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Capital Punishment - Essay Example

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Punishment for crimes which are deemed cruel and unusual is forbidden by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment is often invoked when discussing the legal merits of the death penalty…
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Capital Punishment
Punishment for crimes which are deemed cruel and unusual is forbidden by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment is often invoked when discussing the legal merits of the death penalty. The use of the death penalty is considered by some to be the most obvious and heinous example of cruel and unusual punishment. Those opposed to capital punishment do not believe that the government should be vested with the power to put any of its citizens to death. Opponents also maintain that the practice is racially biased, overtly costly and does not achieve the intended outcome. Proponents believe it to be neither cruel nor unusual, on the contrary, they think it just and fair. The ‘eye for an eye’ group not only accepts but vocally insists that the death penalty be continued.
The Supreme Court has on several occasions dealt with judging the merits of the death penalty and whether or not it is interpreted by the Constitution as punishment which is cruel and unusual. The Court has always ruled the terminology of the Eighth Amendment does not exclude the implementation of death as punishment. The Constitution is a malleable document, however. The interpretation of the Eighth Amendment has evolved somewhat throughout the years and the Court could possibly reverse this point of view sometime in the future as result of changing societal values. For example, the whipping of offenders was commonplace until the late Eighteenth Century. This practice came to be considered inappropriate because society’s opinion changed to include it as a ‘cruel’ punishment. With respect to capital punishment, though, “the Court has maintained that there remains broad public support for the death penalty as a remedy for the most serious of crimes” (Mott, 2004).
Capital punishment does not deter crime, which statistics reprove. In addition, if offenses that caused ‘no harm’ to others were decriminalized, such as gambling, prostitution and drug possession, the inmate population would decrease by about half. This would allow for the violent offenders to serve their entire sentence without having to be paroled early because of over-crowding. Thus, society would be properly protected. Opponents of the death penalty also deny that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime because of the nature of the reasons people commit homicide. People cannot conceive their own demise therefore cannot contemplate or appreciate the consequences. In addition, these crimes are usually committed as a result of impulsive actions and not carefully considered beforehand. Therefore, “the deterrent case has no validity” (Johnson, 1968). If the person committing the murder does contemplate the consequences, they may kill not only the victim but any witnesses as well rather than risk being caught. Again, the opponents view has been substantiated. Many studies have been performed to determine if the death penalty is indeed deterrence. These studies have unanimously demonstrated that the death penalty does not deter crime.
The societies in European countries have already formed the opinion that the death penalty is both ‘cruel’ and ‘unusual’ punishment that remains largely ineffectual. Most European citizens enjoy cradle to grave health care and are much less likely to be incarcerated than those in the U.S. Though there is much evidence to the contrary, American society is growing more compassionate through time. The 1964 Civil Rights Act is but one example of this. One day, it will be a compassionate society that does not use the emotion of revenge to decide its laws and the death penalty will go the way of the Salem witch trials, a barbaric punishment of the distant past.
Works Cited
Johnson, E.H. Crime, Correction, and Society. Illinois: The Dorsey Press, (1968).
Mott. Jonathan. “Is the Death Penalty Constitutional?” This Nation. (March 2000). October 8, 2007 Read More
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