The death penalty is a necessary evil that has a positive effect on society
today. It is an effective deterent of crime as well as a safeguard for
society. It also helps to keep order in our cities. Furthermore, I fell it
is a just and effective punishment for those who have commited crimes heinous
enough to deserve death.
The death penalty is not a new idea in our world. Its origins date back over
3,700 years to the Babylonian civilization, where it was prescribed for a
variety of crimes. (Capital Punishment p.10). It was also greatly used in the
Greek and Roman empires. It continued into England during the Middle Ages,
and then to the American colonies where it exists still today. In the
colonies, death was a prescribed punishment for crimes such as: murder, rape,
arson, and perjury. In America today, the main crime deserving death is
obviously murder. (Capital Punishment p.11-15).
Does the death penalty truly deter crimes and murder? This question is at
the heart of a heated political controversy over the punishment. Opposers to
the death penalty say no because of the large amount of people on death row
today. They also say that states that have the death penalty have a higher
crime rate than those that do not, and therefore it is not effective and
somewhat contributes to the problem. ( I
must point out though that states that have the death penalty are usually
highly urbanized areas that most likely will have high crime rates because of
the large population. Rather, in rural states there is no need for the death
penalty because the population is most likely low and scattered throughout the
region. States that practice capital punishment do so because of high crime
rates, not vice versa. ( Abolitionists
also state that the death penalty is a racist punishment, and only given to
African Americans. In the May 11, 1998 issue of JET magazine it stated that
over 50% of all blacks favor the death penalty. (JET Magazine). According to
a U.S. Dept. Of Justice press release on December 13, 1998, ^”those executed
were all males: 45 whites, 27 blacks, 1 Asian, and 1 American Indian. Five
were hispanics...At the end of last year, 34 states and the federal prison
system held 3,335 men and women (44 females) on death row: 1876 whites, 1406
blacks, 28 American Indians, 17 Asians, and 8 of other races. There were 283
Hispanic prisoners...^‘ (
Also a 1985 University of North Carolina study by economist Stephen K. Layson
states that, ^”every execution of a murderer deters, on average, 18 murders^‘
( This proves that without the death
penalty our murder rate would be immense. For example in Utah on June 10,
1988 Arthur Gary Bishop was executed for sodomizing and then killing a group
of young boys. In the first half of the year (January-June) there were 26
murders in Utah. In the second half (July-December) there were only 21
murders, an almost 20% drop in the murder rate.
The sanctity of human life is at the heart of a huge philosophical and
spiritual debate over the death penalty. Many Catholics believe that all
people^“s lives are sacred and killing them only adds to the fire. They say
that two wrongs don^“t make a right, and that God and the bible states that
^”thou shall not^‘(Exodus: 10 Commandments) kill. (Survey done of 50 Catholics).
Professor Ernest van den Haag said that ^”All religions that I^“m aware of feel
that human life is sacred and that its sacredness must be enforced by
depriving of life anyone who deprives another person of life.^‘ (Capital
Punishment p.31). Many christians say that all life is holy because it was
given to us by God and it is not up to us to decide if a person should die.
According to Pope Pius XII: ^”When it is a question of the execution of a man
condemned to death the State does not dispose of the individual^“s right to
live. It is then reserved to public power to deprive the condemned of the
benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already he has dispossessed
himself of the right to live.^‘(The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints p.70).
This forcefully disproves any and all statements of christians to claim that
the death penalty is morally wrong to the church. Also many people believe
that by not executing a victim^“s murderer, one is putting higher value on the
murderer^“s life than on the victim. (Survey of 50 Catholics) John Stuart Mill
says in his 1868 address