Is Capital Punishment the Answer? An Analysis of the Deterring Impact of the Death Penalty on Crime Rates

The death penalty has been abolished in most countries around the world, with the practice only being legal in 53 countries of the 195 sovereign states of the world. These countries are generally found in the Middle East and Africa, as well as the USA. However, extensive coverage of heinous crimes such as the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder case that was dubbed the Nirbhaya case, the George Floyd case and many others have raised a debate as to whether the death penalty should be reintroduced to deter violent criminals.

While researching this article, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of concrete evidence to support the perception that capital punishment serves any sort of deterrent, however. In fact, most violent crimes are committed in countries like India, Pakistan and the USA, where the death penalty is actually enforced. Why is this? There have been many theories floating around, but the common consensus is that most murders and rapes are spur-of-the-moment crimes that are committed by people under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, mentally-ill people, or simply by psychopaths that have no thought to the possible consequences of their actions. It may even be that some people commit these crimes in the hopes of getting caught and becoming infamous.

Don’t Murderers Deserve to Die?

That’s a very tough question that is beyond the scope of any one person to decide. While most people’s initial reaction to a violent crime is to seek vengeance and retribution, it is also true that killing a murderer will not bring back the victims. So, what is the alternative? Most countries that have abolished the death penalty use life imprisonment as a means to separating criminals from the general populace, which is a more humane solution, but does carry its own share of problems, such as there being too few prisons to house the criminal population in certain countries.

Don’t the Families of the Victims Deserve Retribution?

That is a moral dilemma that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. But ask yourself this – what if the person accused of committing the crime is actually innocent? Would we then call to have the judge who sanctioned the punishment, the executioner who carried out the sentence and the various law enforcement agents who carried out the investigation executed as well? We must also consider that the people who get sentenced to capital punishment are the ones who ironically do not have the ‘capital’ to fight the case. Innumerable studies have shown serious racial disparities in the imposition of the death penalty. People who kill whites are far more likely to receive a death sentence than those whose victims were not white, and blacks who kill whites have the greatest chance of receiving a death sentence.

Aren’t there Any Safeguards Against Innocent People Being Sentenced to Death?

According to several studies in the USA, over 350 people were sentenced to capital punishment in the last century where it was later proved that the convict had in fact not committed the crime. Of those, 25 were wrongfully executed and many more spent decades behind bars. It’s a sad fact that the judicial system is not infallible since it is run by human beings, who are fallible. Executions of innocent persons occur.

But Only the Worst Criminals Get the Death Sentence

You would think so, but that is sadly not the case. Only a minute percentage of inmates on death row are convicted of unusually violent crimes. More often than not, the crimes committed by death row inmates are indistinguishable from those committed by those serving normal prison sentences, such as manslaughter or homicide in the course of an armed robbery. Getting the death penalty is akin to a lottery, one that is determined not by the severity of the crime, but largely by the race, sex, and economic class of the prisoner and victim; the quality of defence counsel and other vagaries in the legal process.

So, what do you think? Are you a proponent for capital punishment, or do you feel that it is a barbaric practise that has no place in a civilized country’s judiciary system? Share your views in the comments below!

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