The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is a sanction imposed by the government as a punishment for specific crimes. Looking at all the advancements the world has achieved, especially with respect to the amendments and the recently issued modern laws, it is surprising how some countries still implement the death penalty instead of giving a greater importance to humans’ dignity and right to life.
According to a report published by Amnesty International in 2016, more than half of the countries of the world have nullified the death penalty and replaced it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole for many considerations. Some of the most important reasons to opt for a life sentence are the irreversibility of the punishment – in case the prisoner is wrongly accused, the high costs incurred, and the ineffectiveness of capital punishment in lowering crime rates. Nonetheless, countries like Lebanon, the U.S., India, and Japan still support the death penalty and use it as a means to punish criminals and deter crimes.
As a start, studies have proved that the death penalty doesn’t actually decrease the rates of crimes. The National Research Council (2012) has concluded that the studies that show the death penalty as influencing the crime rates “were fundamentally flawed”. Also, according to Amnesty International (2014), states that don’t apply the capital punishment have lower rates of crimes compared to the states that apply it. To add, the crime rates in the states that have nullified capital punishment, like in Canada, have not changed when compared to rates before its abolishment. Hence, there’s no link between the death penalty and the rates of crimes.
Those who support the death penalty argue that the execution of criminals is less costly than keeping them alive and paying expenses on their food, clothing, etc. However, this argument is flawed because many recent studies have proved the contrary. According to the Office of Research (2004) in Tennessee, capital punishment cases cost roughly 48% more than the cases of life imprisonment. Death penalty is very costly because of the fees paid to the attorneys, judges, experts, prosecutors, and investigators. Also, there are additional costs resulting from appointing a special committee to study the case and analyze the evidence in order to make sure that the convict is really guilty of the crime. Therefore, instead of applying the death penalty and spending a lot of money that can be invested in other sources such as rehabilitating the prisoners, it is be better to use an alternative sanction.
Furthermore, it is essential to note that as long as the offender is punished and prevented from committing further crimes through life imprisonment, the death penalty should no longer be deemed as necessary. One aspect that ought to be emphasized before supporting capital punishment is that a number of factors that can drive a person to commit crimes, particularly if that individual’s state or government do not provide them with safety and security, as well as the basic necessities to lead a dignified life, such as food, shelter, access to education, healthcare, and job opportunities. Accordingly, the state should be held partly accountable in case it fails to provide its people with a decent living that would later drive them towards criminal activities. For example, assume a man attempts to rob a shop, a fight takes place between the man and the shop owner, and the man fires at the owner, killing him. Evidently, the man has committed a murder and deserves to be put away in prison. Nonetheless, one ought to consider the factors leading the man to want to rob the shop in the first place. Does the man have a stable job? Does his salary allow him to pay his bills? Is the government taking care of his children’s tuition fees? Is he provided with medical insurance or access to proper healthcare? Even though the man is unquestionably guilty, it is only fair to state that people often commit crimes to ensure their own survival. Should their means to livelihood be secured and provided, people would not seek illegal acts as frequently to sustain their living. Therefore, it would be more reasonable that the state would address and tackle the causes leading to committing crimes than to direct its efforts and resources to deal with what happens after the crime is committed.
By the end of 2017, 106 countries have completely abolished the death penalty, and 19 American states have recently annulled it. This percentage is expected to rise in future; however, a greater effort must be made in this regard. The state authorities that insist on executing people, dismissing the studies done by competent institutions and the reports of international humanitarian organizations, commit an intentional murder under void legal cover. In short, if we are to live in a more progressive and just world, the death penalty must be abolished.
- Aya Sahmarani