In the recent years, the rate of criminal activities in the United States of America has been alarming. Criminal activities have become part and parcel of our daily lives. Due to the worrying increase in rate of crimes, various approaches and strategies such as an imposition of heavy fines, life imprisonments, capital punishments and rehabilitation of inmates have been developed to discourage potential criminals from committing crimes. Moreover, to help those who have committed crimes to develop acceptable social behavior. These approaches for deterring crimes have varying impacts on the lives of criminals as well as on the society. For example, life imprisonment forces inmates in jails for the rest of their live. This excludes one from the families as well as from other social settings. In addition, life imprisonment inmates are less economically productive because they cannot be employed outside the correctional facilities. Similarly, the society may be reluctant to accept back inmates who have been rehabilitated and released back into the society on the presumption that these inmates still possess serious threats to members of the society. Thus, every approach used by the criminal justice system to deter crimes raise heated debates on its suitability and effectiveness. One such approach is the use of the death penalty to punish criminals.
According to Radelet and Marian, the use of the death penalty as a way of discouraging crime has been a subject of controversy for more than three decades now (51). A number of questions and criticisms have been raised in relation to the effectiveness and suitability of using the death penalty towards crimes.
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The aim of its essay to determine whether or not the use of the death penalty in criminal justice system in the United States of America has helped in discouraging people from committing crimes. Even though a variety of research studies have carried out the establish whether or not death penalty deters crimes, there is no reasonable evidence that links capital punishment to the rate of crimes. In attempts to elaborate on this critical issue, this essay reviews various viewpoints and opinions of people opposing and proposing use of capital punishment within the criminal justice system. The main question that this essay seeks to answer is: Does the death penalty discourage or deter crimes in the United States?
Death Penalty and Deterrence of Crime
Death penalty refers to the act of imposing the death for crimes committed by people. Death penalty usually involves executing or killing the offender through electrocution, hanging, lethal injection or distanced shooting. Death penalty is usually imposed on people who committed serious or capital crimes such as killing another person or group of people or genocide (Peffley et al. 59). In the United States, penalty has been in use since early 19th century.
People who are against the death penalty argue that capital punishment is illogical and irrational because it leads to unnecessary loss of lives. According to the opponents of the death penalty, one cruelty cannot be solved by another cruelty. Similarly, they argue that it is unreasonable to loss two lives (the victim and the criminal) because of a single action. Thus, the opponents of the death penalty believe that the life imprisonment is a better substitute for capital punishment because the criminal can be employed in community work. Through community work, the criminal become resourceful to the society. On the other hand, proponents of death penalty argue that life imprisonment is not a better retribution for capital crimes such as murder. Since it does not establish or avow the right to life by allowing criminals to continue living after abusing and defying the rights to life of their victims.
Logically, it is believed that the death penalty would deter crime because potential criminals would not like to undergo similar experiences when they see how criminals are executed. According to Kastrup, potential criminals are likely to develop fear and refrain from criminal activities (181). For my part, I would argue since this reason lacks logic because there is no adequate evidence to support the relationship between individual behavior and exposure to environments. Additionally, potential criminals may not be discouraged from committing crimes because most criminals are usually killed in the execution chambers (see picture below) within maximum security prisons where people are not allowed to access. Thus, the experiences of executed criminals may not convey any reasonable information to potential criminals.
On the other hand, people who propose the death penalty argue that tit for tat is a fair game. Those who support death penalty argue that killing the criminals is the only equal retribution or payback that murder can get for crimes he committed. Thus, justice can be served only when the criminals are killed. According to the proponents of capital punishment, it is unfair to allow criminals who commit murder to continue enjoying life while their victims are dead. In my opinion, these proponents of the death penalty are driven by emotional feelings such as the urge to revenge, anger and hatred towards criminals who commit capital crimes. The reasons that are given by proponents of the death penalty are based on illogical thinking and emotional feelings. Logically, if killing an individual is an offence, then killing of criminals is also an offence, and thus should not be committed.
Various religious groups and organizations such as the Roman Catholic argue that the death penalty is inhuman, cruel and malevolent to humankind (Owens et al. 229). Most religious groups usually base their arguments against the death penalty on emotional feelings. For example, Christians assert that the processes that are used in execution of criminals such as electrocution and hanging put the criminals to unnecessary pain and suffering.
Similarly, proponents of capital punishment argue that the murder usually cause staid emotional and psychological effects on the family members, friends and relatives of the victims. Thus, these grieved people can only be relieved from such sorrows by killing the criminals. In my view, these arguments also based on emotional feelings rather than logic.
In my opinion, the killing of people regardless of their crimes they have committed is unethical and immoral. Life is a precious gift given by God and should only be taken away by the same God. Although finding the best retribution for capital crimes may be an ethical dilemma to the most people in today’s society, I believe that the death penalty is unethical and should not be accepted in our communities. Soss, Laura and Metelko (415) and Reichel (109) also assert that capital punishment is a cruel and uncivilized action that should not exist or persist in modern societies. It is unethical for communities to continue embracing the administration of the death penalty because it does not result into any reasonable benefits to members of the society. Rather, it leads to increasing of tension and social frictions between families of the victim and the executed criminal. In my opinion, it is unethical to kill; hence individuals, the state and federal governments and correctional institutions should not kill criminals in disguise of administering justice.
To wind up, I would assert that the death penalty has never been, and will never be, the best approach for deterring criminal activities in the United States. I would recommend the state, federal governments and correctional institutions to formulate alternative ways of preventing and discouraging people from committing crimes. For example, community policing, imposition of heavy fines, equal distribution of resources and poverty eradication strategies are ways in which people would be discouraged from committing crimes. Similarly, policies for controlling gun ownership and drug abuse amongst youths would also bear excellent fruits in deterring crimes. Logically, a crime cannot be solved by committing another crime.