The Death Penalty has been a part of the American Justice system since its inception. When European settlers came to the new world they brought the practice of capital punishment with them. As society progressed and evolved, so did the way we apply the death penalty. Capital punishment laws have continually changed to reflect our values; when, how and why we apply death has changed drastically since its first use in colonial times. The reason death as punishment has existed throughout history is because it is a necessary function of society.
The prospect of death can serve as a warning to would be murders therefore it serves a purpose within the system. Knowing the person responsible has paid for their crimes helps give closure to the loved ones of murder victims. Capital punishment as we know it today is used sparingly and not without much deliberation and due process. Mentally ill, mentally retarded, Juveniles and pregnant women are exempt from death sentences; currently 18 states have abolished Capital punishment. (Hartley).
There are some crimes whose severity is such that the perpetrators of these acts cannot be allowed to exist; this is not barbarism, but justice. The Death penalty is the justice systems appropriate answer to injustice and the methods employed are not inhumane. Murder is considered a willful depravation of the victim’s, ‘right to life’, so the criminal’s, ‘right to life’ being taken away is not an inappropriate response, even if it is severe. In other words, the punishment fits the crime. Considering the way some murder victims die; it could be said the criminal has an easier fate than their victim.
Killing an innocent person is a miscarriage of justice but no system is without flaws or mistakes. The possibility of a mistake is rare enough not to warrant the abolition of the death penalty all together. It is a calculated risk society is willing to take. Technological advancement of forensic science and DNA collection has helped prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The justice system has become more humane in its methods of execution; from hanging to lethal injection. In some states the criminal is actually given the choice between two different options.
The most prevalent method used today is lethal injection; with this method the inmate is unconscious when death occurs. The death sentence is not cruel or unusual punishment. (Hartley, Pg. 215) Capitol punishment stands as the ultimate warning to a person on the verge of committing pre meditated murder. Man has an instinctual fear of death and will go to extreme measures to avoid it. Throughout history when the states apply the death penalty, crimes rates go down. (Petrunik, Pg196). The threat of death would be more effective as a deterrent if we carried it out swiftly and consistently.
After a criminal is sentenced to death they will usually live another decade on death row; some even as long as twenty years. (Petrunik, Pg. 147). Inmates who have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole need to have a deterrent for the sake of fellow inmates and prison staff. There would be nothing to stop them from committing further acts of violence. The death penalty provides victims loved ones a certainty that the person who has wronged them will never have the opportunity to reoffend.
One role of law is to forestall suffering; this is achieved with the implementation of death penalty. Victims loved ones don’t have to ponder the life of the inmate, they don’t have to wonder if they are able to find joy happiness or peace behind bars. Most death row inmates are allowed television and an hour or so outside where they can socialize with other inmates, phone access, snacks paid for by family members. No grieving family should have to deal with the knowledge that while they suffer the inmate is having even a moment of joy or comfort. The death penalty is not revenge it is justice served.