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An Archaic Punishment: The Death Penalty As An Ineffective Deterrent

2475 words - 10 pages

Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper correctly says, “The death penalty is inefficient and extravagantly expensive” (citation).
The death penalty raises important questions about the right to life, who possesses that right to life, and under what circumstances a right to life can be taken away. With that, it then also calls into question the circumstances under which the death penalty might be assigned. Scholars and philosophers, as well as the entire population, have been debating the effectiveness and equities of capital punishment since the beginning of the institution. Racial and socioeconomic equities constitute its own argument. Here, I want to focus on the facts that prove the death penalty is an ineffective punishment because it wastes resources, it is not cost effective, and there are better alternatives that would fulfill its purpose of deterring crime better. It is ineffective and should be abandoned as a practice to deter crime or at least fixed which you can’t do.
Scholars and philosophers, as well as the entire U.S. population, have been debating the effectiveness and equities of capital punishment since the beginning of the institution. Legal challenges peaked in 1972 with the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia. This decision effectively ended capital punishment in every state because it characterized its laws as “arbitrary and capricious” and the practice of the death penalty as “cruel and unusual” punishment, a direct violation of the Eight Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It also stated that the capital punishment laws violated the Fourteenth Amendment which protects the due process rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens. Nevertheless, the moratorium on the death penalty ended four years later with the Supreme Court case Gregg v. Georgia in 1976. The Court upheld Georgia’s new statute in a 7-2 decision because it assured “the judicious and careful use of the death penalty by requiring a bifurcated proceeding where the trial and sentencing are conducted separately, specific jury findings as to the severity of the crime and the nature of the defendant, and a comparison of each capital sentence's circumstances with other similar cases” (oyez). They said the death penalty was not always “cruel and unusual” punishment. Also, in 1976, the Court declared a mandatory death penalty for specific crimes not allowing jury discretion was unconstitutional in the case Woodson v. North Carolina (http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/death/history.html). Even today, in the 21st Century, the death penalty is still a hotly debated topic. It is an ineffective method to achieve its purpose of deterring crime.
The primary purpose of the death penalty is to deter violent crime. Any punishment can be an effective deterrent if and only if it is consistently and expeditiously carried out. The death penalty is not an efficient method, however, to effectively and repeatedly deter crime because it is not feasible or reasonable for capital...

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