Christian’s hold three distinct perspectives on capital punishment, namely Rehabilitationism, Reconstructionism and Retributionism. Rehabilitationism is the view that death sentence should not be allowed for any crime; Reconstructionism holds that death penalty should be allowed for any serious crime; Retributionism recommends death sentence for some capital crimes. The last two positions share a somewhat similar view. This paper focuses on rehabilitationism. Proponents of this view comprise those who appeal to the Bible for justification and those who do not. The paper presents the arguments of those in the former group. Contrary to the view of the rehabilitationalists that the aim of punishment is reformatory or remedial, the paper argues that the aim of capital punishment is justice and a good society.
Conceptualization of Capital Punishment and Rehabilitationism
Capital punishment is the taking of an offender’s life for a crime which he has committed and found guilty of by a court or tribunal under law. For Etuk, capital punishment is the death penalty when it is executed after a due process of law carried out by a society’s duly constituted apparatus (2000, 6). It is distinguished from other forms of extra-legal killings such as shooting on sight of suspected criminals, assassinations, disappearance of persons carried out by state agents, among others.
Capital punishment thus defined has existed in almost all civilizations and the modes of its execution have varied from country to country. Amnesty International in 1989 listed out the following modes of execution in current use: hanging, shooting, electrocution, lethal injection, gassing, beheading and stoning (Etuk, 6). In Nigeria, the most prominent methods are shooting and hanging. While the shooting is done in most cases before the public glare, the hanging of condemned criminals is done behind the prison walls to prevent the public from seeing the brutalizing spectacle. Once a person has been condemned to death by a court of law, he automatically becomes a condemned prisoner. From then on, he is put in a special cell for condemned prisoners under tight security to prevent possible escape or suicide. The waiting period may be very short or very long depending on when the State Governor or Administrator signs his death warrant.
The possibility of reprieve exists in some countries. In such countries, the State Chief Executive has the right under ‘the prerogative of Mercy’ to pardon a criminal and allow him to return to his family. A Chief Executive may also have powers to order a ‘ stay of executive’, which means that he has the powers to suspend or postpone an execution already scheduled to take place pending when he is able to go through the case again.
Coming to rehabilitationism, rehabilitationism is the theory that the criminal is not just a reprobate to be merely punished as he deserves with no interests of his own to be preserved, but a person in need of...