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Death Penalty: Capital Punishment And Violent Crime

1590 words - 6 pages

Capital Punishment and Violent Crime


Most Americans are pro-death penalty, even though they don't really believe that it is an effective deterrent to violent crime. Those who are pro-death penalty will remain so, even if faced with the best arguments of anti-death penalty activists and told to assume the arguments were absolutely true.

Violent crime

Violent crime is a major problem in the United States. According to the ACLU, the violent crime rate rose sixty-one percent nationwide over the last two decades, making America one of the most dangerous countries in the industrialized world to live in. Americans are seven to ten times more likely to be murdered than the residents of most European countries and Japan are. Government's inability to make headway in the effort to solve this intractable problem, despite high-tech policing, stiffer sentencing, massive prison construction and the return of the death penalty in many states, has increasingly frustrated a fearful American public.

Politicians have used this fear and frustration over the past few decades to position themselves as "tough on crime". Every election brings more debates about the causes of violent crime, and the possible solutions, including most importantly, the death penalty. According to most polls, over sixty percent of Americans favor the death penalty. A politician who runs on a pro-death penalty platform is always on stable ground, whereas an anti-death penalty candidate, such as presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988, faces an almost insurmountable problem. This, despite mounting evidence that the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime.

Capital Punishment

In 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty is not unconstitutional. Although some of the law imposing the administration and regulation of capital punishment might be in violation of the constitutional prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment," or other provisions of the Bill of Rights, the death penalty "per se" is not against the federal law. Six month later, in January 1977, the first execution under the new death penalty laws took place in the United States, ending the moratorium of capital punishment that began in 1967.

Since that time, there have been many studies and public opinion polls to determine the effectiveness of the death penalty. When a Gallup poll asked those who were pro-death penalty to explain the reason for their position, most of them said that the death sentence was an effective deterrent of crime, it was more economic than life sentences, it was a moral obligation to the victim's families, and it was necessary to bring justice to society. When the same poll asked those who were against the death penalty their reasons to be opposed to capital punishment, they stated that it was wrong to take a life, wrongful convictions may occur, it did not deter crime, it was unfairly applied, rehabilitation was possible and...

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