Capital Punishment: Does It Reduce Crime Capital Term Paper

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Capital Punishment: Does it Reduce Crime?

Capital Punishment is a social controversy that epitomizes the axiom "an eye for an eye."

In the United States there are 38 states that utilize the death penalty, and usually for select crimes, including treason, and mass murder. In 2002, 71 inmates were executed, which was 5 more than 2001, and of these 71 inmates, 53 were Caucasian, and 69 were male (Capital Punishment Statistics, 2003).

Capital Punishment has been in effect since the 1970s, despite cases and controversy that it goes against a person's 8th Amendment rights. Nevertheless, there has been changes in Capital Punishment laws and "in 2002 the Court barred the execution of mentally retarded offenders, overturning its 1989 ruling on the matter. In the same year the Court ruled that the death penalty must be imposed through a finding of a jury and not a judge" (Columbia, 2003). In 2002, lethal injection accounted for 71 executions (CP Statistics, 2003) while 1 was carried out by electrocution. Statistics in Capital Punishment have shown though that the numbers for 2002 have decreased for a second year in a row, and all inmates on Death Row had committed murder.

Capital Punishment is the ultimate sentence for a crime, and is essentially reserved for those crimes deemed by the Federal Government and the courts of 38 states as necessary punishment. So far, most mass murderers have seen life sentences on death row, and persons committing treason against the United States are also under the category of receiving Capital Punishment.

Ethically, there is a dilemma between 'right and wrong' as well as the nagging doubt that an innocent is sent to death row for a crime they didn't commit. Morally, it is difficult to justify the 'eye for an eye' mentality, as well as the one-strike rule as means towards sentencing someone to death row. Society is forced to ask themselves: what makes them different to the murderer, if they are so easily prepared to sentence someone to lethal injection or the chair? For the victims' families, it is the only form of justice that they can come to terms
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with, arguing that the murderer shouldn't live if their loved ones aren't.

Proponents against Capital Punishment argue that death sentences unfairly target poor and African-American males. "Since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, white inmates have made up more than half of the number under sentence of death" (CP Statistics, 2003) and of the persons under death row in 2001, 1,554 were black (Statistics, 2003). It is also interesting to note that of the population serving a death sentence, 2 out of 3 have had prior felony convictions (Statistics). Society and poverty does have a strong effect on "an African-American having a 1 in 4 chance of serving a jail sentence" (Hinman, 2001).

In justifying why we punish in the first place is in correlation to the crime and offering retribution for the victims. In Capital Punishment, in the case of murder, the death penalty is justified not only in retribution towards the family, but as a deterrent to other would-be murderers committing similar crimes, if not the same kind of crime. Society seems to be in agreement when it comes to certain kinds of crimes - such as those committed against children or horrific mass murders or serial killings that justify, 'an eye for an eye'. "It is true on the basis of retribution that people deserve this punishment but there are limitations on how we want to degrade ourselves morally through this justification" (Hinman).

Both proponents for and activists against capital punishment in the form of the death penalty both use the 'sanctity of life' as part of their argument. Proponents say that capital punishment is ethically and morally deserved if someone is prepared to take another's life, without any regard for their rights, and therefore should not be given the same 'respect', and do not deserve acknowledgement of their rights.

If life is sacred, and someone takes it, the way we confirm out commitment to the sanctity of life, we don't let that happen" (Hinman) is the main argument of proponents who believe that death penalty is the rightful punishment towards those that have taken someone's life through murderous acts.

Those against the death penalty and capital punishment that involves taking…

Sources Used in Documents:


Capital Punishment Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2003.

Printable copy at:

Study # 3667: Capital Punishment in the United States 1973-2000

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