Death Penalty: Humane or Inhumane?

The Death Penalty: Humane or Inhumane? Felicia A. Becca Soc. 101: Introduction to Sociology Professor Allen Lipscomb September 7, 2009 In the United States the death penalty has outlived its usefulness. Taking another person’s life because of a crime that has been committed leaves our society no better off once the sentence has been carried out. There needs to be a deterrent before the crime is committed. If the death penalty is so effective, then why are there still serious crimes against humanity being committed? As Americans we consider our nation to be civil; where is the civility in taking another human life?

This paper shall discuss whether or not the death penalty has outlived it’s usefulness in the United States. The moral aspect of whether government has the right to punish people, who have committed a heinous crime by putting them to death, has been of great concern to philosophers and theologians. Those that support the death penalty continuously disagree with those who oppose it. At the center of this debate is the moral dilemma of How can the law punish its citizens for the killing of another fellow citizen, and then turn and violate its own rule of law by executing its convicted citizens.

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In order for a rule of law to be fair and equitable, it must be adhered to by both the state and its citizens. This nation cannot be above the law; just as no individual citizen is above the law. If the laws of the land are written to be fair and equitable to all, including both the state and its citizenry, then the law has to be applied fairly and equitable to all. And if this is basis for all moral and just laws, recognized by the state and its citizenry, then how can we morally justify this nation to kill its citizenry and then punish the citizenry for carrying out the same act practiced and sanctioned by this nation?

Can this nation sow injustice and reap justice? Can our nation practice capital punishment in the court house, a euphemism for murder, and not reap the disdain of its citizenry for its hypocrisy in the streets? Should this nation admonish, “Thou shalt not kill”, and then ignore its own admonition? No, of course not, our nation should practice what it preaches from the court house, “Thou shalt not kill”, practice what it has written in its statues, ”Murder is wrong, no matter who commits its”, and practice exemplarily what it demands of its citizens.

For our nation to do less than this is to become un-worthy of its citizens allegiance and respect. Capital punishment is not only morally indefensible and impractical, but research has demonstrated that it is both impractical and ineffective for deterring crime. So why do we insist on practicing such a hypocritical and heinous act as capital punishment when it diminishes the moral, spiritual, and national strength of our nation and its citizenry? “Measuring sentiment on the death penalty is not as easy a task as it might at first appear.

When opinion polls ask respondents whether they support the death penalty, often no alternative punishments are given, and respondents are left to themselves to ponder what might happen if a particular inmate were not executed. Often respondents erroneously believe that absent execution, offenders will be released to the community after serving a short prison sentence. Even the most ardent death penalty abolitionists might support capital punishment if the alternative was to have dangerous murderers quickly released from prison.

When respondents are asked how they feel about the death penalty given an alternative of life without parole, support decreases significantly. In 1991, Gallup found that 76% of Americans supported the death penalty, but that support would drop to 53% if life imprisonment without parole were available as an alternative. ”(Journal of law and criminology) For nearly a century the juvenile courts have existed to shield the majority of juvenile offenders from the full weight of criminal law and to protect their entitled special rights and immunities?

The U. S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for minors on March 1, 2005. Prior to this ruling, minors were subject to the death penalty in a majority of states where the death penalty is practiced. This has given those who oppose the death penalty hope that young offenders who have limited capacity for judgment will be spared the death penalty when they commit a crime that they cannot comprehend or understand. In both decisions the Court sought to bring current state practice in line with “evolving standards of decency. Some experts believe the recent rulings have bolstered the legal basis for protecting juveniles (Malone, Amnesty Magazine, 2007). If a juvenile commits a crime, that by law requires the death penalty, then there should be particular circumstances to determine whether or not the death penalty should apply. Instead of the death penalty being a deterrent for crime, it appears to me to be an enhancement for murder. Humanity is defined by Webster as the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.

If we as a society take these three words and apply them daily to our lives and have compassion for our fellowman; then I am sure that in the near future there will be an intelligent solution for eliminating capital punishment. There are other methods to seek justice other than sentencing an offender to death. The concept of human dignity is the essential belief on which our laws of this nation are based. We can find another way to punish criminals in this great nation.

References Aimes, L. (2009, March, 31). The Death Penalty: guilty or innocent? Message posted to Bukisa, archived at http://www. bukisa. com/articles/54381_ the-death-penalty-guilty-or-innocent Malone, D. (n. d). Aftershocks. Amnesty Magazine. Retrieved on September 4, 2009, from http://www. amnesty. usa. org/amnesty-magazine/amnesty-magazine-aftershocks/pages. do? id=1105013 Schaefer, R. T. (2009). Sociology: a brief introduction. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill


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