The question of the death penalty has been relevant in varying degrees throughout the existence the States. However, one should not overestimate its importance in the modern world and the USA context, which is typical for many politicians, legislators, and scientists. Along the way, it will be clear why this issue does not really play a big role. It is usually credited to, today’s conditions when it is not necessary to have lawmakers question whether to execute or not to execute an individual, for example, theft or rape. Now, the dispute is only whether someone should be executed for the most serious crimes or not executed at all. It should be admitted that discussion over death sentence must end with recognizing it as possible and punishment. Death punishment influences moral, religious, and lawful situation in society. Therefore, a detailed analysis of these sides should be highlighted in this work.
Aristotle once said, “Only then can we understand the essence of things, when you know their origin and development” (qtd. in McKeon 68). Therefore, it is necessary to look at the problem from a historical perspective.
Historically, the death penalty is evolved from the ancient custom of blood revenge that still existed in pre-state society and expressed in the formula ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. Then, not punishing the offender, not revenging the fallen, and not getting justice was considered a disgrace, a disgrace for the victim or his relatives (in case of death). With the advent of state, punitive functions gradually moved to a special state apparatus. The killing of the offender (the death penalty) became public and acquired the status of criminal punishment, executable on behalf of the government. However, the list of crimes subject to such punishment more extended (public, religious, and other crimes).
In the 20th century, the number of executions stipulated by the law reduced even more and they lost their terrifying appearance, their exorbitant cruelty. Kinds of death, which had been common in the Middle Ages, such as crucifixion, beheading, gallows, fire, burial alive, quartering, breaking on the wheel, drowning, impalement, cooked in boiling water and a few others were canceled.
Thus, it is easy to see that the death penalty has been an integral part of the development of any country. The question is whether it is necessary now. It is not possible to give a definite answer. This is a question that one cannot say a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the world. It should be considered separately for each state. In many countries, the death penalty is abolished, whereas in others, it is not.
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To understand the issue of the death penalty, one should consider the concept through a religious prism. Initially, the state was created specifically for the implementation of the death penalty, which is its necessary duty.
The state seems as a ‘third force’ that judges people. This can be seen in the Bible: “provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them … Let them judge the people at all times … “(Holy Bible, Exodus 18:21). Fear of punishment is a major deterrent to the spread of evil in this world.
Here are a few quotations from the Holy Scriptures that can relate with religious point of view in society. For example, “He who kills a beast shall make it good; and whoever kills a man shall be put to death” (Leviticus 24:21) or “… And if someone with a plan to slay his neighbor treacherously, even from my altar take him to death” (Exodus 22:14). Here is another example from the Bible: “If he smites him with an instrument of iron, so that he dies, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death” (Numbers 35:16). If in any civilized country the death penalty is abolished, it is obviously done so because there are no crimes that deserve it. In turn, it is simply the result of a fairly long historical period, when the death penalty was applied rigorously to the villains. For crimes against the same person, just punishment traditionally been relatively mild – and the world is now reaping the fruits of that.
In any case, the true aim of punishment is the protection of society and its citizens. Protection against criminals can be expressed in two ways – either their complete isolation or deprivation of their lives. Moreover, both it and the other measure can have correction of a convict. Psychologists say that the purpose correcting a convict is to put him back in normal society. To achieve that, one cannot deprive a person of freedom for more than 3-5 years. However, a murderer should be deprived of freedom for more than 5 years. The legislature should clearly define what should be seen in the punishment and what goals are achieved by it. If there is a category of incorrigible criminals, the death penalty, life imprisonment or long-term imprisonment are quite natural and logical, although not morally justified. There are no incorrigible criminals, but there is uncontrollable behavior. Therefore, the system of criminal sanctions is necessary to exclude life imprisonment and the death penalty. Then, the sentence is forced to restrict the rights and freedom of criminals, and penal laws will conform to the principles of humanism and democracy. Besides, one should not forget about the incurable criminals such as maniacs, perverts, etc.
Many opponents of the death penalty argue that it is inhumane. However, imprisonment for life, which is offered as an alternative to the death penalty by the overwhelming majority, cannot be called humane either.
Penalty opponents also say that neither the state nor the people have right to take a life under any pretext. After all, the law allows for the deprivation of life of man by a man. For example, in the case of self-defense, the offender is arrested and this arrest is essentially the implementation of the informal capital punishment. However, nothing is said about wars, as there are generally no penalties for killing the enemy, who is often not a criminal.
A.Pierrepoint, a former executioner from the UK, once said, “The fruit of my experience has a bitter taste: I believe that the death penalty has no effect. It`s only revenge” (45). Radelet points out that “deterrence question is quite controversial among lay on public” (7). This opinion is confirmed by the statistics, and observations made by the United Nations during 80 years of the 20th century. Besides, the crime rate does not depend on the presence or absence of the death penalty, which is shown in the comparative analysis of statistics from different countries (or at least the states of the USA) (Bedau 78).
Right will not increase the effectiveness of the system of penalties (although this is important too), but to try to prevent crime. Besides, the root of crime is in the social conditions, in the social environment. People are not born criminals, but they can become them because of their surroundings. It is necessary to eradicate poverty, ignorance, the actual legal inequality and other factors that give rise to the offense.
The death penalty is certainly a constraint. From this point of view, it can be regarded as a means of protecting society. It is believed that punishment has only one purpose – the prevention of crime, which is possible in the form of physical containment (for criminals) or mental combating crime (for other members of society). However, society is not yet ready to give due consideration to that fact since it has not formed a common morality and national identity in view of the uncertainty in the country, the people and of itself. Neither society nor the country is ready yet.
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However, it should be recognized that a life sentence is a much better death. First of all, the humanists might be content with a life sentence. Second, the offender is able to bring the benefit to society, performing a variety of work for free, or in favor of the state, or in favor of the victim, or both in one, and in this one. If the government had invented such a program and yet somehow tried to find the money for it, it is possible that this program would pay for itself (in both economic and socio-political terms).
Death sentence as punishment reflects on mental and religious side of society. Its affection touches humanity as well as modern way of solving problems. Therefore, it should be noted once again that no matter how inhumane the death penalty may seem, its abolition is feasible. History shows that such a punishment is needed rather than not. Having this type of punishment in its arsenal, the state can use it very rarely, replacing it with life imprisonment; but there are cases when any humanist and almost any opponent of penalty can that this man is not fit to live. As it has been said, it is not so much a punishment (crimes will not go anywhere but they may be curbed somehow), but it is a means of addressing the sources of evil, correcting the terrible situation that has developed in American society.