Capital punishment or death penalty is one of the most debated forms of punishments. Most developed countries have put an end to death penalties. The European Union requires abolishing of death penalty as a condition to its membership. . However, there are still a large number of countries, which are retaining it (DGER, 2007). Countries like US have re-imposed it, allegedly because the no-death penalty policy led to a spurt in crimes, although death is a state issue. The nature of execution, the reasons and tolerance and amnesty methods vary from country to country.
In some countries death penalties are not imposed on the juveniles and the mentally impaired. When the US Supreme Court had struck down juvenile death penalty in 2002, there were already 22 juvenile death executions. Deaths are carried out by several methods. The most prominently followed ways are lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad. The reasons death penalty is imposed, and its justice system are most rigid with the Islamic countries. Death penalties are imposed for drug smuggling, prostitution and even abandonment of the Islam religion (Brea, 2008).
Most of their justices systems may be lacking too. The evidence procedures, interpretations of the law may be too erratic, at times. It must be noted here that the law in some of these countries like Pakistan allow the offender to walk off the death penalty, if the victim’s family forgives him. When people are sentenced to death, it generally takes several years before the actual execution. The convicted person meanwhile is housed in the death row, which is the housing for prisoners awaiting death.
The advocates of the death penalty feel that the fear of death penalty can keep off people from indulging in heinous crimes. However human rights activists point out to the fact that the occurrence of crime warranting the death penalty is much less in countries without death penalty, than where it is imposed. Death penalty needs to be abolished and other ways of crime prevention tightened. Relying only on killing criminals to reduce crime is not in line with development. Criminals would get emboldened when they know that they would be sentenced to death for the crime committed, and that there is no hope.
People responsible for crime prevention should find other ways of preventing crime. We should give murderers hope that refraining from further such activity can only help them. Society should analyze and adopt appropriate judicial and social reforms for preventing heinous crimes, rather than on capital punishment. Opponents of death penalty point out to the fact that living in anticipation of death is itself a very big punishment. A person waiting to be executed suffers much more than what his victim experienced.
According to the rules on retaliation (lex talionis), the excess suffering of the murderer is unfair. Punishments are not meted out with an intention to revenge the crime or exceed it. Neither are punishments expected to compensate the sufferings of the victims (Haag, 1986). Taking life for life cannot be human. The crime whatever, committed by the convict is done and taking his life in return doesn’t improve the situation. It is high time that death penalty is reviewed by all at an individual level, so that more awareness and effective action can be implemented.
Imagine the plight of an individual who has been sentenced to death for homicide. If the killing had occurred as a result of instantaneous mood or temporary insanity associated with anger or revenge, it is still possible for the judge to see this as proper homicide and pronounce death. The criminal may repent now for the madness exhibited by him at that moment. Although he can appeal, there are chances that the proof or arguments in favor of him are ignored. Apart from repenting his crime and temporary madness, he is also concerned about his death sentence.
Also unlike other punishments, death penalty cannot be nullified and the accused set free, once it is carried out. The society threatens punishments on criminals and punishes them to deter them from committing crime. Threats and punishments are more directed to moral justification and to vindicate the position of society and its law. Thus the imprisonment period of a kidnapper is not exactly the period he imprisoned his victim, neither can a fine slapped on a robber do good the offense. Carrying out a death sentence is only legalizing unlawful killing.
People who want criminals to be punished similar to the offence they committed, like death for the murderer, should realize that this principle is not feasible, since it would require a rapist to get raped, a torturer to be tortured etc. , which are absurd. It is therefore not a surprise that the death penalty in the United States is opposed widely. Euthanasia and death penalty are no doubt, topics of careful debate. However it is in the case of death penalty where the arguments favoring it are more inhuman and weak.
The revenge attitude of punishments by imposing death penalty on murderers is more heinous and more vengeful, given the fact that several state appointed individuals are involved n the reciprocative act. The victim’s family is also invited to witness the event. At such times the law does not consider the family of the criminal. This family undergoes a much more pathos compared to what the victim’s family has undergone. Imagine the plight of the family members who know their loved one is to be executed soon. Not all executions go ahead smoothly as intended.
On several occasions the electric chair simply failed to work and the prisoner had to be moved into and away from the chair before being executed. Sometimes the prisoner’s face and head is charred by the malfunctioning of the chair. Imagine the mental and physical trauma of the prisoner. No explanation can justify such happenings; and the intention to further proceed with the execution is barbaric. By executing a murderer, who gains?. None. By executing a murderer we only prove that murder is a serious crime which needs to punished stringently by murdering him back.
The society has a moral responsibility of caring and protecting all people, providing these to its citizens at its best possible. In its efforts to provide these to its people, the society should not break its own foundations. The modern and changing world cries for euthanasia and condemns death penalty. On calling for these, man has relied on his fundamental rights, the right to die and the right to live. The society has a moral obligation to respect these. Both are independent and very personal issues, on which only the individual should decide. Of course, between life and death, he is obliged to listen to the society.
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