The issue of capital punishment has always been a divisive topic in both social discussion agenda and philosophy in general. Today, the problem has been linked to a new emerging point of contention, prison abolition, and it is essential to understand how the two are connected. Historically, capital punishment was considered the main deterrent for crimes among the population, but whether or not a criminal got hanged or executed by another method was pretty arbitrary. Thus, the first argument against the death penalty stems from the historical issue that those who got it did not always deserve it, while those who deserved it did not always get it (Philosophy Tube, 2021). Besides, even though the death penalty was created as a way of preventing severe crimes from occurring, it did not help, as evidenced by numerous cases of violent serial killers throughout history. An argument in support of capital punishment is that it is the only solution, the ‘last resort’ for criminals who kill others in cold blood without remorse for what they had done, and they deserve to die, which aligns with retributivism.
The arguments against capital punishment are more convincing because the justice system has been flawed historically, and crimes, including murder, vary in culpability, which makes it hard to determine which warrant execution and which do not. While crimes can differ from one case to another, capital punishment does not, and it is impossible to introduce a classification system that will have varying degrees of executing criminals. Therefore, once one starts to ‘chip away’ at the death penalty, it becomes harder to justify its existence within the criminal justice system altogether, especially since it does not prevent crimes from occurring.
Philosophy Tube. (2021). Capital punishment (& prison abolition) [Video]. YouTube.