The death penalty, or capital punishment, refers to punishment by death imparted to a person by a state or a legal framework. Because of the nature of the punishment, the death penalty raises a plethora of human-rights issues, which, consequently, has led to its abolishment in a majority of countries across the globe. However, despite the controversies surrounding it, it is still practiced in one form or another in about 58 countries.
The death penalty has been a staple form of punishment throughout human history and across societies, largely reserved for perpetrators of especially heinous crimes (the qualitative judgment of which varies from society to society). These crimes may be perpetrated against individuals (such as murder, rape, adultery, etc.) or against societies collectively (espionage, treason, heresy). Historical records indicate that the death penalty has been practiced in human societies stretching back to the earliest periods of recorded history as a punitive form of justice. The crimes that may be punished with the death penalty vary from society to society, in the past, as in the present.
The methods for carrying out the execution or death penalty have varied throughout history as well. The word ‘capital punishment’ itself is derived from the Latin word, capitalis (‘relating to the head’) since it was originally carried out through decapitation. Methods for carrying out capital punishment have ranged from boiling to death, flaying, disembowelment, impalement, stoning, shooting with a gun, dismemberment, etc. In recent history, methods for capital punishment have moved progressively towards the more human, particularly in the first world. In the few first world societies that still practice the death penalty, death by lethal injection is the execution method of choice, selected because of its quick, efficient, and pain-free nature.
The death penalty has been, for obvious reasons, a massive source of controversy in most countries across the world in the past few decades. Besides issues of human rights, questions of the ethical and even legal right of the state to impart punishment by death have been raised vociferously by advocates of the abolishment of the death penalty. Presently, the death penalty has been scrapped completely by 97 countries, while the 58 countries that actively practice it face overwhelming global pressure to abolish this punishment completely. With a progressive move towards more humane methods of punishment, it is only a matter of time before the death penalty is struck off completely from all law books.
Death Penalty Thesis Statement Examples:
* Humane treatment of criminals and the ensuing low crime rates in Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden has shown that reform rather than punitive punishment should be the driving force behind all convictions, making the death penalty a redundant throwback to a medieval form of justice.
* The death penalty should be reserved for the rarest of the rare cases.
* In some cases, where rehabilitation and reform aren’t possible, death penalty is a justifiable option.
* Since the state has no powers to give life, it cannot exercise its power to take human life either. The philosophical and ethical basis for the death penalty, thus, is fundamentally shaky.
* The complicated legal process and the high costs involved in the pre-trial and trial phase for the death penalty makes it an economically unsound method of punishment.
* Without a completely fool-proof justice system, the risk of putting innocent people to death via capital punishment cannot be ruled out. The death penalty, consequently, must be abolished.
* Penalty or punishment are measures falling in the realm of human error and human disciplining: Capital punishment puts out abruptly and brutally the flame out of the life of the human being himself; Discourse on why it should be abolished and the dignity of the human being restored and the right to life upheld.
* If the aim of legal punishment is prevention of crime, are there no other methods to prevent crime? Crimes are situational, impulsive, extreme acts and not so much personal acts committed with permanent destructive instinct: retribution and not extinction should be preferred.
* Imprisonment is as good as denial of main fruits of life: A prison is a unisex world where every inmate is stigmatized and has to carry on tightly scheduled activities in the company of strangers; the inmates are deprived of liberty, privileges, emotional security etc. Why capital punishment when life imprisonment can also cause pain and yet leave scope for reform and retribution.
* The danger with having the death penalty “on the books” is that it can be broadened if a government goes completely statist and politicians may use it for something other than murder… to settle political scores.
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Capital Punishment -- Pro Outline
Thesis Statement: Although the opponents of capital punishment believe this to be immoral and non-productive, advocates of capital punishment have proven this to be a cost effective, and ethically correct deterrent of future murders.
I. Cons of capital punishment
A. Racism in sentencing
II. Pros of capital punishment
A. Deters murder
B. Cost effective
C. Morally correct
III. Support for capital punishment
A. Support in The United States
B. Support in Canada
C. Support in British Columbia
Capital Punishment -- Pro
Capital punishment, the execution of criminals by the state for heinous murders, is the only acceptable form of punishment for such behavior. Although the opponents of capital punishment believe this to be immoral and non-productive, advocates of capital punishment have proven this to be a cost effective, and ethically correct deterrent of future murders.
Many opponents of capital punishment believe that the justice in the American legal system is obstructed by the sentencing of black Americans by a racist and biased jury. For example, "if the murderer is black, it is more likely that he will get the death penalty than if the murderer is white" (Winsor 3). While many people believe this, the statistics say something very different. In the United States, sixteen out of every 1000 whites arrested for murder are sentenced to death while twelve of every 1000 blacks arrested for murder are also sentenced to death (2). Of the black inmates on death row today, only 1.1% have been executed, while for white inmates the statistic is 1.7% (2). Based on this data, obviously, one can see that racism in the sentencing of black offenders is not an issue.
Many opponents of capital punishment also argue that "the death penalty is immoral, barbaric . . . and doing God s job by judging offenders and putting them to death" (Take Notice 157). In this opposition, they point to Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 as their proof; "A sinner may commit a hundred crimes and still live" (American Bible 670). In retort, one must also look at Genesis 9:5-6; "For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life. If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood then be shed" (American Bible 15).
This verse makes it clear. Capital punishment is what God demands for the murder of a human being by man or beast.
Opponents of capital punishment also say that the death penalty is a waste of life. "Why kill the prisoners when we can put them through rehabilitation, and re-train them with an employable skill so that we can use them when released?" (Take Notice 159). Not only is it expensive to re-train and house criminals, but with some, it is not possible because they are hardened criminals and have no desire to change their behavior.
Advocates of the death penalty state that capital punishment deters murder by preventing convicted murderers from killing again (160). Capital punishment also deters murder by putting the fear of being sentenced into "would be" murderers (160). A person is less likely to commit the crime if they believe that they will be punished for their criminal act.. Some statistics show that eight murders are deterred for each execution that is carried out in the United States (Winsor 2) while others maintain that up to eighteen murders are deterred by each execution in the United States (Take Notice 163). Studies have also found that executions increase the probability of the arrest and conviction of other heinous offenders (164). Many promoters of the death penalty believe that if the execution of a convicted murderer deters the murder of one innocent life, the execution is justified (Winsor 2). Capital punishment is also cost effective. It costs approximately $535,000 for an average forty year incarceration of a prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment (Guilmette). In contrast, on the average, it costs only $250,000 to put a prisoner to death (Bedau).
Promoters of the death penalty rebut that capital punishment is morally correct. By removing the killer from society through capital punishment, this allows the families and parties affected to get on with their lives, with a feeling that justice has been served. Capital punishment insures piece of mind to those who fear the offender, allowing them to no longer fear for their lives. Capital punishment portrays the great value society places on innocent life by taking away the most dear possession of the convicted murderer, their own life.
The majority of the population in The United States supports capital punishment. Right now, 70% of Americans are in favor of capital punishment (Bedau). Over the years, overall support for capital punishment has increased as the crime rate in the United States has climbed, except for a slow decrease since 1986. In 1966, 42% of Americans were in favor of capital punishment while 47% opposed it, with 11% undecided (Take Notice 165). In 1986, support for capital punishment was 80%, with 17% against and 3% undecided (166). In The United States, from 1900 to 1985, 7,000 people have been executed by means of the death penalty (Guilmette). The United States is one of the few countries in that world that practices capital punishment as a way to punish criminals.
Even though the majority (72%) of Canadians over eighteen years of age support capital punishment, the Canadian government has yet to reinstate it (Makir 2). Capital punishment was abolished in the latter part of 1976, after a debate that lasted 98 hours that won by a narrow margin of six votes (2). If one was to look back to 1976, death threats were being made to members of Parliament and their immediate families from con capital punishment activists (3). These members of parliament, afraid for their personal well-being, voted against capital punishment in opposition to the views of their voters. Had it not been for this, capital punishment would still be a legal practice in Canada. The last two people to be executed in Canada were Arthur Lucas and Ron Turpin (1). They were executed on December 11, 1962 (1).
In British Columbia, 70% of the population is also in favor of capital punishment, yet the government has also outlawed its practice (Vienneau 2). In 1987, the Progressive Conservative Government wanted to hold a free vote on the issue, but Justice Minister Ray Hnatyshyn pressured the M.P.s to vote against the bill (2). Over discussions as to whether to reinstate the death penalty, seventeen out of twenty-seven of the M.P.s voted in favor of this punishment. However, because of this proportionate disagreement, Hnatyshyn was the deciding vote. Hnatyshyn voted against capital punishment (2). Had it not been for him, it is thought that capital punishment would be practiced today in British Columbia.
Many supporters of capital punishment believe that the sentencing of a convict is based on the principle of "an-eye-for-an-eye." Is this principle not justified, especially in cases of premeditated murder of another human being, another life? Capital punishment not only acts as a deterrent, but reflects the majority of public opinion. What about the removal of the convicted murderer from society? Capital punishment permanently removes criminals from society so that they cannot repeat their offenses or commit other offenses against society. Capital punishment is cost effective, and as shown within Genesis in the Bible, capital punishment is morally correct.
Another point to consider is that today prison terms are not adequate. Many people are allowed to leave early on parole and/or remission which results in criminals serving only one third of their prison terms and being released back into society. This type of quick release cannot adequately compensate for someone s death nor deter others strongly enough from repeating the same offense. Capital punishment today is a volatile issue, and both sides are so deeply rooted in their views that they are willing to do almost anything to sway the public to their opinion. However, as shown by proof in the form of studies and polls that have been taken in the United States and Canada over the past few years, it has been proven that capital punishment is a valid deterrent for murder and the majority of society supports capital punishment. Without a suitable punishment for crimes, justice will never truly be served and this is the backbone of our society, truth and justice.
Take Notice. New York: Clarke Pitman Ltd., 1979.
Vienneau, David. "Debate Agonizing for M.P.s." Toronto Star March 1987.
Makir, Kirk. "Canada and the Death Penalty." Globe and Mail March 1989.
Winsor, Hugh. "Debate on Death Penalty Placed on Hold." Globe and Mail April 1992.
Bedau, Hugo A. "Capital Punishment." New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1994 ed.
Guilmette, Tom. Home page. 23 Nov. 1998. .
The New American Bible. Catholic Version.