The death penalty is a necessary evil that has a positive
effect on society today. It is an effective deterent of
crime as well as a safeguard for society. It also helps to
keep order in our cities. Furthermore, I fell it is a just
and effective punishment for those who have commited crimes
heinous enough to deserve death.
The death penalty is not a new idea in our world. Its
origins date back over 3,700 years to the Babylonian
civilization, where it was prescribed for a variety of
crimes. (Capital Punishment p.10). It was also greatly used
in the Greek and Roman empires. It continued into England
during the Middle Ages, and then to the American colonies
where it exists still today. In the colonies, death was a
prescribed punishment for crimes such as: murder, rape,
arson, and perjury. In America today, the main crime
deserving death is obviously murder. (Capital Punishment
Does the death penalty truly deter crimes and murder? This
question is at the heart of a heated political controversy
over the punishment. Opposers to the death penalty say no
because of the large amount of people on death row today.
They also say that states that have the death penalty have
a higher crime rate than those that do not, and therefore
it is not effective and somewhat contributes to the
problem. (http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html). I must
point out though that states that have the death penalty
are usually highly urbanized areas that most likely will
have high crime rates because of the large population.
Rather, in rural states there is no need for the death
penalty because the population is most likely low and
scattered throughout the region. States that practice
capital punishment do so because of high crime rates, not
vice versa. (http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html).
Abolitionists also state that the death penalty is a racist
punishment, and only given to African Americans. In the May
11, 1998 issue of JET magazine it stated that over 50% of
all blacks favor the death penalty. (JET Magazine).
According to a U.S. Dept. Of Justice press release on
December 13, 1998, ^”those executed were all males: 45
whites, 27 blacks, 1 Asian, and 1 American Indian. Five
were hispanics...At the end of last year, 34 states and the
federal prison system held 3,335 men and women (44 females)
on death row: 1876 whites, 1406 blacks, 28 American
Indians, 17 Asians, and 8 of other races. There were 283
(http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/cp97.pr). Also a
1985 University of North Carolina study by economist
Stephen K. Layson states that, ^”every execution of a
murderer deters, on average, 18 murders^‘
(http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html). This proves that
without the death penalty our murder rate would be immense.
For example in Utah on June 10, 1988 Arthur Gary Bishop was
executed for sodomizing and then killing a group of young
boys. In the first half of the year (January-June) there
were 26 murders in Utah. In the second half (July-December)
there were only 21 murders, an almost 20% drop in the
murder rate. (http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html).
The sanctity of human life is at the heart of a huge
philosophical and spiritual debate over the death penalty.
Many Catholics believe that all people^“s lives are sacred
and killing them only adds to the fire. They say that two
wrongs don^“t make a right, and that God and the bible
states that ^”thou shall not^‘(Exodus: 10 Commandments)
kill. (Survey done of 50 Catholics). Professor Ernest van
den Haag said that ^”All religions that I^“m aware of feel
that human life is sacred and that its sacredness must be
enforced by depriving of life anyone who deprives another
person of life.^‘ (Capital Punishment p.31). Many
christians say that all life is holy because it was given
to us by God and it is not up to us to decide if a person
should die. According to Pope Pius XII: ^”When it is a
question of the execution of a man condemned to death the
State does not dispose of the individual^“s right to live.
It is then reserved to public power to deprive the
condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his
fault, when already he has dispossessed himself of the
right to live.^‘(The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints
p.70). This forcefully disproves any and all statements of
christians to claim that the death penalty is morally wrong
to the church. Also many people believe that by not
executing a victim^“s murderer, one is putting higher value
on the murderer^“s life than on the victim. (Survey of 50
Catholics) John Stuart Mill says in his 1868 address to
Parliment, opposing a bill banning capital punishment that,
^”When there has been brought home to any one, by
conclusive evidence, the greatest crime known to the law;
and when the attendant circumstances suggest no palliation
of guilt...nothing to make it probable that the crime was
an exception to his general character rather than a
consequence of it, then...it appears to me that to deprive
the crimianl of the life of which he has proved himself to
be unworthy...is the most
Capital punishment is truly a safeguard to society because,
^”It is the finality of the death penalty which instils
fear into the heart of every murderer, and it is this fear
of punishment which protects society.^‘(The Death Penalty:
Opposing Viewpoints p.41 quote by Robert E. Crowe printed
in The Forum). An example of this is England practiced
capital punishment throughout the early 20th century, and
had a lower crime rate than that of any large US city.
Since England has abolished the death penalty in 1968,
their murder rate has risen over 100%, and 75 English
citizens have been murdered by released killers.
(http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html). This proves not only
is it a safeguard but it also helps deter crime because in
the hundreds of years before England had one of the lowest
murder rates in the world.
The death penalty is the most effective means of crime
detterent as you can see. It not only punishes those who
commit the crimes, but also prevents future crimes by
scaring the would-be murderer with the consequence he would
pay for his actions. It has proven effective throughout
history, and will hold strong through the ages as long as
people continue to be corrupt and commit crimes.
The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints Written by David L.
Becker, © 1991 pp. 41, 70
Capital Punishment Written by Michael Kronenwetter, ©1993
pp. 10-15, 31
^”More Blacks Favor the Death Penalty^‘ JET Magazine, Vol.
93, Issue 24, May 11, 1998 pp. 5-6
Pro Capital Punishment Page
Capital Punishment http://ethics.acusd.edu/mill.html
U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, Sunday December
13, 1998 http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/cp.97.pr
Survey of 50 Catholics Performed by Grad student Ages of
surveyed range from 15 to 55 years of age