Capital Punishment the Issue of Whether Capital Term Paper

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Capital Punishment

The issue of whether capital punishment is justified in a civilized world that is progressively concerned with achieving human rights and dignity for all its citizens is a subject that challenges the very scales of justice. On the one hand, the imposition of the death penalty prematurely terminates a human life and precludes any chance of rehabilitating criminals as productive members of society. On the other hand, abolishing the death penalty implies endangering society with the presence of known, dangerous anti-social elements who may one day become eligible for parole or worse escape from prison. Thus, the scales need to be weighed taking into consideration that society's primary responsibility is to ensure that its honest and upright citizens are able to lead a secure and safe life. Indeed, it is the purpose of this paper to demonstrate that the scales of justice need to necessarily be tipped in favor of capital punishment in order that civilized societies are able to uphold the values of justice, human life, and the rights of the innocent.

First and foremost, it would be important to discuss capital punishment from the point-of-view of whether it constitutes a form of injustice especially since this is a principle argument of abolitionists who contend that capital punishment only serves as a form of retributive justice for the families of homicide victims (Kane, 2003). While, no doubt, there may be many such families who do wish for some form of retribution, the fact is that capital punishment has a very different objective, which is to ensure that social justice is served: "The execution of a murderer sends a powerful moral message that the innocent life...was so precious, and the crime...committed so horrific, that...forfeits...own right to remain alive." (Jacoby, 2003) The other argument against capital punishment is that it runs the risk of executing criminals whose innocence is later established. This argument is a tenacious one given statistics, which show that out of the 875 prisoners executed in the United States in modern times, not one has been proved innocent. In any case, it is utopian to expect any system to be cent percent fool proof. In fact, it is tantamount to saying that surgery should be abolished in order to eliminate the risk of the patient dying on the operating table (Jacoby, 2003). Thus, the arguments against capital punishment being a form of injustice are extremely shaky. Moreover, it is evident that capital punishment deals with a more important, far reaching form of social justice and that is, the upholding of the value of innocent human life. As against this, revoking the death penalty implies that condemning criminals to prison, with taxpayers footing the bill, is justice enough (Kane, 2003).

Capital punishment also serves to protect innocent human life through acting as a deterrent to crime. This is evident given statistics, which show that the number of murders has correspondingly declined as the number of executions increased between 1990 and 2000 in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas (Sneider, 2001). Such statistics are proof positive that capital punishment benefits society by preventing crime. Chances are that a system of justice, which only allowed for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment, would see no similar benefit especially in the light of the possibility of parole or even escape from prison. Indeed, such a justice system could end up actually endangering the life of innocent citizens as evidenced by several cases of paroled prisoners who only went on to commit more crimes. A good case in point is Arthur Shawcross who was paroled after a 15-year prison term, which he served as punishment for the brutal rape and murder of two children. Obviously, 15 years in prison did not prove to be sufficient punishment for Arthur since he went on to take eleven more lives before he was apprehended again (Pataki, 1997). Such incidences then lead to questioning just how much importance a society that merely imprisons its worst criminals, places on the lives of its innocent citizens. Whereas a society that imposed the death penalty ensures that, it does not place the life of its honest, productive…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Jacoby, J. "When Murderers Die, Innocents Live." The Boston Globe.

Sept. 28, 2003. Accessed Feb. 29, 2004:

Kane, G. "To murder victims' families, executing killers is justice." The Baltimore Sun. Feb.5, 2003. Accessed Feb. 29, 2004:,0,6385621.column

Murdock, D. "A sure way to prevent prison escapes." Mar 30, 2001.

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