Capital Punishment

After centuries of nearly universal implementation, the death penalty
remains a deeply debated political issue. While one execution takes place, other
murders occur, and the question still stands: Will the death penalty safeguard
society and deter murder, or will it not? The death penalty cannot be considered
a proper economical and moral means of punishment to deter those who might
commit capital offenses, or can it?

In the past, capital punishment horrified people, which deterred them
from committing crime. In England, the country from which the United States
adopted the death penalty, the death penalty was imposed for a rather large
number of offenses in an effort to discourage people from committing crimes.
Methods of inflicting the death penalty have ranged "From stoning in biblical
times, crucifixion under the Romans, beheading in France, to those used in the
United States today: hanging, electrocution, gas chamber, firing squad, and
lethal injection"(Bedau 124). There were drastic penalties for such serious
crimes as homicide. Execution was a suitable punishment for those times. Today,
though, the law is not as strict. This leads potential criminals not to fear the
death penalty because government today uses more "humane" methods of execution,
rather than the brutal punishment that history portrayed.

People who oppose the death penalty say that "there is no evidence that
the murder rate fluctuates according to the frequency with which the death
penalty is used" (Masur 153). It is more likely that the convict would be
paroled instead of being executed because of the present practice of allowing
unlimited appeals. Convicted criminals are not exposed to cruel punishment, but
rather given a long waiting period. If the criminal is put to death, it is
usually done as mercifully as possible.

One problem with the death penalty, presently, is that crime is not
decreasing, but rather increasing. If capital punishment is supposed to deter
crimes such as murder, it is not serving its purpose. Even philosophers, such as
Beccaria, Voltaire, and Bentham of the Enlightenment Period, argued that "the
death penalty was needlessly cruel, overrated as a deterent, and occasionally
imposed in fatal error" (Fogelson 89).

Another problem with the death penalty is the enormous amount of money
being spent on implementation. It costs taxpayers millions of dollars more to
execute a criminal than to lock him up for life. The number of prisoners on
death row has been steadily increasing and will soon meet all time highs. This
fact brings up the question of economic feasibility of the implementation, as
well as the question of weather the death penalty is actually an effective
deterrent to crime.

Currently, Texas leads the nation in both death row population and in
the number of executions. Texas has 351 condemned men and 4 women awaiting
sentence, and has had 46 executions since 1977. These prisoners spent an average
of eight years on death row and cost Texans an average of 2.3 million dollars
per case ("Execution" B8). The legal process a condemned prisoner goes through
is very lengthy and costly.

A person is only given the death penalty for certain crimes in Texas. A
death sentence is handed down if a person is convicted of the murder of a police
officer or fireman, murder during certain felonies, murder for pay or reward,
multiple murders, or murder during prison escape. Once a criminal has been
sentenced, he or she can appeal the decision.

In addition to the courts appeals, the cost of an average of $180,000
per case, the $150,000 prison cost also escalates the economic burden to the
state. This cost does not include the $21,000 execution cost or the $19,500
needed for extra security (Van den Haag 123). To have a death row prisoner means
that the state must provide police, fire, and public safety protection. They
also require special housing units, extra guards, food, and around-the-clock
security (Van den Haag 123).

To cut down costs, several alternatives to the death penalty have been
discussed by public officials. One alternative is to sentence criminals to life
imprison without possibility of parole instead of execution. Although this plan
would save millions of dollars, it would create problems in the prison system.
The end result would be killing each other and killing prison guards without the
threat of serious consequences ("Execution" B8).

In the following interview with the U.S. Attorney, Demetrius Bevins'
aide, some interesting responses were made:

Q: What do you think about the death penalty?

A: Depending on the circumstances of the crime, on some criminals it should
be enforced. On others, they should just get life in prison.

Q: What do you think is the best method of execution?

A: I think the best method