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Is Capital Punishment Proper Deterrence, Cheaper Way to Fight

Crimes and Proper Retribution?

Punishments or rewards are given for crimes or good deeds. Even

God has announced to reward those, who do good deeds and save the

humanity, and this reward is in the shape of heaven. Similarly, man has

created a full list of punishments based on the personal or approved code

of legalities, so that a person offending others could be properly punished.

The objective is to stop those unruly behaviors which create problems for

others, and also that the people having the thinking of might is right could

be stopped from committing cruelties against other weaker persons. There

were days when kings and emperors ruled the world. Every crime during

those eras was punished by death. There was not judicial proceedings. The

criminals were killed at the behest of the kings and even sometimes

innocent also had to go through this crime. However, it is attributed to

King Hammurabi, who is said to have codified laws in order to punish

criminals. More than 25 different crimes were listed to be punished by


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death. It happened in the eighteenth century BC. These were the first laws

which punished the criminals by death penalties. The next code was the

code of Hittite, a legal code codified in Athens in the seventh century BC.

In this code, there was capital punishment for every other crime, while the

Roman laws gave death penalty only some serious crimes. However, it was

done by beating to death or burning alive. Hanging and execution started

from the modern day Britain where it is stated that Henry VIII executed

more than 72 thousand people for rebellion (Randa).

However, the question is what is called death penalty or capital

punishment and how it should be executed. In the United States, the death

penalty is now executed through a poisonous injection and awarded over

more than 60 crimes, while the task of executing the death sentence is

done through the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994. However, there is a

proper judicial procedure for this. This act considers everything before

awarding the death penalty (The Resource Guide for Managing Capital

Cases). Hence, there is raging debate underway whether it is legitimate

or not and whether religiously, morally or ethically death penalty is

correct. Even though some people think that capital punishment should be

banned and abrogated, it should not be stopped because not only it deters

crime rates, but also saves high costs of keeping criminals in prison,

causing same pain of retribution to the criminals and securing human

rights of others.
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It is argued that capital punishment deters crimes. It is because

when there is death sentence, the criminals think twice before coming

heinous crimes. It is a threat like a Damocles swords. The threat of

punishments is kept open all the time. It is not only psychologically correct

but also legally. Psychologically, because human beings stop short of doing

things, where they see some threats to life and property. If threats and

punishments are open, they deter further crimes and threats as it they are

practical justification for their existence. If is because as stated by Haag,

retribution is an independent moral justification and law always draws its

moral justification from retribution that works as a deterrence. Penalties

could be unjustified, reprehensible or hatful. They can be termed

unsuitable or horrible, but when law is involved and proper judicial

procedure is followed, they have full backing of the moral authority that is

the state and the law. Hence this deterrence works in checking crimes.

Haag further adds that By coming the crime, the criminal volunteered to

assume the risk of receiving the legal punishment that he could have

avoided by not committed the crime (Haag).

That is what is called deterrence. It is because the criminal knows

that he would have to face the music if he tramples upon the rights of the

other people to live, and his getting capital punishment for doing the crime

would not be unjust. Therefore, death penalty could not be called unjust in

case the criminal has committed the crime for which this punishment has

been suggested (Haag). In this connection, several studies have been


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carried out which have highly favorable results. Liptak has cited such

studies where executions have surely saved several lives only because the

criminals think that they would be hanged for a certain crime. He quotes

that one death penalty is said to have saved murders from 3 to 18. As the

case of Texas, the United States, is different as executions are done

quickly, the crime rate has dropped and has also the rate of murders

dropped considerably. Even some economists have also done the studies

on the same thing and have reached the same conclusion that more than

two decades of studies have concluded that the murder rates have fallen

drastically after the rise in execution rates (Liptak). Another writer Fagan

has quoted Professor Becker saying in connection with the objection of the

execution of the innocent, stated that it not a greater issue. But even then

if somebody is wrongly implicated, the issue of deterrence is there as

Fagan himself appeared before the U.S. Congress in this connection and

stated the same things (Fagan).

Second argument is that the cost of keeping a prisoner imprisoned

for long and that too of the very serious crimes, is very high. Sometimes it

is even higher than the cost of executions and other crimes that ensure

from the incident of leaving the murder unpunished. Referring to Time

Magazines research, Sharp states that it is quite accurate. The average

cell cost for a killer is more than $24,000 per annum while the security

expenses are besides this as they amount to more than $75,000 per

annum including the charges of communication and transportation that


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incurs on taking the criminal to the court and back to the prison cell

(Sharp).

Although there are claims that if compared with the criminals having

committed the same offenses, it is stated that this is average cost and it is

equal to the criminals having committed general types of crimes.

However, they have not taken into account the budgetary and inflationary

issues which increases the cost every year. The increase in costs includes

the prisons, judicial decisions, inflate rates, medical, insurance, injuries

and deaths, and violence. And interesting point is that these costs increase

year by year and may amount to millions if the inmate does not die and live for

longer period of time. These days a prisoner costs more than $70,000 per year

while the cost for medical has risen sharply after the discovery of the HIV,

Hepatitis C and Congo Virus as the price of medicines have increased sharply

(Sharp).

However, these are just rough estimates as every year cost of

everything increases a lot and there is no yardstick to measure it exactly.

Just imagine if there are 100 such criminals who are to be kept in cells for

next five or so years, how much they would spend of the nation that could

be spend on social services and infrastructure. This amount go into

millions. Therefore, instead of putting the criminals into prisons for life

sentence and keeping them alive on the public expenses which could be

spent on the public welfare projects, it is better to awards them capital


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punishment. This would not only save expenses but also check crimes as

has been discussed above.

The third point is that that the criminal who has committed the

crime of killing some person feels the same pain of death when he is

awarded capital punishment. Therefore, it serves him right for doing what

he has done. In this connection Pojman states that it is mistake on the part

of the people that they often think retribution as revenge (Pojman) which

is not the case. The reason is that it sin to revenge but to do the same but

through a legitimate process. There is a full force of law behind awarding

punishment to the person who has committed the prime. It is because

vengeance signifies anger of the person who has suffered. However, in the

connection of death penalty, the judiciary and the process stays aloof from

such passions of anger and enmity.

There is a theory of retribution which states that a person who has

committed the crime must be punished accordingly and in equal measure

to the gravity of the crime. Therefore, this retribution is not what is called

hatred against the crime and the criminal. It is rather retributivism in

which the criminal deserves to be punished and deserves to be punished

in proportion to the gravity of his or her crime (Pojman). The desire of the

victim does not matter whether he wills or not. He further clarifies the

point that if the society somehow fails to punish the culprits, the danger

persists that the society would take law into its own hands and mob may
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come out to execute these punishments which have been given to the law.

It is also that everyone agrees that there must be some punishment for

the crime and the punishment of life sentence for killing a living human

being does not seem to be correct punishment. Though some suggests

that monetary punishment should be imposed on the killer, which is a

mockery of the justice. It is because human life cannot be weighed down

through money, which is an insult of the life itself. Although it is said that

there should eye for an eye and blood for blood, but this does not fit into

the judicial proceedings. It is because these people ignore the different

that exists between private or personal revenge or retribution. It is

because death penalty is sanction while personal revenge is not (Divine).

However, there is another side of the argument. There are several institutions and human

rights activists who are in the forefront to end the capital punishment. They are of the view

that this issue of capital punishment is rather absurd. It is an archaic and old way of punishing

human beings as sometimes a person is killed none of the mistakes but another one is killed

for him. This does not make sense. This is not only costly but also ineffective as it has

nowhere deterred crimes. Rather it has put the criminals on the run to do more crimes. Even

philosophically, prisons are there to rehabilitate the person not to kill them. They serve the

criminals better in making them human beings. If a killer is sentenced for life and he becomes

a better person, it is better that he should be alive than a dead person. However, death is final.

In fact, it does not strengthen the criminal justice system but makes it vulnerable to certain

other objections such as institutionalized revenge, causes violence and even costly monetarily

(McElwee). However, this is not all the truth.


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The first side of the coin in this connection is very solid. The points raised above such as it

has served as a yardstick to check crimes, have saved a lot of the public money to be spent on

the public welfare and to punish a criminal are more valid. The peak of a justice system is to

deter crimes and it can only be done through proper punishment not through human rights

cries or through stopping or changing punishments. Divine is right when he states that it is

rather sanctioned by the law with the power of the state to stop the individuals from taking

personal revenge Divine). Sharps argument of high costs of prolonged incarceration are also

solid in that these costs carry on increasing every year (Sharp). Therefore, capital punishment

seems to be cheaper alternative and a good strategy to deter crimes.

Despite serious objections, it could be stated that capital punishment has been retained in

several eastern and western countries. The statistics collected in this connection have made it

clear that it has stopped and check crimes at several points. In some countries, it has lowered

the crime rate. Even the United States and its some states have concluded that it is good for

the society to keep capital punishment to check crimes as it is working as a deterrence in some

cases. It is also that a criminal costs the government much in public money as he is kept in the

cell or the prison, eats, gets medical treatment and even proper medical care at the state

expenses. Therefore, he becomes a lot dearer than an ordinary person while capital

punishment abolishes these expenses. Furthermore, the argument of justice does not complete

and does not seem fair if a hardened criminal is left only because human rights do not want

him to be punished. Therefore, the debate weight heavily in the favor of capital punishment to

be kept so that the crime rates could be lowered and the perspective killers could be stopped

from taking lives of others. Despite raising strong voices on the international forums, several

countries have refused to step down from this claim that capital punishment is working
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effectively over there. Even the most civilized country, the United States of America, has not

abolished the capital punishment despite having strong voices in support of it.
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Works Cited

Divine, Richard A. "Should the Death Penalty Be Used for Retribution?" 03

Apr. 2003. Web. 02 Oct. 2014

<http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.php?

questionID=001004#answer-id-006249>.

Fagan, Jeffrey A. "Capital Punishment:Deterrent Effects & Capital Costs.

"2014. Web. 02 Oct. 2014

<http://www.law.columbia.edu/law_school/communications/reports/su

mmer06/capitalpunish>.

Haag, Ernest van den. "THE ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT: A DEFENSE." 1986.

Harvard Law Review Association. 02 Oct. 2014

<http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/angel/procon/haagarticle.ht

ml>.

Liptak, Adam. "Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate." The New

York Times. 18 Nov. 2007.Newspaper Source. Web. 02 Oct. 2014

<http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/us/18deter.html?

pagewanted=all&_r=0>.

McElwee, Sean. "It's Time to Abolish the Death Penalty." Huffington Post. 08

July 2013. Newspaper Source. Web. 02 Oct. 2014

<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sean-mcelwee/abolish-death-

penalty_b_3557782.html>.
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Pojman, Louis P. "Why the Death Penalty is Morally Permissible,." Gassell,

Adam Bedaus & Paul. Debating the Death Penalty: Should America

Have Capital Punishment? New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

57-67.

Randa, L., ed. "Society's Final Solution: A History and Discussion of the Death

Penalty." Oxford University Press, 1997.

Resource Guide for Managing Capital Cases. "Death Penalty: Pros and Cons."

Apr. 2004. 02 Oct. 2014.

<www.fjc.gov/public/pdf.nsf/lookup/dpen0000.pdf/$file/dpen0000.pdf?

Sharp, Dudley. "Death Penalty and Sentencing Information." 01 Oct. 1997.

Web. 02 Oct. 2014

<http://www.prodeathpenalty.com/dp.html#D.Cost>.