In Support of Abolishing Capital Punishment
The purpose of this study is to present a handful of arguments stating why capital punishment should be abolished. Retribution, humanity and race will all be explored in this paper on the controversial subject. Two authors will be looked at in this study; Robert Johnson and Jack Greenberg. Both contend that the death penalty is a farce in their country; the United States, which is the only country in the entire Western democratic world that enforces capital punishment.
People who oppose the death penalty agree that the main purpose of capital punishment should be retribution. Robert Johnson, Author of Death Work: A Study of the Modern Execution Process, however, suggests that people often lose sight of what the meaning of retribution is:
Retribution means giving criminals the punishment they deserve,
and this is a sensible and just notion. The virtues of retribution can
easily be lost sight of, however, because retribution is generally
tinged with revenge, and vengeance is considered a base motive
that in turn debases any punishment with which it is associated
Johnson firmly believes that people who support the death penalty resort to primitive ways of thinking, and therefore, the death penalty is a form of “Moral Outrage” which should not be accepted in our society.
He also believes that the death penalty contradicts the idea of a “civil society” which we supposedly live in. Johnson uses Anthony Amsterdam’s observations to help support his argument: “They are expected to sit back quietly and observe decent courtroom decorum throughout a proceeding whose purpose is systematically and deliberately to decide whether they should be killed”(Amsterdam, 150). In Johnson’s view, we cannot justly call ourselves a humane society when our view of a humane society is one that kills for punishment.
A philosophical approach is also taken by Johnson on Death Work. In quoting Plato, he in effect points out that two wrongs do not make a right: “We ought not to repay injustice with injustice or to do harm to any man, no matter what we may have suffered from him”(Plato, 150). Johnson sympathizes with Plato, claiming we must offer a moral lesson to the killer instead of taking his life. “To be humane”, Johnson elaborates, “punishment must not only be civilized, conforming to some notion of a fair measure of pain or loss, but also...