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The Deterrent Effects of the Death Penalty: Tangible or Mythical - Research Paper Example

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The knowledge that a certain act would lead to death is supposed to scare people from crime and act as a deterrent. The reality, however, is far from the truth. The deterrent effects of the death penalty are not as tangible and beneficial as purported. This essay explains why through argumentative reasoning, case studies and statistics…
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The Deterrent Effects of the Death Penalty: Tangible or Mythical
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Download file to see previous pages Capital punishment has existed throughout history. Common methods of executing criminals in the past included; crucifixion, drowning, flaying and beheading. The method of execution of traitors in England up to the 19th century was a painful and gory mixture known as hanging, drawing and quartering. In these times, executions were often a public spectacle (Melusky & Pesto, p. 2). The public was invited to witness the often excruciatingly painful death of the criminal. No mercy was shown to the condemned, and no measures taken to ease the brutality of the executions. The brutality, publicity and frequency of executions were intentional and may have served as deterrents, if only by keeping the populace in fear.
The idea of executing people in a humane way began to take root in the 17th century. The guillotine, now a symbol of blood, terror and barbarism, was introduced as a merciful way of swiftly and painlessly dispatching its victims. There have been numerous efforts since to make executions less painful (Kronnenwetter, p. 105). The electric chair was introduced as a substitute to hanging, though the smell of burning flesh and the victims’ expressions of pain dismissed notions of it as painless (Melusky & Pesto, p. 3). Gassing and lethal injections are the currently accepted “humane” execution methods, though evidence from some executions indicates that victims do not drift gently into death as intended.
The legal system in modern times, unlike that of past centuries, is wary of handing down death sentences left, right and center. By the time a death sentence is proclaimed, years may have passed since the crime was committed, erasing it from the public’s collective conscious. The carrying out of the sentence is not a public act, either, but mostly a private and secretive affair. Executions in modern times are not the horrific, scary events that they were in the past. With all these concerns about humaneness in executions and the long, drawn-out trials, does capital punishment still act as a deterrent? Are people afraid of committing horrible murders if the punishment that awaits them is a drug-induced, painless death? These are some of the arguments against the effectiveness of the death sentence as a deterrent. Proofs There are several arguments against the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent. A common argument of proponents of the death penalty is that people who commit some heinous crimes such as serial murder and child murders do not deserve to live. The idea here is that the death of the killer is a form of reparation to the deceased and their families. By depriving them of their lives, they lose what they deprived others of. This just desert, “eye for an eye” approach to justice does not consider rehabilitation as a possibility. Beccaria, in his 1764 treatise, On Crimes and Punishment, gives timeless arguments against this line of reasoning. For one, capital punishment deprives the criminal of an opportunity to suffer in shame and public condemnation for their acts. This ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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