Capital Punishment: Pros and Cons

The death penalty has been a debatable subject for many years. The people who support capital punishment base their arguments on its vengeance for victims and their family members. The need for vengeance is comprehensible, but it is anchored in the sentiments of victims and their families. The court is not the place where choices are meant to be rooted in immediate emotional satisfaction; justice should be impartial and based on evidence of the case (van Ginneken et al., 2018). This paper will explore the rights, the deterrence, and the blamelessness of the suspect. It will discuss all such issues as they apply to the inclusive benefit of stopping capital punishment. This research paper will assess and debate how unconstitutional capital punishment is and the extensive infringement of human rights. The reformative theory affirms that the rationale behind punishment ought to be reforming offenders through the practice of individualization. It is anchored in the humanistic principle that even when criminals commit offenses, they do not cease to be human beings. Justice necessitates people only to be punished for crimes they have committed, what they deserve, but this has been violated by the continuation of the death penalty.

Literature Review


Criminal offenses in the US are punishable, with some categorized as more severe than others. Capital punishment results in the government choosing to terminate the life of a person reliant on the severity of the crimes that they have committed. There are many questions regarding the benefits of either imprisonment or the death penalty. The review of the literature assesses and discusses deterrence, cost, the innocence of the accused, the benefits of stopping capital punishment, and the constitutionality of the death penalty, encompassing the violation of human rights.

Deterrence, Cost, and Innocence of the Accused

The most common and convincing argument against the death penalty is that it results in killing some innocent people attributable to mistakes and errors in the criminal justice system. Anderson et al. (2017) affirm that capital punishment is, therefore, not an effective practice that should be employed as deterrence to illegal activities irrespective of their severity. Jurors, prosecutors, judges, and witnesses are all subject to mistakes that could see the sentencing of an innocent person to the death penalty. Capital punishment legalizes an irreversible practice of cruelty by the state and eliminates the likelihood of reverting judgment after a later possible appeal. Since the death penalty is not the most effective deterrence approach against capital crimes, it should be abolished and replaced with other more lenient measures such as life imprisonment or lengthy incarceration terms.

In the United States, the death penalty has been expensive, resulting in the wastage of public funds. For instance, the expenditure of the conviction and sentencing of terrorists may be more than $13 million. New Jersey and New York states resorted to abolishing the death penalty out of factors such as the high cost. McFarland (2016) says that in the 32 states where capital punishment is still being practiced, the cost of the death penalty has become one of the most significant endeavors, way above life imprisonment.

Conviction of innocent people to capital punishment has in the past been reverted, leading to the release of people who had been wrongly condemned from death row. Nevertheless, the average period before exoneration has been established to be about 11 years, meaning that many people who are executed shortly after conviction may have been erroneously sentenced. Henry (2018) affirms that the continued threat of extermination makes the torment of the wrongly convicted individuals horrible. The problem of the extermination of the innocent has been a vital principle for the abolishment of the death penalty. Regardless of the efforts to abolish capital punishment in the US, it is still being practiced in more than half of the states, with the federal government having legalized it.

Benefits of abolishing the death penalty

Abolishing the death penalty will have such benefits as saving taxpayers’ money, preventing the execution of innocent people, and promoting respect for human life. Despite capital punishment being a costly practice, it does not have considerable public safety benefits. On the contrary, the states where the death penalty is legal report a higher number of capital crimes than those that have abolished it. Law enforcement agencies concur that the death penalty’s implementation does not significantly deter capital crimes (van Ginneken et al., 2018). Governments around the world should abolish the death penalty and instead ensure an increased number of law enforcement officers, reduction of drug abuse through enhanced rehabilitation, and betterment of the economy to create a high number of job opportunities.

By replacing capital punishment with life imprisonment without parole, the government could save millions of dollars, which could be channeled to programs focusing on improving public safety. For example, hiring a high number of police officers, purchasing rape kits, enhancing crime laboratories, facilitating forensic science, and increasing financing of intelligence units and cold-case inquiry agencies would benefit the security and justice system. The practice of the death penalty has prompted intensified public debate from as early as 1900 when there arose numerous anti-capital punishment movements which advocated its abolishment (Hong & Kleck, 2018). Statistics show that the cases of capital punishment convictions have been progressively decreasing as the justice system embarks on a proactive practice of lessening the number of individuals sentenced to death.

Unconstitutional and Violations of Human Rights

Although the death penalty has been in practice in the United States since 1608, it is a violation of human rights and should be abolished because it has failed to control capital crimes over the years. According to the study by Ramadhan (2018), the death penalty should be abolished because it is a violation of the right to life, gross scorn to human dignity. The main argument behind some countries, such as the US, practicing the death penalty is to prevent potential criminals from engaging in capital crimes. Nevertheless, this has not been effective because there are numerous murder cases in the states that have enforced the death penalty. Most Americans have the perception that capital punishment is cruel hence unconstitutional.

The debate concerning whether capital punishment is a cruel practice has been existent for centuries. The eighth amendment of the US constitution affirms that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” (Wagner, 2018, p. 559). In 1972, the Supreme Court, in a ruling, affirmed that the implementation of the death penalty was unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the court made some clarifications in a later case, which reinstated capital punishment under certain circumstances. The US is a country that values democratic principles and should be at the forefront in pushing for the protection of the right to life. In line with the findings by Monk (2019), the black community in the US consider capital punishment to be a strategy that is being exploited by the whites to violate their rights. Statistics reveal that a high proportion of the individuals who have been sentenced to death are from the African American community.


The death penalty leads to the termination of the life of a person, dependent on the severity of the crimes that they have committed. Capital punishment legalizes an unalterable practice of cruelty by the state and disregards the possibility of exoneration after a later likely appeal (Anderson et al., 2017). It should be abolished and replaced with other more humane measures such as life imprisonment or lengthy jail terms. The death penalty has been costly, thus resulting in the unnecessary wastage of public funds. The likelihood of the extermination of the innocent has been a crucial principle for the abolishment of capital punishment. It cruel, unconstitutional, and a violation of human rights; hence should be abolished because it has failed to eradicate capital crimes over the years.


Capital punishment infringes the reformative theory and should not be implemented under criminal law. In various studies, psychologists and criminologists affirm that the death penalty should not be employed as an approach to prevent people from committing capital offenses (Devadharshini & Kannappan, 2018). People commit criminal activities when their sensitive triggers are activated, and the implementation of the death penalty is an unsuccessful means of preventing people from committing capital offenses. Capital punishment is not only a violation of human rights but is also unethical and unconstitutional (Lambert et al., 2018). Human rights activists should spread the awareness that no person has the authority to kill another for whatever reason. Human life is sacred and only deity has the power to take it unquestionably. Therefore, the application of the death penalty underrates the religious ideologies that safeguard people’s lives. The US is a Christian nation, and many countries across the globe are found on religious principles. Therefore, undermining such core philosophies by legalizing the death penalty is ironic.

Policy Changes

The reformative theory asserts that punishment should be inflicted on criminals for rectification of their behavior. Countries worldwide should abolish the death penalty policy and, instead, have life sentence or lengthy incarceration terms. Incarceration is more favorable for the reformation of criminals than capital punishment since it allows the repentance and correction of felons. The world is progressively moving toward abolishing the death penalty, and countries that are yet to do so should embrace life imprisonment as a substitute for capital punishment (van Ginneken et al., 2018). The US is one of the countries that are yet to abolish the death penalty, making the nation stand contrary to other democracies.

The emergence of new technologies, such as DNA profiling, plays a vital role in ensuring that people are not wrongly convicted. If timing and technologies had been different before the development of DNA testing, some of the people who were wrongly sentenced to death would have been acquitted. Some of the criminals who are sentenced to death are indeed guilty of the offense. However, a more in-depth look into their cases over time may disclose such concerns as discrimination and insufficient representation, which could prove that they did not obtain a fair trial (Wagner, 2018). Moreover, no person should have the right to take the life of another regardless of the extent of the crime.

Implementation and Implications

Proper implementation of this policy change should be achieved through an amendment to the constitution to establish a lasting solution that will be followed by the courts in capital crimes. The constitution should protect all citizens from violation of their privileges, encompassing the right to life. Amendment of the constitution and illegalization of the death penalty will ensure that innocent people are not wrongly executed (Henry, 2018). Life imprisonment gives room for later reversal of the judgment, if new evidence emerges, unlike the death penalty, which offers final and irreversible punishment.

Capital crimes are serious offenses that are relied on to attract capital punishment, and change of the policy might arouse public outrage. Leveling of the post-capital punishment landscape while conforming to incarceration principles may pose a considerable challenge for lawmakers and the people accountable for the policy implementation, such as lawyers, judges, prison staff, and law enforcement officers. It may also be hard to successfully justify the new policy to the public, encompassing victims, in a credible manner that will convince them that justice is being served and their safety is adequately protected. Nevertheless, the failure to abolish capital punishment is ignorance to entrenched and more profound problems (Wagner, 2018). Locking away offenders for life and believing that timeless imprisonment may be the best solution to social control and capital crimes fails to address the structural basis of criminal activities and violence effectively. Whenever possible, lengthy jail terms should be given for capital crimes to offer the criminal a meaningful chance for rehabilitation and release back into the community hence the opportunity to lead a law-abiding life following reincorporation into society.

Future Research Needs

The death penalty has been a contentious issue for a long time. The people who consider the practice suitable argue that it offers vengeance for victims and their families. The reformative theory upholds that the rationale behind punishment ought to be reforming offenders through the practice of rehabilitation. Justice requires people only to be punished for crimes that they have done, what they deserve, but this has been dishonored by the continuation of capital punishment. The most widespread and convincing argument against the death penalty is that it leads to killing some innocent people due to mistakes and errors in the criminal justice system. Countries should abolish capital punishment and, in its place, have life sentence or lengthy jail terms.

The issue of life imprisonment and long jail terms for capital crimes necessitates future research to assess prison climate, the suitability of the correction of criminals such as terrorists and serial killers, and its underlying consequences. Further studies should seek to establish the determinants of jail terms, encompassing government and institutional attributes, degree of crime, and staff culture. Additionally, there will be the need to understand the connection involving prison climate, the welfare of prisoners, effectiveness of rehabilitation for capital crimes, misbehavior in prison, and rate of recidivism. Researchers should undertake such studies in other jurisdictions and adapt them to their national contexts to facilitate comparative research on the appropriateness of abolishing capital punishment. It would also be valuable to understand whether variations to prison conditions could lead to the successful rehabilitation of capital crimes and reduced jail terms, which may be researched with longitudinal studies.


Anderson, A. L., Lytle, R., & Schwadel, P. (2017). Age, period, and cohort effects on death penalty attitudes in the United States, 1974–2014. Criminology, 55(4), 833-868.

Devadharshini, M., & Kannappan, M. (2018). Whether the death penalty disturb the essence of reformative theory. International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics, 119(17), 1117-1127.

Henry, J. S. (2018). Smoke but no fire: When innocent people are wrongly convicted of crimes that never happened. The American Criminal Law Review, 55, 665-670.

Hong, M., & Kleck, G. (2018). The short-term deterrent effect of executions: An analysis of daily homicide counts. Crime & Delinquency, 64(7), 939-970.

Lambert, E. G., Baker, D. N., Elechi, O. O., Jiang, S., Khondaker, M. I., Pasupuleti, S., & Hogan, N. L. (2018). Gender and cultural differences on death penalty support and views among Indian and US college students. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 16(4), 254-271.

McFarland, T. (2016). The death penalty vs. life incarceration: A financial analysis. Susquehanna University Political Review, 7(4), 46-85.

Monk, E. P. (2019). The color of punishment: African Americans, skin tone, and the criminal justice system. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 42(10), 1593-1612.

Ramadhan, D. A. (2018). Several strategies to abolish the death penalty in developing country. Law Reform, 14(2), 191-204.

van Ginneken, E. F., Palmen, H., Bosma, A. Q., Nieuwbeerta, P., & Berghuis, M. L. (2018). The life in custody study: The quality of prison life in Dutch prison regimes. Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, 1(1), 1-29.

Wagner, R. (2018). Cruel and unusual corporate punishment. Journal of Corporation Law, 44, 559-575.

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