Capitalistic Punishment Essay

963 words - 4 pages

Capitalistic Punishment "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" says the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible. Throughout history, different societies have incorporated this principle into their legal and cultural lives. In today's context in the United States, this traditional form of retributional theory has taken the form of state-sponsored capital punishment. The infamous "death penalty," legalized nationally in 1976 by Supreme Court decision, has resulted in the execution of over five hundred convicted (rightly and wrongly) murderers in the past quarter century. In the minds of advocates, the ultimate penalty has swiftly and justly incapacitated killers as well as effectively deterred future murderers. On the contrary, both common sense and empirical evidence reveal capital punishment to be inefficient, ineffective, and unjust; therefore, the death penalty should be abolished in the United States.Most of those who espouse capital punishment laud it for its supposed deterrence effect; that is, its alleged ability to intimidate would-be criminals into abstaining from murder for fear of the fatal penalty. According to statistics, however, no such effect is apparent. "Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the number of executions and the size of death row have substantially increased. Yet during this same period of time, the FBI Uniform Crime Reports show virtually no change in the national murder rate" (). Moreover, some sociologists like Hugo Adam Bedau in his book The Death Penalty in America suggest that these very executions intended to deter crime, may, in fact, incite crime through a "brutalization" effect, whereby a cycle of violence and murder is only intensified by government-approved homicide. Common sense backs up this empirical evidence. First, one can classify homicides into two categories for practical purposes: pre-meditated and non-premeditated. Obviously, those who plan to murder either plan to get away with the crime or simply are not concerned with the consequences of their actions. Similarly, those who kill in a spontaneous fit of emotion or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol have not rationally considered the ramifications of their actions. In both instances, no matter how serious or intimidating the threat of punishment may be, the concept of deterrence is questionable at best.Another questionable characteristic associated with the death penalty is the fallacy that it is the most efficient method of retribution. Surely, executing a convicted murderer would be the most cost-effective manner to incapacitate him or her. This might be true if the American justice system were structured differently, but according to studies "the death penalty is not now, nor has it ever been, a more economical alternative to life imprisonment" (Spangenberg 47). And furthermore, in The Death Penalty in America, Bedau cites research that shows states like Florida, New York, Kansas, Maryland, and North Carolina...

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