlag, 2006
Patrick Hinton, What are the advantages and disadvantages of Capital punishment? Retrieved on April 15th 2010 from: http://americanaffairs.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_pros_and_cons_of_the_death_penalty
Peter Hodgkinson and Andrew Rutherford, Capital Punishment: global issues and prospects, New York, Waterside Press, 1996
Robert Baird and Staurt Rosenbaum, Punishment and the Death Penalty: the current debate, Journal of Sociology and anthropology, 4(2), 233-245, New York, Routledge, 2009
Robinson Bruce, Basic reasons: pro and anti for capital punishment; the death penalty, Retrieved on April 15th 2010 from: http://www.religioustolerance.org/executb.htm
Trevor Sather, Pros and cons: a debater's handbook, New York, Taylor & Francis, 2008