Every year many inmates are regularly and unjustifiably murdered by state governments. While these governments hold the belief that murder is wrong, they justify capital punishment as a clean and humane way to die. Although many states consider capital punishment justice, capital punishment clearly violates moral and ethical principals.
The death penalty teaches and condones revenge. It is believed that man has a tendency to return evil with evil, in other words to act with revenge. Capital punishment creates a contradiction when it demonstrates that revenge is right for the improvement of society, but wrong for the individual. This message of contradiction is putting the question in people’s minds on whether revenge is right for society or not. If a criminal believes that revenge is right because he sees society sanctioning it then what is to stop him from committing a heinous crime such as murder?
Man has a natural instinct to be afraid of violence this is strengthened by his own conscience. Execution diminishes this fear of violence and weakens one’s conscience towards murder. It seems that our society’s “conscience” has already been weakened by the media with violent TV shows and movies glorifying murder. The government is contributing to the moral deterioration by using violence, such as capital punishment.
If the entire point of capital punishment is to attempt to stop criminals from committing crimes by using the executed as an example to others, then the entire purpose is completely defeated. Sentencing someone to death can cause some members of society to have sympathy for the criminal. The criminal deserves punishment, not the sympathy of the public. It seems to be obvious the primary reasons for the death penalty is having the opposite effect on the public. Still the government continues to use capital punishment and some parts of society condone it.
Not only is the death penalty wrong in itself, it is also an unfair and corrupt system. There have been many studies pertaining to race, sex, and income bracket. Each aspect proved the death penalty is bias towards one way or the other. Between 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated, to 1991 there were 144 executions. Of these executions, not one white person was executed for killing a black person. Also in 86% of these 144 cases the victims were white, yet half of all murder victims in the US are black. During the same time period more than 90% of the 2,400 men and women on death row could not hire an attorney to represent them because of their financial situation. Also men are more likely to be put on death row than women. In the 1800’s women were convicted of about 14% of all homicides. Only about one percent of death row inmates are women.
Perhaps the argument for capital punishment was said best by the 18th century German philosopher Immanul Kant. His argument is that if the criminal is truly sorry and repentant for his crime, than life in prison is over punishing the criminal because of the guilt they would have to live with. Kant also adds that if a criminal is truly sorry for what he has done he will be willing to accept his punishment and recognize that he deserves to die for what he has done. The criminal who is unrepentant for his crime will spend the rest of his life in prison with some sort of satisfaction for his actions, which he is in no way sorry for. Kant also feels that the death penalty is a just punishment for someone who obviously values his own life over doing the right thing.
In his argument Kant oversimplifies the matter of the death penalty. In reality it is much more likely for the criminal to fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Even if a criminal is truly repentant for what he has done, who is to say if he will want to die for his sins. Maybe he will find forgiveness in God and will want to spend the rest of his life in prison helping others find the same forgiveness. Unless there is something mentally wrong with the unrepentant criminal, in which case he deserves medical treatment, not death, he will probably have some feelings of doubt