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Prison or Death?

June 13, 2011

In the past 100 years the death penalty has changed greatly in England. Europe does not accept it now as a capital punishment whereas 35 out of 50 states in America still enforce it. Scientists strove to fine and implement a new way to carry out the death penalty as hanging was often seen as inhumane and prolonged suffering. The new modern equivalent to this is a lethal injections which can kill people almost instantly. The western world has endorsed this whilst in the East methods such as hanging and stoning are still used.

There are many views for and against the death penalty, in a world that seems to favour the criminal over the victim sometimes is it important to be more though on crime but is the death penalty too far?

The functionalist argument for this is that the death penalty acts as a deterrence and incapacitation, therefore protecting society. They believe that there is a myth of innocent people being sent to death in the modern age because there is so much safeguarding and new technology to prove that it is beyond reasonable doubt that somebody committed the crime. Emile Durkeim suggests that the death penalty acts as a safety valve because it shows other people not to make those mistakes.

Functionalists also point out that pregnant, new mothers and the insane cannot be put to death, so in famous cases like Derek Bentley, the outcome would not have been the same if it was tried today.

In America, 78% of Republicans favour the death penalty as well as 52% of Democrats. Since 1997 President Obama has changed his stance on the death penalty; it should now be used for mass murder, rape and the murder of a child, in other words – the most heinous crimes. The main problem with this is who gets to say which crimes are the worst as in a world make up of politicians, judges and executives, it is a given that there will be a range of different opinions.

It is very difficult to put a price on a life however, in England it costs around £412 per inmate to keep someone in a standard prison whereas, it would cost £46 for a lethal injection all which comes from the tax payers money. People are living longer, consequently putting more strain on the state and the prison services which are constantly complaining of overcrowding and poor conditions. When considering the economical value, it seems insignificant however,  in a world valued at its monetary value it is certainly something which needs to be considered.

Since the death penalty was officially imposed in England, it is clear to say that public opinion has changed greatly. More and more people think tougher punishments are needed for crime and over half of the population would not oppose a pedophile or child molester being sentenced to death. Since the Blair years everyone has wanted to seem ‘tough on crime’ with an element of retribution and closure for the victims families and society thrown in for good measure.

Now as with anything that affects politics and life, the religious aspect has to be considered. Naturally, most religions are against murder, but is the death penalty the same thing? In hindsight, it is. The killing of another with intent. Genesis 9:6 – ‘whosoever sheds mans blood, by man may his blood be shed.’ This resorts back to the old saying of ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ but in todays society shouldn’t there be more civilised ways of sorting this?

Most criminals re-offend – fact.

Would the fear of death prevent this?

If someone has hatred for someone so deep, they wish to murder them, no matter the consequences, it is likely that they will kill them.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 15, 2011 6:59 am

    You raise some good points. Actually I don’t think either the death penalty or life in prison would work.

    The death penalty is a good deterent. The ultimate punishment to inflict on someone. But if I’m committing a crime worthy of the death penalty I might actually commit more crime and killing. After all my life is on the line here. Make sure all witnesses are killed, kill any cops who try to arrest me. If I die in the attempt so what. I’m going to die anyway. Might as well do it in a blaze of glory in a shootout with the cops. The death penalty may be a good deterent it may backfire with some crimminals.

    Life in prison puts a drain on resources. The government has to feed and bed this person for the rest of their life. In some people’s minds it might seem like a gift. Don’t have to work for your food or a place to stay. But on the other hand, rotting away in a prison is the downside.

    I think this a debate that will go on for a long time at least until we find a better way to punish people for these crimes and at the same time deter people from committing them in the first place.

    Thank you for a informative post that made me think about the question.

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