The History Of Capital Punishment Criminology Essay

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Throughout the ages capital punishment has been an extremely controversial issue. Some may stress it is needed in order to serve as an example to other criminals, as well as to obtain retribution on behalf of the victims involved (Henderson). It may be suggested that it helps to bring peace and order into societies; however, does one really understand the moral injustice that they're supporting? Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is defined as "the legally authorized killing of a person as punishment for a crime" (Mifflin). Though there are some citizens throughout the world that support this punishment, others believe that punishment should not have to come down to such drastic and cruel measures. The authorized killing of a person is morally wrong and using execution as a form of punishment leaves no room for errors (Hennigfeld). Capital punishment does not diminish the murder or crime rate and encourages both the taking of a human beings life, as well as juvenile crime (Stewart). In many cases, capital punishment is extremely discriminatory (Szumski). There is a question stuck in one's mind; should capital punishment be reinstated? When taking all factors into consideration, the answer is inevitably no.

When people hear that a murderer is being executed for their actions, many will applaud and say "good riddance, they got what they deserved! An eye for an eye" (Berns). This is ruthless and morally wrong. The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane form of punishment. It is execution, and is very similar to torture; involving the deliberate assault of a prisoner (Henningfeld). In many aspects of life people are taught that it is not right to kill, even if the person is a murderer. Many religions share very strong and opened opinions on this topic; almost all are against the death penalty (Weksesser). The Catholic Church is one of the major religions that oppose the intentional killing of a person, no matter who it may be. The church aims to abolish the death penalty, stating: "Abolition sends a message that we can break the cycle of violence that we need not take a life for a life" (Overberg). The Catholic Church, along with many other religions, is pro-life. Other religions like Buddhism strongly emphasize on non-violence and compassion for all life. Buddhists believe in abstaining from killing any living creature, no matter what they have done or how bad the crime is (Wang). Religion is not the only area that stresses the wrongfulness of the death penalty-even the Charter of Rights and Freedoms opposes it. The Eighth amendment states "Excessive bails shall not be required… nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted" (Duhaime) this shows how the killing of any human being is not to be tolerated. Criminals should be able to change their ways and take responsibility for their actions; but, if they are killed the law is showing that when you make a mistake it defines who you are and that you cannot be forgiven (Williams). Capital punishment leads citizens to be so focused on serving justice to criminals for what they "deserve" that they forget to realize how appalling and immoral it is to take a human's life.

When a person is convicted of a crime, they are punished on the basis that there is no doubt that this is the person who committed the unlawful act. The accused can only be convicted if the court is one hundred percent certain that this person has committed the crime they are accused of, or so it should be that way (Baird). The problem that arises when the death penalty is legal is that there is utterly no room for errors. If the jury happened to make the wrong decision in the verdict and sentenced an innocent person to death, how is that any better than a cold blooded murder? There have been many cases where the person has been wrongfully convicted to death and evidence arises later proving the state of that person's innocence (Dee). In the case of Carlos DeLuna, an innocent man was executed merely because of circumstantial evidence and what one "witness" thought they saw. In 1983 he was convicted for fatally stabbing and killing a woman in a parking lot and without much direct evidence he was put to death in 1989 (Dee). Later, reporters discovered that DeLuna was in fact innocent and a man named Carlos Hernandez was the real criminal. This was the fourth documented investigation of the execution of an innocent man in Texas (Dee). This notion is also evident in the case of Steven Truscott; a 14 year old boy was sentenced to death after a very short and circumstantial case. Police dismissed all evidence that made Steven Truscott innocent and focused all their power on how to make him look guilty. The death penalty was abolished and Steven was not executed, but he spent more than half of his life in jail, only to have his case reopened and show that he was completely innocent (Hendley). If the death penalty hadn't been abolished in time a poor innocent boy would have been murdered for the errors of the court's judgement. Capital punishment has way too many errors to be an effective way of insuring that the victims get vengeance on their criminals. Illinois has halted executions after finding that 52 percent of their death row inmates were innocent (Spagnoli). This is more than half of the inmates that are sentenced to death! All these factors show the extreme errors that the courts have made pertaining to capital punishment cases, causing innocent people to be brutally murdered for crimes they did not commit.

A countless number of people believe that capital punishment is an efficient way to frighten criminals and lower crime rates throughout the world. One might think that it was that simple, but in reality that is not how it works. Statistics prove that having capital punishment does not deter crime at all; in actuality studies have shown that it seems to increase crime rate (Espejo). Studies in the United States of America show that states which support the death penalty have a higher crime rate than in states without it. In 2008 the crime rate in states with the death penalty was 5.72 (per 100,000 people) and states without the death penalty was 4.05(per 100,000 people); a 41 percent difference (Dieter). In 2009 a study was conducted and showed that states with the death penalty had a crime rate of 5.26 (per 100,000 people), whereas the states without the death penalty had a crime rate of 3.90 (per 100,000 people); a 35 percent difference (Dieter). Could this be a two year fluke? Not likely, since statistics show that in 2010 the crime rates for states with the death penalty was 5.00 and without the death penalty were 4.01; a 25 percent difference (Dieter). The crime rate in states without capital punishment is significantly lower than those states that have capital punishment. In Canada capital punishment is illegal, whereas in the United States of America some states still, to this day, allow it (Henderson). Studies show that the United States of America's crime rate was four times higher than Canada's, causing them to rank first in crime rates throughout the world (Spagnoli). These statistics show that regardless of the death penalty, criminals are not learning their lesson with such violent tortures. Therefore, the death penalty is neither a sufficient nor effective deterrent.

Laws are put into place to encourage youths not to commit crimes and show citizens that committing a crime is wrong. Capital punishment is therefore counterproductive in promoting the taking of people's lives and encouraging juvenile violence. Since capital punishment is not preventing crime, there is now the issue that it is encouraging taking a human beings life (Winters). Everyone is taught not to kill, and that taking a person's life is an immoral offence to commit, therefore how can people turn around and say that murdering a prisoner is right? Murder is wrong, no matter the race, gender, background, or character of the offender. Committing the act of murder is still wrong and capital punishment promotes, even encourages, that taking someone's life is fine on certain grounds (Williams). Capital punishment promotes vengeance, even if the family of the victims, or anyone who is heavily connected to the case, is not directly killing the accused. The law is showing that people can obtain vengeance legally by watching a person being executed (Hennigfeld). Many argue that there is a deterrent effect and so it does not encourage crime but stops it: this is inevitably false. "Even if there is a deterrent effect, it is overshadowed by the destructive effects of brutalization" (Winters); No matter if there is the slimmest percent that crime is being prevented, it is being made up for, by brutally killing a human being for a mistake that they have made (Williams). People tend to hide behind the deterrence theory and use it as an excuse to the real reasons behind why they want a person to be put to death. Not justice and retribution, but rage and revenge (Baird). Not only does capital punishment encourage taking a person's life, but it promotes juvenile violence. Younger siblings look up to their older siblings, parents, the media, or even stories told around them and to live by the example that is set for them (Wekesser). By allowing capital punishment to be legal, the law is setting an example to youths that killing and any act of violence is acceptable in this day and age. A study done compared the United States of America's juvenile crime rates to Canada's; the United States being a country that allows the death penalty in some states and Canada being a country that does not allow it at all (Spagnoli). In the United States the juvenile crime rate was 2.0 (per 100,000 people) in 2008, and in Canada the crime rate was only 1.0 (per 100,000 people) (Spagnoli). Comparing states with the death penalty and states without it, studies show that in 2008 states without the death penalty, had only minimal youth crimes while states with the death penalty, had a higher number of youth crimes (Spagnoli). For example, in Minnesota there were only 208 youth crimes, whereas Illinois has 1066 youth crimes (Spagnoli). Though some citizens believe that capital punishment deters crime and shows youths what not to do, in actuality it encourages the taking of a person's life and causes youths to follow the example given to them by the country they live in.

The law states that every single human being- no matter what race, gender, or economic status- is entitled to a fair trial. All courts have to abide by this rule, but many tend to forget this important point (Allen). Discrimination is an issue that arises when discussing capital punishment. The death penalty is economically discriminatory, since in order to have a fair trail there has to be some form of equality among the plaintiff and the defendant (Allen). The upper class has a huge advantage because most courts see the upper class citizens as the "better", more honorable people in society, due to their income. The lower class may not have the money to afford a lawyer and may be given a lawyer (called a pro bono lawyer) from the court. In most of cases these lawyers are not as experienced or as dedicated to the case as the prosecutors are (Szumski). The economic bias that is created can cause unfair judgement and wrongful conviction that can potentially end the life of an innocent person. The death penalty does not only discriminate against a person's economic status; but it also does not work in favour of a person's race. In the United States of America there is a serve problem when it comes to capital punishment and racial discrimination (Demuth). African American citizens make up only 12 or 13% of the population, but they represent 34% of executions (Spagnoli). Is there a stigma towards the African American citizens? The evidence shows that yes, there is. The death penalty does not only look at the race of the accused but also the race of the victims. When a Caucasian person is murdered the probability of a person getting the death penalty is a lot greater (Spagnoli). A study was done in 2009 that showed 77% of executions were done on criminals that were accused of having a Caucasian victim (Spagnoli). When a person commits a crime it should not matter what race they are, or what race their victims are; they should be treated fairly and justly in a court of law. Therefore, capital punishment fails to demonstrate the equality that is needed to protect people's lives. Capital punishment has a number of discriminatory flaws including discrimination against the gender of the accused. It has been proven in a study, done by Elizabeth Rapaport, that many women who are convicted of murder do not get sentenced to be executed (Rapaport). "One percent of men convicted of murder are sentenced to death, while only one tenth of one percent of women convicted of murders are sentenced to death" (Rapaport). Her research clearly shows the endless discrimination that the courts have towards the male gender and that the death penalty is strongly biased. A study shows that there has only been one woman out of 143 people who were executed since 1977 in the United States of America (Dicks). Even though the legal system says that everyone is entitled to a fair, just trial, capital punishment brings out discrimination in many forms and tragically sentences innocent people to execution.

In conclusion, the debate about capital punishment has been going on for years. It is a very controversial and talked about issue, but in truth, the death penalty is wrong and should not be reinstated. Capital punishment is morally wrong; it goes against almost every religion and their teachings. It also denies people very important freedoms that they have a right to. One of the most pressing issues with capital punishment is that there is no room for error; many innocent people have had their lives taken away because of flaws within the legal system. It does not diminish the crime rate, and in most cases the states that still allow capital punishment have a higher crime rate than those without it. Capital punishment does not only promote taking someone's life but it encourages youths to commit violent acts. It shows how hypocritical citizens can be by telling people that the act of killing is morally wrong yet then doing the same act to a human who has committed a crime. Not to mention, juvenile crime rates are a lot higher in states with the death penalty than states without it. The death penalty also discriminates based on gender, race, and economical class; allowing certain races, genders and classes to have more privileges than others. Many people may feel that capital punishment is the right thing to do and that it helps keep order in our world. However, in reality capital punishment makes murderers of us all.