To what extent is life imprisonment without parole an acceptable alternative to the death penalty?
This essay will identify and compare the advantages and disadvantages of life imprisonment without parole (LWOP) and the death penalty, to support the argument that on the whole life imprisonment without parole is an acceptable alternative to the death penalty.
The death penalty was created as the ultimate punishment for heinous crime. It’s purpose is to deter, to retribute and to incapacitate the perpetrator by removing them permanently from society. LWOP does the same. Two key factors which will be focused on throughout the essay are retribution and deterrence because these are the two main reasons why the death penalty is still in place in 31 American States (DIPC, 2017) and why LWOP was introduced. Incapacitation and public protection are also important arguments for both punishments. However, there is a complex moral debate at the heart of the issue which divides opinion. Logic suggests that LWOP is an acceptable alternative to the death penalty because it does not take human life, however there is a strong moral case to argue LWOP is equally inhumane for different reasons. Does society believe that human beings have the ability to change and should even the worst criminals be given a chance for rehabilitation?
For many abolitionists the rational argument for LWOP as an acceptable alternative to the death penalty is the fact it satisfies retribution, incapacitation and acts as a deterrent without compromising the moral implications of taking another person’s life. Abolitionists believed that the majority of criminals who commit bad crimes can change and the use of the death penalty as a form of punishment robs a human being of this chance and removes hope and does not allow for rehabilitation of the criminal. Many have surrendered the moral basis of their position and most abolitionists accept LWOP (Dow, 2012). However, LWOP denies the criminal these exact opportunities in the same way as the death penalty, with the added knowledge that there can be no hope. Is this a worse alternative? Depriving inmates of all hope resulting in individuals becoming ‘vegetable-like’ in their demeanors and taking on the I don’t give a damn attitude (Robinson, 2012).
Life imprisonment without parole is described as the ‘penultimate penalty’ after the death penalty as it is regarded as the severest sanction a court can pass (Hodgkinson, 2013). Before the 1970s LWOP was of little interest to the criminal justice systems across the world. However it came into prominence when the United States passed the LWOP laws following the Furman V. Georgia case in the Supreme Court in 1972 where the decision was made to overturn Furman's execution. “The court in Furman v. Georgia stated that unless a uniform policy of determining who is eligible for capital punishment exists, the death penalty will be regarded as “cruel and unusual punishment” (Laws, 2017). Following closely on...