Death Penalty Essay: Is Death Penalty Really Effective or Should it be Abolished?
Martin and Law (2006) define the death penalty (also called capital punishment) as the legal imposition of death on a convicted offender. As a practice, the death penalty has been exercised in many countries all over the world for a long time, with initial methods used to effect the punishment being stoning to death (Kim, 2016). Historically, the death penalty is associated with Britain and the country has influenced the modern death penalty activities around the world. The death penalty started when the European settlers traveled to various parts of the world and they brought the practice of capital punishment to their new settlements. Moreover, the first recorded execution due to death penalty was witnessed in past colonies when Captain George Kendall was sentenced to death in the late 1608 (Blocher, 2016).
Evidently, laws and policies associated with death penalty can be traced back to Eighteenth Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon (Blocher, 2016). The Kings of Babylon formulated death penalty policies for more than twenty-five different crimes in society. This made death the only punishment for criminals in Babylon. The Roman laws and policies also included death penalty models in the Fifth Century. During this time, the majority of death penalty conditions were carried out by various means such as crucifixion as well as through drowning and beating to death. Some policymakers also used burning people alive and impalement as part of death penalty measures.
Currently, diverse methods are used to carry out the execution, with the most common ones being the use of the gas chamber, electric chair, lethal injections, and most prominently, hanging. The issue of the death penalty has been under intense debate in the recent past with its proponents overemphasizing its role in deterrence while its antagonists watering down its purported efficiency in reducing crime (Anckar, 2014). Death penalty is evident in various countries around the world today. For example, more than twenty-nine states in the United States currently practice the death penalty. Other major countries that practice death penalty around the globe include China as well as Thailand and Vietnam (Blocher, 2016).
In total, there are more than fifty countries that practice the death penalty around the world. However, it is also worth noting that more than one hundred countries have abolished capital punishment in their jurisdiction (Blocher, 2016). Additionally, there are countries that use death penalty in cases of serious crimes such as war crimes. This is because the use of death penalty has been controversial in many countries around the world. In Europe, Protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights does not support death penalty and European countries do not support the practice. However, countries such as Armenia, Russia, and Azerbaijan are supporting death penalty practices (Blocher, 2016).
Despite the high dangers associated with capital punishment, it should be noted that more than sixty percent of the world population lives in regions where the death penalty is practiced (Blocher, 2016). The top countries known for practicing death penalty include China, India, and the United States as well as Indonesia and Pakistan. Moreover, countries such as Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Egypt also support the practice. There are also those who argue that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan and South Korea are supporting death penalty practices. However, recent reports also indicate that the death penalty practice has been used effectively in China to kill many people than all other countries around the world (Blocher, 2016).
Arguably, in late 2017 more than one thousand people were sentenced to death in Malaysia and this was done due to offences including murder, drug trafficking, and treason. In 2018, a man was also sentenced to death in Gambia. In the United States, more than twenty-three people were sentenced to death by October 2018. From the programs, it was evident that the practice was applied arbitrary and also include racially-biased procedures (Blocher, 2016).
The death penalty is ineffective in that it does not lead to the deterrence of crime. Data derived from statistics from the United States of America shows that when there was no death penalty (1973-1984); murders were fewer than when the death penalty was introduced later on (Hood, 2002). In addition, murder and homicide became more common in the US in years after the introduction of the death penalty compared to other countries where there was no death penalty. These statistics question the deterrence effect of capital punishment as it would be expected that countries with death penalty could have fewer homicides. In addition, numerous studies have been conducted on focus groups and all the results have pointed to the fact that capital punishment produced no deterrent effect on the people (Blocher, 2016). It would be expected that the rate of homicides would drop immediately after public executions of death penalty convicts; however, a study by Robert Dan in 1935 showed that homicides increased in Philadelphia within 60 days after several executions of convicts.
Notably, the death penalty does not produce a deterrent effect beyond what long-term imprisonment of convicts produces. A number of studies have been conducted by scientists and economists on this topic but the results have always been contradicting (Kim, 2016). However, research conducted on criminologists all around the world showed that the vast majority of this group believed that death penalty produces no deterrence (Hood, 2002). They agree that much of the research that shows the presence of deterrence are so limited and flawed to ascribe confidence on their validity. Long-Term imprisonment (perhaps life imprisonment) would thus be preferable as it enhances deterrence which death penalty cannot produce (Radelet & Lacock, 2009). In addition, Bedau (1997) asserts that people who commit murder and other violence in most cases do not premeditate their crimes and are in most instances under influence of alcohol and drugs; crimes under such circumstances cannot be deterred by the death penalty.
The death penalty is unfair and inequitable in practice; it has been used by governments and people in power to carry out political repression as a means of silencing their political opponents (Bedau, 1997). This wrong use of death penalty has diluted its intended effect and this could be the reason why it enhances rather than deters crime. Individuals have been put to death by governments only to be recognized as innocent after their deaths. According to Amnesty International, the death penalty has not served its purpose, thus accepting it as a legal form of punishment enhances its possible misuse by people in oppressive governments (Amnesty International, n.d.).
Despite its negative effects, there are those who argue that death penalty is effective in controlling serious crimes around the world. This is because countries such as China that have employed death penalty experience low serious crimes with high levels of accountability among government officials. Death penalty can be used to control corruption problems evident in many African countries. In Countries such as United States of America, death penalty has been used to control violent crimes. Death penalty also provides justice to the victim family and it discourages criminals from committing crime in the society.
From my viewpoint, I believe that death penalty is a matter of life and death and its use, therefore, must be without doubt about its effect. A number of research-based studies and reports on different models (scientific, economic, and criminology) have failed to prove the deterrence effect of death penalty. Most of the findings indicate minimal or no deterrence (in fact in some instances, an increase in crime) after executions. In addition, human rights forum has constantly questioned the ethics of death penalty with Amnesty international pinpointing its probable misuse. Therefore, I conclude that death penalty is not an effective method of deterring crime.
I believe that death penalty can lead to the execution of innocent people in society. It should also be noted that countries which support death penalty such as the United States of have higher murder rates than those without it. In most cases, criminals break laws whether death penalty is present on not. Moreover, from a religious perspective, it is only God that has the right to take human life since He is the sole creator of the universe. Death penalty lowers population and it does not give people a second chance to avoid crime.
There are also a high number of cases where officials have misuse death penalty to control the prison population. There are also cases where politicians can use death penalty conditions to eliminate their enemies. With death penalty practices, the world cannot witness peace since people will commit serious crime expecting the death penalty. This can increase social problems and economic crimes around the world. Therefore, I fully believe that the death penalty should be abolished to promote peace and love among people in society. Without death penalty, people are able to settle criminal cases outside the court and this promotes world peace, love and unity.
Amnesty International (n.d.). Amnesty International: The Death Penalty Questions and Answers.
Anckar, C. (2014). Why Countries Choose the Death Penalty. Brown Journal of World Affairs, 21(1), 7-25.
Bedau, H. (1997). The Case against the Death Penalty. Washington DC: American Civil Liberties Union
Blocher, J. (2016). The Death Penalty and the Fifth Amendment. Northwestern University Law Review, 111(1), 275-293.
Hood, R. (2002). The death penalty: A Worldwide Perspective (3rd Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Kim, D. (2016). International Non-Governmental Organizations and the Abolition of the Death Penalty. European Journal of International Relations, 22(3), 596-621.
Martin, A., & Law, J. (2006). Oxford Dictionary of Law (6th Ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Radelet, M., & Lacock, T. (2009). Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists. The Journal of Criminal law and Criminology, 99(2), 489-508