Capital Punishment




Despitethe increase in the level of civilization, the society is still proneto dehumanizing types of crime. In the recent past, the globe haswitnessed acts of personal violence which are now evolving tofirst-degree murders, kidnap for ransom and other injustices that putthe security of the community in danger. Many people have questionedthe morality of applying the ultimate form of punishment.Nonetheless, capital punishment is fundamental in implementing thesocial purposes of deterrence as well as retribution. To support thisclaim, the paper will begin by analyzing the importance of deathpenalties, then highlight opposing arguments, and finally give aresponse to such arguments. As such, capital punishment is morallyneeded as an equal penalty for heinous crimes like rape, robbery withviolence and premeditated murder among others.


Froma deterrence point of view, capital punishment is more effective indeterring capital crimes than incarceration. The prison systemimproves criminals as it establishes contacts between differentoffenders who may use their connections outside the penitentiary tocontinue committing brutal acts of torture to the society. Accordingto Mandery &amp Mandery (2011), life incarceration creates a lot ofcongestion in the prisons thereby increasing the operational andmaintenance costs for the government. It would be more reasonable tospend the money that would have been used for life imprisonment fortreatment and job creation purposes within the economy. Some of theconvicts have perfected the art of breaking out of prison.

Mostimportantly, execution cuts the breed of the worst criminalspermanently from the community, meaning it is safer for otherinmates, the correctional officers, and the society. A large numberof people who commit extreme crimes are incapable of rehabilitation.In fact, some of them avoid the law, and when they can get away withit, they continue performing the crimes. Mandery &amp Manderyillustrated that a good example would be the case of Osama Bin Ladenwho was responsible for the loss of thousands of people afterconducting the 9/11 attack. He went on to carry out additionalattacks in other regions of the continent (2011).

Itwas a moral requirement for President Obama to order a kill missionon him as his existence posed a threat to a dangerous revolution ofthe terrorist group, hence threatening the lives of millions. Capitalpunishment, therefore, acts as a form of defense to protect thewelfare of the society (Mandery &amp Mandery, 2011). Ideally,criminals concede their right to life when they rob innocent peoplein a malicious manner, conduct gang killings, and drive-by shootings.The seriousness of such a verdict will prevent intelligentindividuals from carrying out any form of violent crimes. Retributionjustifies the essence of capital punishment by making it clear that acriminal ought to suffer the same proportion of the committedoffense.

Heinousforms of crimes that impact negatively or terminate the lives ofinnocent civilians call for the death roll, thereby making it bothmorally justified and necessary. Families of victims of murder shouldhave an opportunity of getting justice by witnessing the execution ofthe killer who took the life of their loved one. The society itselfis immoral if it does not demand the life of an individual who hastaken the life of another if there is sufficient evidence of such acrime.



The dissenters argue that capital punishment is impermeable becauseit is an immoral act of revenge. One of the objections to the deathpenalty is the argument that such a verdict does not deter. Instead,it fuels the thirst for revenge. The capital punishment providesenergy and encouragement for delinquent and inspired individuals whointend to injure the society to do so since some of them are evenwilling to die (Mandery &amp Mandery, 2011). Life imprisonment seemstougher because people consider imprisonment as a deprivation ofhumanity, which makes people live miserably for the rest of theirexistence. They add that vengeance is not a public virtue and as suchit is immoral to promote a trait, which is not of interest to thesociety. The Bible backs the vengeance view as it denounces the actin its biblical teachings. If anything, the Bible declares that Godshould be the one to judge. Opponents claim that capital punishmenthas incited crimes that it intended to deter.


Somehave argued that capital punishment has seen innocent people sufferfor the mistakes of others making it an immoral act. Since thecriminals have threatened the families of some police officers, whowill provide evidence of their wrong doings. Hence, the officersplace the burden on suspects who have no power to threaten theirhouseholds (Mandery &amp Mandery, 2011). Besides, some states havebeen accused of conducting prosecutions based on circumstantialevidence. Given that the state cannot give any compensation to theloved one’s family that is worth the life of the executed, thedeath penalty is, therefore, unacceptable for human fallibility.


Thethird argument is that a capital punishment demoralizes the nature ofhumanity by failing to consider the dignity of an individual.Inspiring good behavior in the society would require the justicesystems to make sentences that take into account the aspect ofhumanity. Death reduces the possibility of proper reforms for thegreater good. The principle of doing the same things to criminals isinappropriate hence one should murder murderers. As a matter offact, by imposing a capital punishment, the government becomescomplicit in devaluing human life just as the killers. Consequently,the execution of criminals in a nation lowers the chance ofreflecting and repenting hence should be morally impermissible.

Respondingto the Opposing Arguments

Deterrencevs. Revenge

Capitalpunishment is the best when it comes to deterring capital crimebecause life imprisonment is a threat to inmates who fear beingkilled by other criminals. Revenge is a personal response from oneindividual to another for injury. Capital punishment is hardly afactor that promotes hate (Mandery &amp Mandery, 2011). It is a formof progressive rule that imposes a penalty to guarantee equality inthe society. Objectively speaking, the punishment of an offendershould be proportional to the damage they did. It is, therefore,impossible to demand an eye for a life.


Incidencesof innocent individuals getting death sentences are very few. Thedifference between the capital punishment and murder is that thedeath penalty does not aim at executing innocent people while murderdoes (Mandery &amp Mandery, 2011). One should not argue for theabolition of the capital punishment because of some fewirregularities. Instead, people should advocate for improvements inthe system to avoid wrongful executions. Moreover, courts should notuse circumstantial evidence to make decisions regarding capitalpunishment.


Capitalpunishment respects the dignity of victims by ensuring that theoffender gets an equal punishment. Considering that the capitalpunishment does not take place immediately after judgment,individuals get an opportunity to reflect and repent (Mandery &ampMandery, 2011). Offenders like serial killers and rapists are oftenincurable. In as much as justice wants to inspire good in thesociety, it is in the best interests to get rid of such people.


Justicethrough capital punishment is in line with the insights of particularauthors. John Arthur stated that any claim on morality should bebacked up by comprehensive reasons. In the case of the capitalpunishment, the benefits outweigh the costs (Singer, 2011). Rachelsemphasized on the need to keep an open mind when faced with moralissues. He went on to say that the society has advanced than it wasin the past and therefore tackling matters would require focusing onthe interests of the people (Singer, 2011). Kant reiterated the samepoint by arguing that the death penalty is a means to the good ofothers and that the criminal should face an equal punishment as thathe/she did to the victim (White, 2009). John Stuart favored capitalpunishment by declaring that the interests in the case of the capitalpunishment are meant to protect the society from dangerous criminals.


Mandery,E. J., &amp Mandery, E. J. (2011). Capitalpunishment in America: A balanced examination. Sudbury,MA: Jones &amp Bartlett Learning Publishers.

Singer,P. (2011). Practicalethics.New York: Cambridge university press.

White,J. E. (2009). Contemporarymoral problems.Australia: Thomson Wadsworth.

Capital Punishment


Capital punishment also called death penalty refers to a method ofpunishment for crime doing that involves killing the convictedoffender (BBC, 2014). It has been a controversial method ofpunishment, with many countries abolishing the practice while otherscontinue to uphold. The controversy mainly arises from the debate asto whether this form of punishment results in an abuse of humanrights. In countries where capital punishment is still in practice,it is normally employed as a sentence for specific crimes. Theseinclude grave murder, treason, rape, adultery, fraud and capitaloffences (BBC, 2014).


The history of capital punishment, specifically in the UnitedStates, dates back to the colonial period. The first documented deathpenalty happened by firing squad in Virginia, which was then aBritish Colony in 1608 (Death Penalty Information Center,2016). It involved the murder of Captain George Kendall, who wassentenced for acting as a Spanish government spy. The incident wasfollowed by public hangings in the 1600s and 1700s (Death PenaltyInformation Center, 2016). Every colony had its unique rules inrelation to capital punishment. Crimes that would result in suchsentencing, ranged from witchcraft, the killing of masters, killingof husbands, heresy, theft and trading with Indians. Thejustification for capital punishment during the colonial era was theargument that it acted as a method of crime prevention.

However, following the signing of the “Declaration ofIndependence” in 1776, most of the individuals involved in signingthe declaration, supposed that the death penalty was ineffective indeterring crime (Death Penalty Information Center, 2016). As aresult, many states engaged in the move to end the punishment duringthe nineteenth century. Also, the Jacksonian period that criticizedthe widespread use of gallows and pushed for a humane treatment ofwrongdoers, contributed to the decision to repeal capital punishmentall over the United States. The first state to amend their capitalpunishment rules was Pennsylvania, which abolished death sentence forall crimes with the exception of first degree murder. Michiganfollowed suit in 1846 and ended death sentence for all offences apartfrom treason. Wisconsin and Rhode Island eliminated capitalpunishment for all wrongdoings.

By the early twentieth century, from 1907 to 1917, six stateseliminated capital punishment, while three restricted the punishmentto offences like first degree murder and treason (Death PenaltyInformation Center, 2016). However, following the Russianrevolution and upcoming First World War, America’s capitalism waschallenged. This resulted in a reinstatement of death sentence infive of the six states that had formerly abolished the law.Nevertheless, some states still endeavored to use more humanetechniques of capital punishment aimed at replacing electrocution andhanging. This led to the use of lethal gas in 1924. It was first usedin Nevada where a prisoner was executed in a gas chamber.

In the 1950s and 60s, civil rights groups worked towards appealingcapital punishment cases. As such, the legitimacy of the punishmentwas challenged as unconstitutional. Abolitionists disputed SupremeCourt rulings on death penalty compelling the court to amend how theruling was implemented. For instance, the court decided that allowingthe jury complete discretion in deciding on capital punishment was aninfringement of the eighth amendment (Death Penalty InformationCenter, 2016). This resulted in the implementation of sentencingguidelines in many states, aimed at restricting jury discretion.

In the 1970s and 90s, the Supreme Court further ruled that someoffences were not punishable by capital sentence. These included rapecrimes that did not result in the murder of the victim, offencesperpetrated by mentally ill individuals and juvenile crimes forindividuals aged sixteen years and below (Death PenaltyInformation Center, 2016). The court also prohibited the murderof suspects who convincingly proved their innocence. Nevertheless, itwas also ruled that provided there were no new constitutionalinfringements, new proof of innocence could not be used in ordering anew trial. From then, the controversy regarding capital punishment isconsidered by some as a violation of rights due to the possibilitythat it may involve the killing of innocent individuals.

Current State Controversies

American states continue to be divided over the issue of capitalpunishment. This explains why more states continue to uphold thepunishment, yet some have abolished it. Garland (2014) explains thatthe United States federal administration has limited authority inimposing state laws. The US is different from European nations, whichhave the legal authority to enforce national appeal. This is becausethe American constitution assigns lawmaking power over criminal lawto its states.

Hence, the decision to end death sentence depends on the influence ofindividuals at the local level. This means that if more members of astate support, death sentence, it is highly likely that the statewill continue to uphold the practice. Thus, in most American statesthat continue to execute death penalty, it is because many civiliansfeel that it is okay to sentence people by death. Contrary, statesthat have ended capital punishment comprise of more civilians whofeel that the sentence is unjust.

States that uphold capital punishment argue that it acts asdeterrence to crime. The states believe that individuals are lesslikely to engage in wrongdoing due to fear of death. On the otherhand, states without death penalty argue that the sentence does notreduce crime rates. The later argument is supported by research,which indicates that there are lesser crime rates in states that lackcapital punishment (Death Penalty Information Center, 2016).These states argue that the practice does not stop people fromengaging in wrongdoing, and instead increases crime. Hence,abolitionist states suppose that other states should also end thesentence. This exacerbates the debate on whether to end capitalpunishment or not, considering that more states still uphold thepractice.

Potential for the Future

The main reason why death penalty was implemented was to scareindividuals from committing similar crimes as those of criminalsmurdered. This explains why, most death penalties were executedpublicly. However, as individuals became more democratic, the need toprotect human rights also increased. As a result, capital punishmentwas employed less often and better ways of practicing death penalty,which eliminated the need for public displays, were invented.

Also, death sentence has proven to be an ineffective way of stoppingcrime. States that punish some types of offences via capitalpunishment have higher rates of homicide as compared to states thathave ended the practice (Death Penalty Information Center,2016). This is a clear indication that the practice may beineffective in meeting its main objective of preventing crime. Inturn, the sentence has been utilized less often. Even in states wherecapital punishment is legal, it is rarely executed. Hence, it islikely that in future the practice will be abolished in more Americanstates.


BBC. (2014). Introduction to capital punishment. Retrievedfrom:

Death Penalty Information Center. (2016). Deterrence: Stateswithout the death penalty have had consistently lower murder rates.Retrieved from:

Death Penalty Information Center. (2016). History of the deathpenalty. Retrieved from:

Garland, D. W. (2014). Why does the U.S. have capital punishment?United States of America Embassy. Retrieved from: