Capital Punishment as a Form of Deterrance and Permanent Incapacitation
Society has always used punishment to discourage “potential” criminals from unlawful action. Since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder. The death penalty is arguably the strongest deterrent for murder and the strongest punishment for other unspeakable crimes. If murderers are sentenced to death and executed, potential murderers will think twice before killing for fear of losing their own life.
For years, criminologists analyzed murder rates to see if they fluctuated with the likelihood of convicted murderers being executed, but the results were inconclusive. Then in 1973 Isaac Ehrlich employed a new kind of analysis, which produced results showing that for every inmate who was executed, 7 lives were spared because others were deterred from committing murder. (Kanitz) Supporters of Ehrlich in follow-up studies have produced similar results. Additionally, even if some studies regarding deterrence are inconclusive, that is only because the death penalty is rarely used and takes years before an execution is actually carried out. Punishments which are swift and sure, are the best deterrent. The fact that some states or countries which do not use the death penalty, have lower murder rates than those that do is not evidence of the failure of deterrence. States with high murder rates would have even higher rates if they did not use the death penalty.
Ernest van den Haag, a Professor of Jurisprudence at Fordham University who has studied the question of deterrence closely wrote: "Even though statistical demonstrations are not conclusive and perhaps cannot be, capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because people fear death more than anything else. They fear most death deliberately inflicted by law and scheduled by the courts. Whatever people fear most is likely to deter most. Hence, the threat of the death penalty may deter some murderers who otherwise might not have been deterred. And surely the death penalty is the only penalty that could deter prisoners already serving a life sentence and tempted to kill a guard, or offenders about to be arrested and facing a life sentence. Perhaps they will not be deterred. But they would certainly not be deterred by anything else. We owe all the protection we can give to law enforcers exposed to special risks."(Carlisle, 199)
Although capital punishment cannot deter all murderers, the fear of death must deter some. One cannot measure how many lives this system spares since no concrete numbers can be formed. One must come to the conclusion that the death penalty deters those who conjure thoughts of vicious crimes for they fear the potential death penalty.
When someone takes a life, the balance of justice is disturbed. Unless that balance is restored, society surrenders to an unruly state. Only the taking of the murderer's life...