Capital Punishment and the Death Penalty

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, has been a form of retribution for serious crimes for centuries and this specific method of penalising criminals for their offences has caused uproar and sparked uncountable debates since its origin. In its simplest form, capital punishment is defined as the legally authorised killing of someone as punishment for a crime. Although majority of nations are against the idea of punishing someone as a consequence for criminal activity, the death penalty is still present in a limited number of countries; as of now, only 22 countries, inclusive of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States of America, still use the death penalty as a form of punishment for crimes such as drug smuggling, treason, and espionage. Many people tend to disagree with the enforcement of capital punishment in modern society and I personally believe that the abolition of the death penalty is essential.

The general purpose of capital punishment is to prevent further crimes from occurring and to discourage criminal activity however, the death penalty doesn’t have a deterrent factor and doesn’t decrease crime. Statistics have shown that countries with the death penalty do not have lower homicide rates. As shown in the graph, the homicide rate of certain countries without capital punishment, such as France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand (just to name a few), is lower than that of countries with the enforcement of the death penalty, like USA, Zimbawe, Iran and Iraq. This is proof of the fact that capital punishment does not necessarily reduce crime, homicide in this particular case, and hence is ineffective and should, therefore, be abolished. Many criminals don’t get caught, most criminals don’t receive the death penalty, and those who do are typically on death row for a long time, often at least a decade and sometimes more, so would-be criminals don’t typically make a connection between their crime and capital punishment. It is not conclusive that the death penalty has any deterrent effect on crime, including murder.

Graph Showing the Homicide Rate of Countries Around the World
Graph Showing the Homicide Rate of Countries Around the World

One of the biggest flaws of the death penalty is that it is not infallible and the execution of innocent people is highly common due to mistakes and errors in the justice system. Witnesses, prosecutors and jurors can all make mistakes and when this is coupled with flaws in the system, it is inevitable that innocent people will be convicted of crimes. When this is placed in conjunction with capital punishment, an act that is completely irreversible, the death of a falsely accused is one that cannot be undone. Amnesty International, a non-profit organisation that focuses on human rights has made a statement on the accuracy of the death penalty; The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.

Furthermore, apart from Amnesty’s statement, there is further evidence suggesting that the execution of innocent people is possible. In the USA, 130 people sentenced to death have been found innocent since 1973 and released from death row, and had these people not been released prior to their execution, the result would have been devastating. The continuous threat of capital punishment makes the ordeal of those wrongly convicted particularly horrible.

Capital punishment is unethical, barbaric, inhumane and ineffective in terms of being a deterrent of crime. For centuries, countries have practiced the act of killing someone as a consequence for criminal activity but as statistics and past occurrences have shown, the death penalty is not always fallible or successful in achieving its goals. The death of people for criminal behaviour has gone on for long enough and an end must be put to this monstrous form of punishment.


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