Assessing the Death Penalty

There are only a few issues that manage to arouse strong emotions in people, dividing them into 2 opposite camps in the process. The death penalty is one of those issues. Rarely does anyone not have an opinion of it. Here, i will take a look at both sides of the argument.

Man is only deterred by that which he fears most. One of his greatest fears is the loss of his life. Thus, supporters of the death penalty argue that it is necessary as a deterrent for would be murderers. They would think twice about committing such a crime if they knew that they would be caught and executed. As it is in society’s interest to prevent murders, it should practice capital punishment. Supporters of the death penalty point to the 1973 Isaac Ehrlich study, which showed that by executing one inmate, 7 lives could be spared, as proof that the death penalty does work. Moreover, by imprisoning and executing a murderer, he or she is prevented from committing such a crime again, saving lives once again.

Yet, detractors thoroughly disagree. For one, they point to the fact that the 1973 study has been discredited by other studies. Criminologists now state that the death penalty brutalizes society, increasing the chances of more murder in the process. Studies also show that the death penalty is no more a deterrent than life imprisonment. Those who are sentenced to life imprisonment usually adapt to prison routine and are less likely to be violent than other prisoners. Moreover, sentencing a murderer to life imprisonment without parole, means that society can be protected from such individuals without the need for executing them. In addition, critics of capital punishment also state that most murders are committed either in the heat of the moment or under the heavy influence of alcohol or drugs. In such situations, the individuals do not realize the possible consequences of their actions and end up committing a crime anyway. Thus, the death penalty does not act as an effective deterrent.

In view of these arguments, it is my opinion that the death penalty should be phased out. There seems to be no purpose for its existence, with studies showing that it is not an effective deterrent. In addition, i do not agree with the underlying logic of an eye for an eye behind the death penalty. There is nothing to separate both the state and the murderer. If we decree that Man should not take the lives of others, who then are we to do just that? One thing’s for sure. We are certainly not God and should stop acting like we are.