As this argumentative essay in favor of capital punishment will explore, capital punishment is absolutely necessary because it deters instances of murder and because it offers the only just punishment for a crime that is without parallel. The existence of capital punishment and the threat that is it is a possibility is enough to deter crime and as a result, this practice should be continued. If future criminals feel that they can easily get off with a light sentence for one of the most horrible possible crimes, it seems only natural that instances of murder would increase. “Some argue that executing murderers may actually cause more murders by desensitizing society at large to killing. But over the years, several studies have shown that killing convicted murderers does deter future murders" (Sage 77). In addition to the more statistical aspect of the benefits of keeping capital punishment, there is a more ethereal issue to contend with; the pain and suffering of both the victim and his or her family.It is not difficult to maintain the position of being in favor of capital punishment when one takes a close look at the pain and suffering caused when someone’s loved one is murdered. The act of murdering someone is one of the most heinous acts and must be dealt with accordingly so that the families and victims of the crime have some sort of retribution. One finds in the Bible the popular expression, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" and this almost seems a perfect statement for capital punishment. One must ask how, if not through capital punishment, is one supposed to be punished for the crime of taking another human being’s life? By examining the benefits of capital punishment in deterring crime and looking at the more philosophical issues of general punishment for murder it will be demonstrated how important it is for the nation to retain capital punishment. There are many statistics that point to the success of capital punishment. Several studies indicate a strong correlation between execution and the determent of crimes, especially murder. Such studies “suggest that capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect, each execution results, on average, in 18 fewer murders—with a margin of error of plus or minus ten. Tests show that results are not driven by tougher sentencing laws." (Ellsworth 116). While this data is highly subjective and considers the national average (as opposed to a region or city) it does show that violence is reduced. Although tough sentences that are imposed for serious non-capital crimes are generally extremely high, it is interesting that the thought of life in prison is not as much of a determent as the prospect of death. When people are trying to make a decision about capital punishment, many are inclined to think that it is not fair to punish one murder with another and others tend to suggest that there is too much of a possibility of executing the wrong person.
While there may be some legitimacy to these claims, it seems much more pressing for us to consider what a beneficial solution capital punishment has been. Although it would be impossible to support in any real argument for capital punishment, it seems fair, based on the data that is already available, to suggest that murder rates would be far higher in this country if we did not have capital punishment in many states. Those who would question this might remind us that the murder rates are lower in Europe than in the United States (Ellsworth 119) and they do not have capital punishment. The counter-argument, however, is that they do not face some of the same societal problems that we do in the United States and thus what works for them might not apply in the case of our society. In general, keeping capital punishment has been proven to work in deterring some instances of murder and thus we should not try to fix what is not broken and should keep capital punishment.
The majority of Americans have a clear and strong stance when it comes to the death penalty, no matter which side of the debate they sit on. Supporters of this punishment argue that it serves as a deterrent to crime, and that justice is being served. My personal stance on the death penalty is that it is an outdated and ineffective punishment, serving no true benefit to society and causing more harm than good to society as a whole.
When looking at the argument that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to others thinking about committing the same crime, we need only look to other countries around the world as examples to disprove this. Throughout the world, we are able to see that, in those countries where there is no death penalty, murders and other violent crimes happen at a much lower rate than in the United States. It does seem counter-intuitive, but the evidence is clear.
We can also clearly see that, in the United States, many people still commit these horrendous crimes, knowing full well that capital punishment exists. In the heat of the moment, when a person is not thinking clearly and logically, the existence of the death penalty and the possibility that they could be facing this punishment does not typically cross their mind, and cause them to alter their behavior. The consequences of their actions are not at the forefront of their minds while they’re in the midst of carrying out those actions. We can see this in the consistent, and increasing, number of violent crimes being committed year after year in this country.
There have also been widely publicised cases of wrongly convicted individuals, who were either put to death or were awaiting their punishment, that were revealed to be innocent. In the cases where the death penalty had already been carried out, it was too late for those innocent people. And, in the cases where innocence was discovered in time, we can only be thankful that it wasn’t too late. There are definitely cases of people being wrongly accused and convicted, and for each case that’s brought to light, we must keep in mind that there are likely more that we’ve never – and will never – hear about. Having even one innocent person put to death wrongly is a crime unto itself.
We must also look at the mental competence of the individuals being convicted and sentenced to this punishment. If a person is not mentally capable of processing and understanding the actions they have committed, it is ethically wrong to execute them for this.
When looking at the ethics of capital punishment, it’s also essential to assess whether or not it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. There have been advancements in the technologies being used to enact the death penalty that are designed to lessen the pain and suffering a person endures. But, in reality, the only individuals who can attest to their effectiveness are those being executed. We cannot say for certain whether or not someone suffered unduly while they were being executed, whether everything worked as it should to ensure a quick and painless death.
And, yes, there are those who will argue that a death marked by pain and suffering is a part of the justice being served. But, as we try to hold ourselves as a nation to a higher standard than our worst criminals, we should at the very least allow our justice system to work as it should, according to the Supreme Court. And, nowhere in history has the Supreme Court ever advocated for the use of cruel and unusual punishment. We would like to think that we have more compassion and humanity than those who have committed such horrendous crimes, and as such, we should demonstrate this by showing them the humanity they denied someone else, not by sinking to their level.
The argument for or against the death penalty has been passionately argued throughout our nation’s history, with each side having their own strong viewpoints. When we look at the evidence from around the world on the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent, as well as the ethical dilemma of potentially executing innocent or mentally incompetent individuals, it is easy to see that the practice of capital punishment offers no benefits to our society.