The Barbaric Practice of Capital Punishment
Rarely has any issue across the world faced such fierce debate as the practice of sentencing convicted persons to death. Capital punishment, or the death penalty, was until the last few centuries, a widespread and common event, applicable for even a minor offense. As society and culture have evolved, however, the barbaric practice has come under close scrutiny. Today, many first-world countries have outlawed the death penalty in all but the rarest instances, such as treason during wartime.
The United States, however, which has stood at the forefront of the fight for global human rights, still uses the death penalty liberally, and can apply it for a great many crimes. This archaic and primitive practice rightly leads other nations to question the United States' self-appointed leadership for global human rights. As many have that have closely examined the practice have concluded, this practice in the United States is not only impractical, immoral, but also fraught with error to such a degree that it could be easily outlawed. The unfortunate part, as many inside and outside our great nation believe, is that it is not.
The development of societies and their governments lead naturally to systems of laws and punishments. Originally, there were far more illegal acts than exist today, and the punishments were harsher, since an advanced prison system had not been developed. The basic premise of any legal system worldwide has always been simple, however: to take those who pose a threat to society and to remove them from it. The next act of choosing to actually kill these people was never a necessary act for society. Instead, it was a form of retributive justice, or revenge.
This simple and very human instinct for revenge shaped much of our original thoughts on punishment. Hammurabi's Code, as well as the Bible referred to "eye for an eye." "Proponents and opponents of capital punishment probably concede that there is an element of revenge in retributive justice-maybe the largest element in it-and that it may be the reason for the masses' continued support for the death penalty." (Hook 82) As societies have advanced, however, the act of killing a murderer seems to be the only act for which we maintained this vengeful idea. We do not rape the rapist, abuse and abuser, or burn down an arsonist's house, so why do we continue to kill the killer? Does not this sort of act on behalf of the state seem a bit hypocritical to the masses? George Bernard Shaw was of the opinion that, "murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind." (Hook 61) This we are led to question whether murder by the state acts as a deterrent to the public, as its proponents have always claimed, or whether it merely serves to condone death.
The proponents of the death penalty have from the very beginning made their single...