Capital punishment is the deprivation of human life as a legal punishment measure carried out on the court sentence, which came into force according to the decision of the other state or military bodies. In the modern society, capital punishment is illegal, though in some countries, it is a lawful criminal penalty applied only in case of extremely serious crimes commission (Nagin, 2014, p. 9). However, for example, in China, it is applied rather widely even for smaller offenses such as bribery, prostitution, counterfeiting, tax evasion, poaching (in particular, the Amur tiger) and others. Executions by hanging, lethal injection, electric chair or beheading are widely used in the modern world. The current coursework will provide a discussion about the necessity of capital punishment and its inability to deter crimes.
Death penalty is one of the most ancient types of punishment. Initially, it originated from the application of the Talion Principle: “measure for measure” (Nagin, 2014, p. 10). According to this principle, a death penalty was a fair punishment for murdering another person. Besides, the blood feud custom practiced in the society was substituted by the death penalty and carried out on behalf of the state (Hood & Hoyle, 2015, p.7).
In the developed countries, the death penalty is preceded by the long judicial proceedings held at the different levels. A defendant receives an opportunity to appeal. As a result, decades may pass from the adjudgement and until its execution. It is worth noting that only authorized governmental officials can make the execution. Otherwise, this action is considered a murder and must be punished by the corresponding law.
Society holds different opinions regarding capital punishment as its execution impacts the strongest instincts of a human being, including human dignity, fear and hatred. The news about the most cruel crimes or the cases when a victim is a close person often result in a strong reaction such as the thirst of vengeance or desire to kill the criminal. At present, capital punishment is still considered to be the only way to react to the severe crimes in a lot of countries. However, the governmental legally authorized murder is as inhumane as the committed crime resulting in the capital punishment. The victims of crimes need support and justice, but there are a lot of reasons why capital punishment is incompatible with justice and other human values (Chalfin, Haviland, & Raphael, 2013).
A number of people criticize capital punishment. They state that it violates the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, at present, the execution of capital punishment does not involve severe or extraordinary methods of death. Thus, it does not violate the U.S. Constitution. The types of capital punishment applied recently are rather humanistic, for example, lethal injection makes the process of dying fast and painless.
Capital punishment is a security measure applied by the society for the integrity. It acts as an effective means to secure society and protect the citizens from violence (Hood & Hoyle, 2015). There is always a possibility that an innocent person can be unfairly condemned, but the percent of people who can be stopped from crime commission is higher than the percent of people who can be innocently condemned. On the other hand, capital punishment stimulates the growth of criminality to some extent. Criminals believe that if government is allowed to kill people, they can also commit murder.
The statistical data in the countries where capital punishment is not practiced proves that there is no connection between the capital punishment and the criminal level. According to Hood & Hoyle (2015), there is no proof of the fact that the capital punishment is more effective in deterring crime than the life imprisonment. The U.S. official statistics shows that in those states where the capital punishment is applied, the crime rate does not decrease (Nagin, 2014, p.10). The number of crimes including murders in states where capital punishment is legal is not lower than in the states where such practice is not applied. The states that abolished the capital punishment or restored it, do not show noticeable changes both in crime rates and the level of murders (Hood & Hoyle, 2015).
Criminals do not usually think about possible consequences due to their specific psychological or emotional state. The idea that the capital punishment deters crime implies that those people who commit serious offences rationally analyze possible effects of own actions, including capital punishment (Nagin, 2014, p. 12; Archer, Gartner, & Beittel, 1983, p. 992). The majority of such crimes is committed under stress, during the emotional shock or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which means the criminal is not capable of logical thinking or rational reasoning (Archer, Gartner, & Beittel, 1983, p. 996).
Capital punishment is applied not only to fight terrorism and organized crime. However, there is no evidence that the rates of organized crime and terrorism can decrease due to the capital punishment (Hood & Hoyle, 2015, p.429). Some extremists consider it an opportunity to get to the paradise. Therefore, capital punishment does not have any constraining effect on them, while the life imprisonment could become the best preventive measure. Besides, when a terrorist is condemned to execution, he becomes a martyr, which can be compared to the application of tortures. Creating martyrs, the government pushes its citizens to follow the principles of extremism. The memory about the executions conducted by the government becomes the uniting factor for terroristic organizations that provokes committing new terroristic acts (Siennick, 2012, p.535).
Moreover, capital punishment proves that some countries approve and support totalitarian regime. Such an approach to the provision of the security measures in the country does not presuppose the compliance with the democratic rights and freedoms in the modern world. Thus, the application of capital punishment as the preventive measure neither deters crimes nor corresponds to the democratic policies (Archer, Gartner, & Beittel, 1983, p. 1002).
The fact that many countries abolished capital punishment testifies that the criminals can be isolated from the society, thus death penalty is the unnecessary measure (Nagin, 2014, p. 13). The individuals sentenced to the capital punishment constitute a small part among all the criminals. In addition, there are no grounds to state that an individual who committed a serious crime will commit it again. Capital punishment completely denies the principle of rehabilitation and observance of human rights. The attitude towards criminals as to the undesirable social elements should be eradicated in the society as it is considered to be a totalitarian approach (Chalfin, Haviland, & Raphael, 2013, 32).
Siennick (2012) states that most criminals who plan their crimes in advance are deterred not by the probability of being sentenced to death but by the possibility to be imprisoned (p.537). As a result, criminals exclude death penalty as a punishment while planning and committing a crime. The threat of even the most severe punishment is not an obstacle for those who expect to avoid the disclosure and arrest (Chalfin, Haviland, & Raphael, 2013, p. 38).
The governments of all countries should apply the necessary policies aimed at crime prevention by increasing the overall performance of law enforcement agencies. The confidence of the public in the idea that crimes will be immediately and professionally investigated, and criminals will face the charges is of great importance for the crime control. It means that the confidence between society and law enforcement agencies as well as the increase of the justice system authority compose the key criteria for the crime deterrence. The development of “legality” atmosphere where everyone is interested in the existence of the peaceful and ordered society will promote the prevention and detection of offenses (Chalfin, Haviland, & Raphael, 2013, p.40).
To sum up, capital punishment cannot be completely excluded from the society. However, the idea that it can deter crimes is absolutely groundless. Death penalty does not decrease the rates of crimes. On the contrary, criminals are encouraged to commit new crimes if the government takes decisions execute people. Thus, the abolishment of capital punishment does not mean that the attitude to criminals will change. The legal policy should be directed at the decrease of crime rate by applying all possible methods of the crime prevention.