Death penalty as a form of punishing criminal offenders has been used for thousands of years in nearly all societies. While ancient societies implemented death penalty to punish sexual crimes and blasphemy, the modern societies apply death penalty in case of murder, treason, and espionage. Americans are still doubtful on how the death penalty is administered and whether it really helps in preventing serious crimes. Individuals who argue against death sentence claim that death makes rehabilitation impossible, but life imprisonment can help in transforming crime offenders. The fundamental question about the death penalty is whether criminal justice systems serve as forms of rehabilitation, or for retribution.
The main intention of death penalty is offer ultimate punishment for crime offenders, in addition to preventing others from contemplating such kinds of crimes. However, this form of punishment should be stopped since it does not teach the condemned individuals anything. The American prison system, or any other prison in the world, serves to protect society, to discipline individuals found guilty of crimes, and to rehabilitate crime offenders (Ross, 2012). When crime offenders are incarcerated for committing a heinous act, they learn a lesson that makes them dread going back in prison. If the court opted to hang them, they would never have a chance to be rehabilitated.
Death penalty can hardly dissuade individuals from committing crimes. If having the knowledge of certain forms of punishments could prevent individuals from killing others, then the rate of murder would be dropping rather than rising. The rate of murder that is being experienced in the US depicts that capital punishment is futile, and courts should contemplate on removing it from the criminal justice system. Moreover, death penalty is used sparingly based on races, making capital punishment an issue of race rather than death (MacLean, 2016). The unpredictability in death penalty system, as well as racial discrepancy has compelled many defendants to plea appeal for the certainty of being held in prison for life.
Many death sentences are hardly carried out, as courts change them into life imprisonment. Some criminals end up being exonerated after spending decades in prison. Some inmates also die from natural causes while still waiting to be handed to the hangman. It is so inhumane to keep individuals waiting for their deaths for an unpredictable time even when they have nothing to lose. The process of execution is extremely excruciating and prisoners are never informed of the day of hanging (Hayworth, 2016). Criminals who are hanged are first fastened to a steel board and later wheeled up using a rope.
Scientific studies have not managed to demonstrate the effectiveness of death penalty in discouraging people from engaging in crime. Moreover, there are no records to confirm that states without the death sentence experience high rates of murder. Only a few countries, such as the US, Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia are still holding on to the capital punishment (Hayworth, 2016). Death penalty is hypocritical as it demonstrates lack of seriousness for a country that denounces the murder to commit the same thing.
Death penalty should be a better option than sentencing an individual a life imprisonment. A person who has been sentenced 30 years in prison suffers immeasurable loss of freedom, as well as life (MacLean, 2016). Such person is no different from a person on death sentence. Some environmental factors, such as poor healthcare, violence, poor living conditions, and spread of chronic and contagious diseases makes life in prisons intolerable (Ross, 2012). The reason why people fear going to a correctional facility is that they are likely to contract life-threatening diseases or encounter physical violence while serving their sentences. The case Estelle v. Gamble is an appropriate example of litigations that pinpointed deprived health care in prisons (Ross, 2012). Such factors are de facto death penalty.
Death penalty is intended to act as a deterrent for individuals who contemplate on committing similar kind of crime. The fallacy that harsh punishments such as death penalty cannot deter crime fails to consider what drives individuals to commit crime, as no criminal contemplates on being caught in the act (Hayworth, 2016). The notion that countries that have stopped executing murderers have experienced a fall in the murder rates does not help because there is no country that is free from murder cases. The efforts to prevent crime must take a thorough research on the underlying causes, how effective the law enforcement is, as well as presence of rehabilitation facilities.
Any form of punishment undertaken by the criminal justice system should aim at rehabilitating the offender, but death penalty seems to be applied for retribution. Death penalty should be removed from the criminal justice system since it hardly teaches the crime offender a lesson and does not discourage individuals from committing murder. In many cases, executions are hardly carried out, and the crime offenders may end up being exonerated. Racial disparities has also affected the criminal justice system and, consequently, influenced the capital punishment. However, holding crime offenders for life in prison is akin to death sentence because their freedom is curtailed for life. Banning death penalty does not eliminate cases of murder; hence, the criminal justice systems should undertake a further on the underlying causes of crimes and review their methods of rehabilitation.
Hayworth, M. (2016, March 31). 5 Reasons Some People Think the World Needs the Death Penalty. Amnesty International. Retrieved on 15 July 2016 from http://www.amnesty.org.au/adp/comments/32961/
MacLean, C. E. (2016). Is Death Really That “Different?” Extraordinary Racial Disparities Infect Life Sentences, Too. Widener Law Journal, 25(1), 1-11.
Ross, J. I. (2012). Why a jail or prison sentence is increasingly like a death sentence. Contemporary Justice Review, 15(3), 309-321. doi:10.1080/10282580.2012.707427