Proponents continue to argue for the importance of retribution and for teaching respect for life by taking the life of those who kil l. (Gelernter) In the end, however, the opponents of capital punis hment are right: a society cannot teach respect for life by sancti oning state killing. Moreover, there is no need for the death pena lty, since it has not achieved its main objective: to deter murder.
Pro-capital punishment advocates argue that society has an ob ligation to punish the murderer by executing the murderer. It is t he least society can do, they argue, for the victims of murder. Th e victim, in the end, is the one that deserves justice. Society mu st state that murder is intolerable by carrying out justice for th e victim through taking the killer's life. Killing is intolerable, and if it is intolerable, than society must not tolerate it. Acco rding to this reasoning, capital punishment reminds everyone that society holds life sacred and that it will not tolerate murder. It therefore not only stands up for certain values, but it deters po tential murderers. The proponents of the death penalty argue that it is the only real justice when it comes to dealing with murder. The only punishment that fits the crime of taking a life, in their eyes, is the killer's loss of life. The punishment, in other word s, must fit the crime. (Gelernter)
The above arguments are more connected to fiction than to fact. In the end, they are simply rhetoric. Life has to be considered sacred. All criminals, no matter what they have done, are worthy of redemption. Indeed, how does a society teach respect for life w hen it sanctions the taking of human life? How does it nurture hea ling by taking away the possibility of redemption and forgiveness? Clearly, the motives of death penalty supporters lie in other obj ectives.
Overall, one of the main issues involved in this problem is t hat not only is the death penalty wrong, it is distributed unfairl y. It is an undeniable fact that the death penalty almost always v ictimizes poor people or visible minorities. This is an issue of r acism and classism. The focus of our society should be to examine how social forces criminalize the poor and the racial minorities, and how it is that these groups end up suffering the death penalty because they cannot afford a good legal defence.
Today, the United States puts more prisoners behind bars than any other industrialized nation. It has executed 4,OOO death row inmates since 1930. (Lexington) This statistic obviously suggests that the death penalty has had little deterrent on crime. What the death penalty has done, however, is distribute its lethal punishm ent unfairly in terms of class and race. If a poor Black person mu rders someone, he has a much bigger chance of suffering the death penalty than a rich white person. That in itself is lethal injustice. Order another dissertation papers from us!
Many cases of capital punishment have also become political. Some death row inmates in the United States are even terminally il l and yet the prosecution is still seeking the death penalty. It i s clear that elections play a role in this issue. The plan for exe cution, in many cases, is often all about politics. (McLaren)
The writer Steven Hawkins has recently discussed Donald Caban a's book Death at Midnight: The Confession of an Executioner. He b rings up many important points. He provides a powerful indictment of the death penalty, portraying it as a failure in crime-fighting . Hawkins demonstrates that a recent nationwide survey of police-c hiefs has shown that they ranked capital punishment as the least e ffective and cost-saving method of crime prevention. More than any thing else, Hawkins also points out what has been alluded to earli er: that the death penalty has been mostly dealt out to poor and r acial minorities who have been unable to afford good lawyers. Hawk ins' main thesis is that sympathy for the suffering of victims doe s not have to be synonymous with support for capital punishment. ( Hawkins) In the end, he is right, since the two are very different issues.
In the end, we must focus on two facts: that the death penalt y is wrong and that it is administered unfairly. State sanctioned killing is always wrong. It makes it even worse that this injustic e victimizes a certain group of people. A society simply cannot te ach its citizens not to kill by killing, especially when it kills only poor minorities. Indeed, the death penalty is not dealt out f airly. It always victimizes the poor and racial minorities who have been unable to afford good lawyers. A large majority of death-ro w inmates are from poverty-stricken backgrounds. Surely this revea ls a deeply embedded injustice in the institution of criminal just ice itself.
The death penalty is simply just judicial murder. Life impris onment is better, because it holds life sacred and allows criminal s to make amends. In this way, society can teach some kind of valu e. Surely it is better to imprison someone than to engage in murde r. Indeed, there has to be non-lethal punishment, so that the puni shment can reflect good values rather than the values that it is t rying to punish. Society, therefore, must focus on teaching that n o one is irredeemable, and that repentance and forgiveness is poss ible. By focusing on the value of human life, the state should not take life, but nurture it. Society has to provide an example to p eople in this context.
Overall, capital punishment is harsh, unfair, and contradicto ry. There is hypocrisy in punishing murder by engaging in murder. The best remedy is to show respect for human life by not engaging in state-sanctioned killing. The pro-death penalty argument, ultim ately, is founded on flawed assumptions, because it ultimately tri vializes human life. This is an imperfect world, and there are no perfect solutions to murder, but the least society can do is not t o engage in the activity that it is trying to stop. Capital punish ment dehumanizes human life just as equally as the convicted murderer.
- Gelernter, David. "What Do Murderers Deserve?" Commentary, April, 1998.
- Hawkins, Steven. "Death at midnight…hope at sunrise." Correction s Today, August 1996.
- Lexington, "Death and the American", The Economist, June 21, 1997.
- McLaren, George. "Death penalty push seen as political," The India napolis Star/News, September 28, 1998.