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Death Penalty And Deterrence

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Capital Punishment: Does it do what we think it does?

Ever since the beginning of time man has committed crimes. Crimes were described as acts which go against the social and moral norms of society and people. People have learned to deal with these crimes in many different ways. One of the most used forms of dealing with crime is punishing those who commit crimes. There are numerous ways in which people have punished those who commit crimes throughout history from making the criminal pay fines to banishing them from the community. However, in modern times, there are fewer acceptable forms of punishment that are used. For very unserious crimes, governments may simply make a criminal pay a small fine or do service the community in some way. Offenders who commit more serious crimes may be forced to spend months or years in jail or prison. However, for the most serious crime of premeditated murder there is an even greater punishment; the punishment of death. P84According to Jacquelyn C. Black, since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated, over 821 men and women have been executed in the United States.

Capital punishment is one of the most hotly debated issues in politics and criminal justice today. The ability of the government and the judicial system to punish a criminal in the most severe way, the taking of their ability to live, is an issue that is discussed and evaluated nearly every day. Capital punishment has its roots in history though. Ever since man has formed societies he has used capital punishment as a form of punishment for criminals. The United States has also been using capital punishment for a long time. Many people think that capital punishment is a very barbaric form of punishment that should be gotten rid of. They think that no civilized nation should allow such sanctioned brutality. P61According to Ron Fridell, "capital punishment has been abolished in all of Europe and most of Latin America, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The United States remains the only Western nation in which capital punishment is still practiced." Other people think that the death penalty is an effective and just way of punishing offenders for the most heinous of crimes. This paper will try to describe the death penalty, where it came from, and its role in the judicial system today.

The purpose of capital punishment is also a debated issue in the subject. Most people think that capital punishment is a good form of criminal punishment because it entices others to not commit crime because they will receive the same punishment. This is known as the deterrence theory. The theory of normative expressionism, however, suggests that capital punishment is simply a form of communication that serves to express a moral lesson to the criminal and others. This paper will also try to describe these two theories and how the issue of capital punishment relates to them.

Another issue related to the subject involves whether or not capital punishment actually deters criminals from committing crimes. Most people think that the death penalties primary function is to deter others in the future from committing similar crimes. There is evidence that at times capital punishment does deter. However, there are those or cite evidence or opinion that the capital punishment does not achieve its desired effect. The majority of this paper will focus on whether capital punishment actually deters crime.

The most influential text and source of many of the moral ideas of the world come from the Bible. The Bible outlines many of the crimes that are thought to be fundamentally wrong today. Also, the Bible provided ideologies and guidelines for the punishment of those who committed crimes, especially murder. The history of capital punishment can also be traced to this ancient text. Q5 The Bible says "Man was made like God, so whoever murders a man will himself be killed by his fellow man."(my bible) This explains a lot of the history of the death penalty. Q1 p9 In fact, James Megivern says that "The single most influential factor accounting for the early and widespread Christian acceptance of the death penalty was undoubtedly the Bible." Since the Bible is arguably the most influential text ever created, it is no surprise that a practice which was advocated and even encouraged as a form of punishment for criminals was accepted by a large number of people. The purpose of the death penalty to these early Christians was similar to the expected purposes of the death penalty today. Q2 p11 Megivern writes "One function of the juridical death threat was to get people's attention, to lay down a solemn warning, to alert all to the extreme seriousness of certain misdeeds." This shows that as people have evolved and changed their ideas of capital punishment and their reasons for using capital punishment have tended to stay the same.

However, it should also be noted that the texts were not to be taken completely literally. While serious crimes were should be punished with death, discretion should be used as to which cases deemed the ultimate punishment a necessity. Megivern Q3p13 again writes that the texts "articulate what the society's top values are and what is beyond the range of acceptable behavior in the ideal order." Q4 Carl Henry seems to support this basic concept with his statement "The Old Testament does not teach that capital punishment is always mandatory even when intentional killing is involved. Discretion is necessary in applying the mandate that the murderer is to be punished by a sentence of death; the deliberate murderer need not under all circumstances be put to death."

Since the English began colonizing North America, the death penalty has been present. Q6p301 Megivern even points out that "By the time of the American Revolution, all of the colonies severe criminal codes. All except Rhode Island threatened capital punishment for ten or more crimes." It should also be pointed out that even Pennsylvania, which was founded by Quakers and had much more lenient and compassionate laws, had no objection in to the principle of the death penalty. It is therefore, no surprise that the issue of capital punishment has lingered in American debate. The death penalty has been practiced and performed as an acceptable form of punishment for over 200 years.

However, as time went on opposition to the death penalty grew and the topic became a more contested issue. One of the first major opponents of the death penalty was Horace Greeley. Q7p309 An advocate of social reforms, Greeley argued that the death penalty taught and sanctioned revenge, weakened and destroyed the horror of bloodshed, insured the escape of the guilty from punishment of human law, and excites a pernicious sympathy

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