Captial Punishment: Just Or Unjust? Essay

2001 words - 8 pages

Punishment takes various forms, but the decisive end of life arouses the emotions of all, not just those directly affected, to dispute the ethics of capital punishment. At the core of the controversy, two educated assessments are made; abolitionists attempt to prove that the death penalty is unnecessary and unjust, while its advocates proclaim the opposite. Avid abolitionist Jack Greenberg writes in his article “Against the American System of Capital Punishment,” that not only does the current system fail to deter but it is enforced unfairly because of the bias infesting our courts. Ernest van den Haag counters this belief with his article, “The Ultimate Punishment: a Defense,” which shifts the focus away from deterrence, stating that it is not a beneficial argument for either side. Haag also argues that “justice is independent of distributional inequalities” (Haag, par. 7)
We will not be able to truly determine with studies whether or not death is an effective deterrent because we can not enter the mind of a likely murderer, but we can recognize justice, and we should not be appalled at a few exceptions of equality when the termination of the death penalty will create a deprivation of justice.
Partisans often use an idealized system of justice when they defend capital punishment, Greenburg writes, but in reality the death penalty can not deter any more than life imprisonment (Greenburg, par. 15). Thorsten Sellin conducted studies, used by Greenburg, reveling that even when the death penalty was widely administered it was still a poor deterrent (Greenburg, par. 16). Greenburg doubts that a killer actually considers the possibility of being caught, and in the unlikely event that capture is considered a criminal will see that the chances of receiving the death penalty are slim and of being executed are almost none (Greenburg, par. 17). Most murderers, in Greenburg’s opinion, are ruled by their whims and therefore will not consider the possibility of being put to death for their actions (Greenburg, par. 18). Moreover, Greenburg points out that the majority of killers are not very smart or disturbed whether by their own doing or with the help of drugs or alcohol (par. 18) Using the reality that so few people are actually executed Greenburg creates an interesting case against the death penalty: if virtually no one dies, how can criminals be deterred by such a unlikely consequence? Greenburg realizes we can never know the exact thoughts of a would be killer, but looking at his interpretation of the reality of our legal system, it not hard to understand his prediction of its ineffectiveness. While Greenburg provides practical reasons to combat deterrence, Michael L. Radelet and Traci L. Lacock in the article “Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views of Leading Criminologists,” give expert opinions by summarizing the opinions of leading behavioral scientists. This valuable and insightful resource shows how criminologists...

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