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Capital punishment, in the Criminal Justice System, is the most debated issues in the United States. Just as early as the nineteenth century, capital punishment was being used. In 1972, the Supreme Court declared that capital punishment was unconstitutional in Furman v. Georgia stating it “violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments,”citing cruel and unusual punishment (Fuller, 2006). However in 1976, four years later, the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia because “the court affirmed that the death penalty itself was not cruel and unusual, as long as it implementation was judged fair.
The purpose of this paper is to identify the social origins of capital punishment. Interesting issues are brought up like the fear of death, the CJS is hypocritical, death penalty is justice, and much more. We cannot do justice to all the issues and ramifications of death penalty in the space available here, so we briefly consider some of the basic, but consolidated arguments. The interesting fact of this paper is whether death penalty is or is not constitutional according to the Eighth Amendment. I will also intend to present a sociological theory that may explain this debatable but legal effects of capital punishment.
Keywords: death penalty, capital punishment, Eighth Amendment, Declaration of Independence.
Review of Literature
The history of social control or the way people commit crimes, demands that the Criminal Justice System contemplate the use of capital punishment, as a procedure for riveting citizens to obey the law. Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is an execution formed to a death row inmate, imposed in a court as a punishment for crime. In spite the fact that not all crimes are punishable by death, there are many strong pro and anti-death penalty supporters. With groups expressing and publicizing opinions on both sides of the argument, the control of capital punishment is controversial.
For the Death Penalty
The death penalty does not rehabilitate a person by killing him or her. When it comes to the general purpose of punishment, we often get sources from parental figure, and without any doubt, they get there from their own parents. When children imitate what he or she saw in a thriller or an action movie, which is very violate, as a parent give him a serious speech on the things that are real and unreal, as well as what is acceptable in real life. When children attempt to make a motion on an acrobatic move in a house, you punish him in a way that a lesson is learned, and he’ll never do it again. Later, if that child grows up and becomes a burglary or theft, and gets caught, he will go to prison. Time in prison is supposed to strip away his freedom. This is not only a punishment, but it is a lesson learned. No one wants their freedom taken away. On the other hand, when the child grows up and murders someone for something or just for fun, they are put to death, in which they learn nothing. We cannot rehabilitate someone by killing them.
Death penalty does not dissuade or deter crime. Sociologist Micheal Radlet and Marian Borg generated several surveys indicating that experts believe that capital punishment does not constitute an addition deterrant above and beyond life imprisonment (Ambridge,2015). Crimes can be deterred only by frightened criminals of being arrested, convicted, and punished for crimes. When it comes to the deterrence argument, it is a debatable argument itself. Specific deterrence says that if a condemned individual is put to death, then he will never break the law (Fuller, 2006). Although this is very logical, it still fails to rehabilitate. In the sense of punishment, yes death penalty is a consequence, but there is not a lesson learned. On the other hand, general deterrence says that if murders are executed, the rest of us will see the ramifications of this behavior and will refrain from murder ourselves because we fear the consequences (Fuller, 2006). Personally this is a very true statement but as a whole, not everyone’s mind think that way. As individual who display different cultural backgrounds, punishments varies, even if the crime is the same. Many people in this world are willing to test the water when it comes to committing crimes, analyzing whether or not they would get way, and if they don’t which punishment will they receive: death penalty or life in prison without parole? One side of the deterrence argument says that death penalty deters crimes but in reality it does not. If the anticipation of any means of punishment is supposed to dissuade or deter criminals from committing crimes, why do people still murder? Some criminologists claim they have statistically proven that when an execution is publicized, more murders occur in the day and weeks that follow. A good example is the Lindbergh kidnapping. A number of States adopted the death penalty for crimes like this, but figures show kidnapping increased. Publicity may encourage crime instead of preventing it (McClellan, G., 1961).
The death penalty is cruel but usual. Putting someone to death is cruel itself. It is very cruel that the Criminal Justice System is hypocritically. How can you solve something by doing the very same act? This is not moral standards. Death is always painful in some sense. Many people say that the only peaceful way to die is while being asleep, but how can you determine that if you have not experience it? The nervous system or the brain response to everything. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights indicates that, “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” With that being said, the United States has five method of execution: lethal injection, electrocution, firing squad, hanging and gassing. Although these methods are supposed to be painless, they serve a risk. In the case of John Wayne Gacy also known as the “Killer Clown,” was an American serial killer, who was sentenced to death. He killed many boys and young men and buried them under his place of residents. He was not afraid to die and was executed by lethal injection. Lethal injection is considered to be risk free, but not in the case of Gacy. The process usually takes about seven minutes but in this case it took seventeen. Because of the time difference, should the CJS reconsidered it use? How do we know whether or not the man who did not have a problem with death or being on death roll felt any pain.
Although whether the death penalty is cruel is subject to debate, from a historical point of view is not unusual (Fuller, 2006 p. 384). The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Because death penalty has a long history, what is so unusual about it? The history of death penalty and the Eighth Amendment contradicts itself because the idea of killing people who break the law is just as old as humanity; in other words, it is very unusual. In the early days of death penalty, Europe’s executions consisted of hanging, beheading, and burning of the bodies. In many cases, death row inmates were buried alive. Burning bodies was not just considered to as a punishment, but the punishment went further because bodies were burned and completely destroyed, which meant it never received a conventional burial. Later on, European history, around the nineteenth century, diminished suffering by following through both the short drop and the long drop. In the process of the short drop offenders dies very slowly; on the other hand, within the long drop, death is very quick. Because capital punishment has been around so long, there is nothing unusual about it.
For the Death Penalty
Death penalty serves as justice. When someone plans or attempt to murder someone, does it make sense to give the perpetrator the same punishment? Death penalty is a just punishment for crimes committed against the rights to life, freedom and safety of victims. As individuals, our individual rights refer to the liberties of each individual to pursue life and goals without being interfered by another individual. According to the Declaration of Independence, our individual rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, living in the United States we have the right to live peacefully and be free from any harm (2015). Sadly, crimes like murder, rape, and assault are committed by perpetrators who have no regard for life and property of other people. Because they violate other people’s lives and rights, it is only right they are brought to justice and suffer what they have done to other.
Death penalty give closure to victims family. When some loses a love one, not in actual death, but in the case of being murdered it takes days, months, years, and sometimes more for the family of the victim to recover (Flamehorse, 2013). Sometimes it’s longer than that, especially if the killer is still out living in the world of freedom. One thing that helps the process of recovery is closure, although sometimes closure is not always complete. Life in prison without parole is not complete because there really is not a such thing. There is always a chance of an inmate getting out of prison. A death sentence closes a chapter in the lives of these families, not all the way but personally whoever harm their family has been put away.
I do not advocate death penalty to anyone. A person who steals from a corner store definitely does not deserve death penalty. At the same time a serial killer who kills for personal gain or for fun certainly does not deserve death penalty. I do not believe in “lex tallionis” – a life for a life. The United States is very hypocritical. How can you teach someone a lesson by attempting the very same act? Stated in the Old Testament of the Bible, “Thou shall not kill.” It every clears. God created law for us to obey. Yes, people who commits crimes, shall certainly be punished but sentencing them to death is not right. I understand that people have to make a living and I understand that people have to have job, but how can you work together to kill someone. Everyone who work with death row inmates, how can they live with themselves knowing they too, have laid someone to rest. Yes, it is there job but it is not moral. Jerry Givens a man who worked for 25 years for Virginia Department of Corrections, was an executioner from 1982-1999 and administered death penalty to 62 inmates. Givens was not pleasant with his job and be begin to campaign to end capital punishment. Givens states, “I did not know what I was getting myself into and the biggest mistake I ever made was taking the job as an executioner. Life is too short. Life only consists of 24 hours a day. Death is going to come to us. We don’t have to kill one another.” I believe and follow the footsteps of Givens, what he stated is very true. Death will come upon all of us and killing one another is not solving anything.
- Flamehorse. (2013, June 31). 5 Argument For and Against The Death Penalty-Listverse. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from http://listverse.com/2013/06/01/5-arguments-for-and-against-the-death-penatly/
- List of 10 Biggest Death Penalty Pros and Cons. (2015). Retrieved April 4, 2016 from http://greengarageblog.org/list-of-10-biggest-death-penalty-pros-and-cons,
- Kritische Houding. (n.d). Retrierved April 10, 2016 from http://www.krtischehouding.nl/2012/05/the-25-anti-death-penalty-arguments.html
- Budau, Hugo Adam. “Capital Punishment and Social Defense.” Reserved reading for Philosophy 203.
- Fuller, J.R. (2006). Criminal Justice: Mainstream and Crosscurrents. Upper Saddle River. N.J: Pearson/ Prentice Hall.
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