The human psyche is a fragile little thing.
Every man and woman on this planet is governed by a few set of rules that we all attempt to live our lives by. Our moral compass. Societal laws. Cultural taboos. In our endeavors towards success and pleasure in each and every day, we nonetheless attempt to, insomuch as possible, live our lives and constraint our actions by these rules.
The reason is simple; as humans, our instinct is naturally to survive and succeed. To do so, we know that we all have to live within the security of society, and all the constraints of society. We also know that violation of said constraints, commonly known to us as our laws, taboos and morals, can lead to negative consequences within our living space in society, or expulsion from society, or even life altogether. We therefore keep within the boundaries of societal norms, recognizing the security, companionship and possible opportunities it provides.
Perhaps the most dire violation of these norms, then, would probably be murder; the taking of life from another fellow human being. The robbery of another sentient being of his right to life. The massacre of a valued member of our community, a fellow species who could have offered something towards the advancement of the human race. A criminal act taking away a fellow life, causing massive disruption in all relations to that individual. Respectively, murder represents the worst possible violation of our moral compass, societal laws and cultural taboos; and as such, the common conclusion would be to inflict the worst possible punishment for the worst possible violation.
But justice, vengeance and vendettas aside, society seems to be facing a dire problem. True, homicide rates have dropped severely with the introduction and enforcement of law and order. But the numerous recent cases of homicide have led people to question the current law, which serves, in part, as a deterrent towards the very crimes it dictates. Is capital punishment really the solution towards the ongoing insanity of homicides?
Let’s go all the way back, to the root of the problem. Why do people commit homicides?
I think we can all agree that people who commit homicides are mentally unhinged, in one way or another. They’re not in a ‘normal’ state of mind, not rational, not logical. Be it due to depression, revenge, jealousy, misanthropy or a pure violent streak, the varied causes of a homicide are traits usually associated with an irrational mind. These people are acting on emotions, desires and instincts; they’re not thinking their actions through, but simply following their deluded heart. This is the kind of mentality we’re dealing with in homicides; and with an irrational mind, what use are deterrents?
Deterrence only works if one pauses to consider the gravity of his actions before fully acting upon it; to one acting in the impulse of the moment, are deterrents even any consideration at all? Does one, posed over his victim with gun in hand and finger on trigger, pause to think ‘Oh, I might be going to jail after this’ before he pulls the trigger? Deterrence and negative consequences only serve to deter a rational mind, who calculates and takes into accounts all possible consequences before acting. But too many homicides are either crimes of passion, committed in the heat of the moment, or ruthlessly calculated, the signs of a serial killer with uncontrollable impulses; in either, rationality doesn’t even come into play.
Excusing all moral arguments and so forth concerning capital punishment, capital punishment is truly a valiant attempt in stemming the tide of homicides. Still, this implies that there’s no extra benefit between capital punishment and the other consequences of law; life imprisonment will work just as well, again discounting the various other issues frequently tagged and debated. The punishments of law serves as no deterrent to an irrational mind, unhinged by passion or personality; and to a normal rational mind, capital punishment serves as no more a deterrent than the other punishments available, such as life imprisonment.
Perhaps the other issues, such as the moral and administrative matters, as well as the upholding of justice, need to be discussed in depth when considering the validity of capital punishment. But as a deterrent in and of itself, capital punishment fails to shine, due to the subtleties of both criminal and normal minds.