Capital punishment is the execution of offenders either through judicial hanging, shooting and firing, lethal injection, electrical chair, gas chamber, beheading, and many others not mentioned. Whichever method is used in applying capital punishment the issue will be whether there is justification for such kind of punishment. There many defenses for the acts and criticisms. The underlying discussion looks at the case for and against.
The most common arguments for capital punishment are based on the issues of natural justice.
Discouraging future offenders
It is argued that capital punishment is justified because it prevents the criminal from repeating his crime and stops crime by discouraging future offenders. When we are living in a society, we have a social contract that lives within the societal framework. Every person has the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness there is one should not take the life of another. “The right to belong to a community is not unconditional. The privilege of living and pursuing the good life in society is not absolute. It may be negated by behavior that undermines the nature of a moral community. The essential basis on which a community is built requires each citizen to honor the rightful claims of others. The utter and deliberate denial of life and opportunity to others forfeits one’s claim to continued membership in the community, whose standards have been so flagrantly violated. The preservation of moral community demands that the shattering of the foundation of its existence must be taken with utmost seriousness. The preciousness of life in a moral community must be so highly honored that those who do not honor the life of others make null and void their right to membership. Those who violate the personhood of others, especially if this is done persistently as a habit must pay the ultimate penalty. This punishment must be inflicted for the sake of maintaining the community whose foundation has been violated.”
Another argument for capital punishment is based on economic grounds. There is an argument that life imprisonment is expensive. Therefore, to save society from the unnecessary costs of maintaining criminals’ capital punishment should apply. This cannot be justified as most capital cases may be through errors.
Most arguments against capital punishment are based on flaws. Capital punishment per se is inhumane, contrary to principles of love, and undignified. The most common arguments against capital punishment as wrote:
- The possibility of error. Sometimes a person who might be put to death is innocent.
- There may be unfair administration. Capital punishment is inflicted disproportionately on the poor and minorities since some may not be able to afford a defense.
- Weakness of the argument from deterrence. The claim that the threat of capital punishment reduces violent crime is inconclusive, certainly not proven, extremely difficult to disprove, and morally suspect in any case.
- The length of stay on death row. If there were ever any validity to the deterrence argument, it is negated by the endless appeals, delays, technicalities, and retrials that keep persons condemned to death waiting for execution for years on end. One of the strongest arguments right now against capital punishment is that we are too incompetent to carry it out. That incompetence becomes another injustice.
- Mitigating circumstances. Persons who commit vicious crimes have often suffered from neglect, emotional trauma, violence, cruelty, abandonment, lack of love, and a host of destructive social conditions. These extenuating circumstances may have damaged their humanity to the point that it is unfair to hold them fully accountable for their wrongdoing. Corporate responsibility somehow has to be factored into some degree. No greater challenge to social wisdom exists than this’’.
- Apart from the arguments put forward above another case against capital punishments is based on the principles of human rights and religious beliefs on love. If love exists then there should be forgiveness and avoid capital punishment. An argument by Immanuel Kant justifying capital punishment based on vengeance is against human and religious love. He argued that every person is valuable and worthy of respect because of their ability to make rational and free choices. Thus murder, too, is worthy of respect and we should show him respect by treating him the same way he declares that people are to be treated. This argument can be used for a case against capital punishment.
We live in a society where we have formulated human rights laws that protect life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, and yet there is a practice of capital punishment. Capital punishment is immoral from point of natural justice and the same unjust to all. Some capital offenses are due to failures in society that lead people to violence leading to murder. Imagine the economic plunders of social malfunctions that make people impoverished and unable to put a meal on the table thus resorting to crime. It is ironic for a country with a constitution that defends human rights to exercise execution of any method, which is the brutality of greater measure than the offense.
Kenneth Cauthen. 1997 toward a New Modernism (Lanham, MD: University Press of America).
Kenneth Cauthen. 2007 Capital Punishment’ University Press of America.