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Capital Punishment

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Autor:   •  October 11, 2010  •  4,932 Words (20 Pages)  •  1,256 Views

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Research Project

Whenever the word "death penalty" comes up, extremists from both sides of the spectrum begin to wildly express their opinions. One side says deterrence, the other side says there's a potential of executing an innocent man. One says justice, retribution, and punishment; the other side says execution is murder. However, all arguments aside, the best way and the only way to truly make a rational decision about capital punishment is to examine the purpose of our criminal justice system. Once the purpose of the criminal justice system is established, one must find out the purpose of capital punishment. This paper will show that the purpose of capital punishment is consistent with and embodies the purpose of the criminal justice system. Then, this paper will determine whether or not the present form of the death penalty is fulfilling its purpose, and what could be changed to make the death penalty more efficient and effective.

The first question that must be faced is, "What is the purpose of the criminal justice system and does the death penalty help to fulfill that purpose?" In The Law, Frederic Bastiat says that humans have inalienable rights that existed outside of and before government. These rights are life, liberty, and property. He contends that the only legitimate purpose of government is to protect these rights. When one person inflicts on another's rights or takes advantage of another person, he is plundering. Bastiat asks, "When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor. It is evident, then that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder," (Bastiat 24-26).

People will plunder, take advantage of others, and commit crimes as long as it is in their best interest to do so. The purpose our entire criminal justice system is to protect the rights of life, liberty, and property for all its citizens. To do this, the criminal justice system needs to make "plunder more painful and more dangerous than labor." In other words, the punishment for crime must be harsh enough to deter potential criminals. Under this mindset, the death penalty makes perfect sense. Here is a punishment that truly makes the criminal pay for his crime, stops the criminal from committing future crimes, and deters other criminals from committing the same crime. The purpose of the death penalty is to protect the right of Americans to live.

If the purpose of the death penalty is to protect the lives of Americans, then the people that it is supposed to protect should be the focal point. In considering the death penalty and its merits and faults one cannot lose sight of the victims. These corpses are the people who have been, are being, and will be killed because our justice system is not working perfectly. In considering the death penalty these innocent individuals must never be forgotten. Millions of innocent men and women have already been slain, and thousands are killed every year. According to Time Magazine, in the United States more than 2,000,000 people are beaten, knifed, shot or otherwise assaulted each year, 23,000 fatally (Toufexis 53). In any discussion of the death penalty, one must remember that there are two sets of lives to be considered. Far too much emphasis is usually placed on the convicted murderer who is being executed, and the victim who has been killed is all but forgotten. Joseph Stalin once stated, "One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are statistics,"(Lowe 6).

Once a murderer is caught and convicted, justice seems to demand that he at least be prevented from murdering someone else. After all, if the law is set up to protect our right to live, it seems as though it should be able to keep convicted murderers from murdering again. Amazingly, our criminal justice system is not even achieving this goal. The average prison sentence for murder is less than six years (Jacobs 80). Six percent of the young adults paroled since 1978 who were convicted of murder were arrested for murder again within six years of their release ("Justice for All" 3) This means that six percent of all murderers were caught, convicted, sent to prison, released, and they murdered again. At least six percent of all murders could have been prevented had the murderer been executed the first time around. In North Carolina in 1995, 750 people were murdered (Crime Statistics 1) By stopping repeat murderers at least forty-five lives could have been saved in 1995 in North Carolina alone. Every year, approximately the same number of people would not die if an effective form of the death penalty were in place.

One example of the benefit of the death penalty is what happened in India in the 1800s. When Great Britain was beginning to colonize India, there was a religion known as the Thuggee religion. These Thuggees were probably the most violent, dangerous, and brutal gang of thieves ever. They killed literally thousands of people (mostly foreigners) and stole their money. In fact, one of the requirements of this cult was that each member had to murder at least one person every year. The British jumped to action to curb the problem by speedy arrests and executions. Thousands of Thuggees were executed. After a few years, the leader of the Thugees was captured and executed. During his trial, it was found that he had murdered 931 people. In 1883, the British had completely solved the problem by executing the last known Thuggee (Lowe 3). Often opponents will argue that some criminals are so deranged, so fearless, so assured that they will not be caught that they will murder no matter what the penalty is. If this was true of anyone, it was true of the Thuggees. Yet, the fact is often ignored that the death penalty can have a tremendous effect simply by eliminating those hideous murderers who will murder no matter what the penalty is. No one can count the number of lives that were saved after all the Thuggees were executed. Opponents of the death penalty sometimes contend that repeat murderers are rare. Yet, if six percent of all murders can be stopped, and forty-five lives can be saved every year just in North Carolina alone, who wants to be responsible for the forty-five unnecessary deaths that occur each year because our government does not take care of the murderers the first time around?

The death penalty can save lives by stopping repeat murderers, but does it deter murder? Opponents of the death penalty argue that there is no deterrent effect. However, there are a number of studies that indicate that the contrary is true. A study by W. Bailey of the period from 1967-68 showed a deterrent effect in twenty-seven states ("Justice

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