What Role Has Capital Punishment Played In America

834 words - 3 pages

Capital punishment in America is a controversial subject. Some people support the elimination of dangerous criminals from society, seeing it as a way to keep undesirable criminals from being released back among law abiding citizens; while others abhor the idea of taking the life of a convicted felon, preferring instead to keep these dangerous criminals under lock and key for their whole lives (also known as LWOP or Life With Out Parole). Debates rage amongst Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, and most politicians, over a solution to this slippery issue. Unfortunately there appears to be no middle ground where politicians of either bent can come to a satisfying compromise. But capital punishment has come to play several roles in American culture: deterrence of negative criminal behaviors and morbid entertainment as we watch the trials and final verdict in the media with a sense of revenge and a feeling of safety when a convicted murderer is finally sent to the gallows.
Capital punishment is highly supported by the American population. In May of 2005, 74% of Americans said they supported or favored the death penalty in cases of murder (Tischler, 2007). Capital punishment reached a peak support in 1994 with 80% of Americans supporting the death penalty and even President Clinton expanded the federal death penalty to include sixty crimes, three of which did not involve murder (Sherill, 2001). Support remains high even though critics have tried their best to dispose of the so called “horrifying lottery in which the penalty is death and the odds of escaping are determined more by politics, money, race, and geography than by the crime committed” (Tischler, 2007). Republicans stand firm on their support for the death penalty and largely Republican states have the highest rates of convictions leading to the death penalty, including Texas and Virginia. Unfortunately the death penalty brings about some consequences. Costs tend to be higher and taxpayers carry the burden of supporting these fees. The average stay on death row is between eleven and thirteen years from the original sentencing (Tischler, 2007). The majority of fees result from legal pleas from defendants. In fact, “The Judicial Conference of the United States estimates that the defense cost alone is four times higher in death-penalty cases than in cases where death isn't sought, and prosecution costs are 67 percent higher than defense costs” (Sherill, 2001). Is the cost worth the result? Some say no. “On May 25, 1979 Florida averaged 904 murders annually; in the three years after, the number averaged 1,440--a 59 percent increase” and responding to a 1995 Hart Research Poll, only 1 percent of police chiefs said they...

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