Society is organized so that the amount of good and evil almost balances. To maintain this, the legal system has to ensure that the appropriate rules and regulations come in place to determine the functionality. Crime is one side of society that cannot be ignored due to its impact on different individuals, especially the victims. If there were no laws to control everything and everyone, crime would have consumed society to the extent that the good side is non-existent. Different governments have varying systems to make it possible for the peaceful co-existence of different individuals, and that is where punishments come in to deal with the lawbreakers. Amongst all the methods the government has put in place to bring law and order, some attract much controversy due to the nature of the impacts and mark they leave behind. One of these approaches is the death sentence, which divides people on its effectiveness and justification on the offenders depending on the crimes they commit. The question is whether the death sentence is justifiable and how to ensure society is not going to its doom through its implementation. While some sources defend the need to take strict measures for felony crimes, the capital sentence is not necessarily a justifiable means of passing justice as no proof shows its effectiveness in deterring crime, other approaches achieve the same outcome, and it is also the role of the government to protect the life of its citizens, especially with the already broken system that might result to unfair sentences.
Research shows that there is no visible evidence that the death penalty is the most effective way to deter violent crimes. The biggest reason for its implementation is that it will make it difficult for individuals to commit crimes as they are scared of what might befall them when they get into the hands of the government. Since people fear death, they will stop engaging in criminal activities (Shatz, 2017). Statistics making comparisons, according to Shatz, have indicated that states that practice the death penalty still have more cases, almost double, compared to those that have abolished the practice. To state this clearly, there is no relationship between the rate of murders or other violent crimes and the imposition of the death penalty (Shatz, 2017). Offenders are more violent in such environments than in any other. The states practicing the death penalty clearly communicate that it is okay to resolve problems by taking life when they punish offenders, something that people end up applying in real life (Burney, 2022). More deaths, even in the presence of the death sentence, indicate that more individuals view death as a normal part of life since it is already made legal; hence, crime is still on the higher side. Research has concluded that there is a miscommunication between the occurrence of crime and capital punishment, as there is no valid connection between the two (Shatz, 2017).
The government can still get other practical approaches to justice that will work even better or similar to the death sentence. The origin of the capital sentence was associated with the need to prevent the offender from rejoining society and committing a similar felony that would make the justice system even more flawed. However, a life sentence would also achieve the same outcome as the offender will be incarcerated for the rest of their lives, and without freedom, they cannot cause any more harm (Carmichael, 2004). Instead of choosing the much more violent approach, it would make more sense to go with the method that also gives the same outcomes but in a less violent manner. Taking away life in exchange for another or teaching someone a lesson for a crime might not be the best approach to justice, something that makes the death sentence unnecessary and unjustified (Jacobs & Carmichael, 2004). Justice should focus mainly on giving severe punishment for the gravest crimes to build on the moral principles of society, but that does not have to be achieved only through a death sentence with many other less traumatizing options available.
An argument that will never stop making sense is that life is sacred and should be protected at any cost unless it is done for the greater good. The government is obligated to protect human life by taking all the appropriate steps to achieve such an outcome. Capital punishment goes against that duty as it involves taking away lives in ways that can be resolved through other options (Burney, 2022). There is no possible greater balance of good that can justify the death sentence. It does not necessarily solve the crime but adds more to the pain and trauma of an already violent and broken society. Having someone hung would mean that people would never commit felony crimes again, then it would be justified, and the death punishment would not be happening all the time as society would be completely flawless (Andre & Velasquez, 2014). However, there is no research indicating that capital punishment deters crime in any significant way but instead still shows an increase in criminal activities, which leaves no greater good. Protecting life, in this case, is the greater good and needs to be considered as something that matters (Andre & Velasquez, 2014). Instead of trying to solve the crime by committing more violence, it would make sense to try alternatives to the death sentence that also give similar outcomes and ensure that life is protected even when it belongs to criminals.
Still, on the value of life, the death penalty seems to collect worse than good regarding the kind of impacts it leaves behind. It is already clear that it does not deter crime in any significant way, and the same outcomes it brings can still be attained through incarceration. On the negative side, this approach to justice lessens the value of life, which is already communicated to society so clearly that people begin to take life casually (Coleman, 2018). If the government can execute people and take away their lives, what will prevent citizens from doing the same? People begin to think that the best way to resolve any issues they face is through killing, which explains why even with severe punishment, society continues to become more violent (Coleman, 2018). The criminal activity becomes a death sentence itself because some of these offenders are already prepared for their fate; hence see no need to let their victims live. Life should always be carried with much dignity, and the best way is for the government to show just how useful it is in implementing justice. If society understands that every life matters, even that of a criminal, it becomes easier for people to lead more dignified lives and protect each other’s well-being. For an activity that is severe and traumatizing, the capital sentence brings in more harm than good and is not justified.
One of the most outstanding challenges the justice system has faced is its flaws in administering sentences to sometimes innocent people, which calls for a review of whether capital punishment is a worthy cause. Minorities, specifically black people, face unfair charges in many cases, which is also applicable when administering the death penalty. Wrongful convictions affect African Americans at a high rate, with almost 53% of the 3,200 exonerations reported as of August 8, 2022 (Wise, 2022). The justice system is broken right from law enforcement whereby the black profiling even today and a specific group of people face more arrests for crimes that others would not be arrested. The same continues in detention and the courts, resulting in unfair judgments and hence, sentences for people who might be innocent. There is a great fear that even for capital sentences, every three people of the ten who have ever passed the penalty did not commit the crime. Such a twist brings an even better reason to preserve some punishments for staying on the safe side. If individuals can die for crimes committed by others, especially those from minority groups, it will be completely unfair to implement the death sentence. It makes more sense to have individuals serve life imprisonment; even though they might be innocent, they will still have their lives with them. There is no instance whereby justice and equality have ever been achieved, so it all makes sense to trade carefully and preserve life in the best way possible.
In as much as all research points to the direction that capital sentences cannot be justified, it is clear that there is also an argument on the opposite side whereby some sources think it is an excellent way of teaching a lesson to felony offenders. Some crimes like murder, rape, human trafficking, and many others are so against humanity that they need a much more severe punishment than incarceration. Research shows that when people commit these crimes, they leave much pain for the victims and their loved ones if they do not end up taking away their lives (Pew Research Center, 2022). From the perspective of the affected individuals, the only thing that rings into their minds is to have the offender and their family go through the same pain, which can only be achieved through the death sentence. Since an individual can commit such crimes that devalue human life, there is no reason for them not to undergo a death sentence. Almost 60% of Americans, when surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2022, showed their support for the death punishment due to the scenarios given of what the offenders had done (Pew Research Center, 2022). The participants claimed that some lives are just not worth it if the owners can think of destroying another life without even thinking of the outcomes. However, regardless of these views, which all make sense, there is never enough reason for punishment by death as there are other alternatives that can still serve the same purpose.
Additional research follows suit that abolishing capital punishment would mean that the system supports murderers and other felonies who commit violent and life-altering crimes. Individuals are convicted of heinous crimes, and all they get is life imprisonment, which means they still get to live and probably even seek forgiveness from within, which does not seem like enough punishment. Assuming that the purpose of justice is to treat everyone equally, then the absence of a capital sentence does not achieve that part. Society starts to portray the value of forgiveness from an already flawed perspective by ignoring the evils that offenders have committed and excluding them from getting the punishment they deserve. At the same time, the victims suffer the most is just an indication that everything is wrong. The criminal deliberately inflicts pain on a possibly innocent person, leaving them dead or with life-long traumas together with their family, which deserves much more severe punishment on the offender’s side. Out ruling the death sentence means that we are letting the criminals get away with their evils and leaving the victims to bear the more significant burden and pain. According to Budziszewski (2004), there is no amount of punishment other than death that can compensate for the pain that some of these felonies inflict on their victims, which is why there is a suggestion to rethink the capital sentences. Most people supporting this position have established that some criminals do not deserve to live as they also take away lives. However, from another perspective of thinking about this matter, avoiding capital punishment draws the moral ground in society by teaching people that there are better ways of solving differences than killing.
Regardless of the kind of research that pro-capital sentences bring to light, there is still much controversy when it concerns this approach to justice. There is a lot that cannot be ignored to impose the most severe punishment on offenders. The best way to see things is that once a crime is committed, nothing else can be done to reverse the situation and the best way to handle the situation is to take a step that will ensure the offender will not repeat such and hence reducing the possibility of such crimes in the future (Bedau & Cassell, 2005). The most crucial factor to consider would be taking alternatives that are as effective as a capital sentence and keep building to attain a functional justice system. Life is such a sacred thing, and taking death as the best way to punish crime sends the wrong message even to those in society who are looking to resolve their disputes (Bedau & Cassell, 2005). The most crucial factor to consider is the primary goal of deterring crime. Since capital punishment has not been proven to achieve this goal, it becomes unrealistic to consider its application justified. Felony offenders deserve severe punishment, no doubt, but there is no point when taking life in exchange for the other will ever be the right move to resolve anything. Justice can be attained without taking violent and traumatizing punishment steps, and society can slowly regain its law and order.
Conclusively, despite how grave the felony crimes are, none of them should guarantee a death sentence unless it is done for the greater good, which makes this punishment unjustifiable. Capital punishment can be avoided as it does not necessarily deter crime, according to statistics taken in states that prohibited it and those still using it to attain justice. Other alternatives have been used to deliver justice, like a life sentence that takes away the freedom of offenders, making it difficult for them to continue committing any more crimes. The government is obligated to protect human life, which does not stop when one is a criminal, which means that a death sentence goes against that moral standing. There is a need to find a balance when analyzing whether the capital sentence is justifiable. This can be best achieved by ensuring that whatever action is taken is for the greater good. Although there are still controversies on the nature of crimes and why the offenders should face more severe punishment, it does not achieve any good. Asides from the idea that the individual is no longer living and has been given what they “deserve,” nothing else comes with this approach. The victim cannot return to life or be relieved from the trauma due to capital punishment, nor will crime levels in society reduce, as research has suggested. Therefore, there is a need to review the practicality of the death sentence and consider going for the more humane options as it is a better way of delivering justice.
Andre, C., & Velasquez, M., (2014). Capital Punishment: Our Duty or Our Doom? https://www.scu.edu/mcae/publications/iie/v1n3/capital.html
Bedau, H. A., & Cassell, P. G. (Eds.). (2005). Debating the death penalty: Should America have capital punishment? The experts on both sides make their case. Oxford University Press.
Burney, S. B. (2022). Reimagining Death Penalty Prosecution: Analyzing America’s Failure to Align the Perception of the Death Penalty with Reality. Soc. Just. & Equity LJ, pp. 5, 23.
Coleman, J. E. (2018). One Way or Another, the Death Penalty Will Be Abolished, but Only After the Public No Longer Has Confidence in Its Use. Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, 13(2), 15–24.
Jacobs, D., & Carmichael, J. T. (2004). Ideology, social threat, and the death sentence: Capital sentences across time and space. Social Forces, 83(1), 249–278.
Pew Research Center (2022). Most Americans Favor the Death Penalty Despite Concerns About Its Administration. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/06/02/most-americans-favor-the-death-penalty-despite-concerns-about-its-administration/
Shatz, S. F. (2017). The American Death Penalty: Past, Present, and Future.
Wise, A. (2022). Wrongful convictions disproportionately affect Black Americans, the report shows. https://www.npr.org/2022/09/27/1125442683/wrongful-convictions-disproportionately-affect-black-americans-report-shows#:~:text=Wrongful%20convictions%20disproportionately%20affect%20Black%20Americans%2C%20report%20shows%20The%20Exonerations,8.