In the course of social evolution and globalization, people and nations form a consensus that certain practices can no longer be acceptable. Examples of such practices include slavery, physical torture, and capital punishment. Much progress has been made to end such practices. In fact, most countries in the world have abandoned the death penalty. For instance, by 1986, about 46 countries had already abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes. Globally, the total numbers of countries that have abolished the death penalty are about 111. However, such practices have not been completely eliminated from the face of the earth. Countries that still practice the death penalty globally are 84. For example, China, which is the most populous country in the world, still executes thousands of its citizens every year. The same occurs in the United States.
Reasons for and Against the Death Penalty
Human Rights as a basis for abolition: the death penalty should be abolished because it is a violation of human rights. The abolitionists argue that the death penalty has been placed in the penal system of advanced, democratic, and civilized nations of the world. They further note that the death penalty violates the right to life that is vested in most countries’ constitutions. In 1997, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights endorsed a resolution that stated that the “abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and to the progressive development of human rights”.
Faults in prosecution: The other argument against the death penalty is that actions are irreparable once committed. Thus, death cannot be reversed and in cases where the prosecution error and an innocent person prosecuted for an offense, he/she did not commit. In this perspective, it will be an injustice in itself. Therefore, not even the most enthusiastic death penalty advocates would propose that the risk of executing guiltless people raises no serious concerns. While a claim of actual innocence made by one individual on death row is a factual matter, the risk of executing innocent people is a much broader issue, and one which combines both legal issues and the principles of human rights. Substantial evidence actually suggests that some of these sentences are injustice in themselves. At least 88 people have been released from death row since 1973, after evidence of their innocence emerged. The recurring exonerations through DNA testing and other technologies have indicated that the system has many times come close to executing the wrong person.
Deterrence: On the other hand, the proponents of the death penalty on minors argue that the death penalty acts as a deterrence to would-be offenders. Societies from traditional to contemporary have used punishment to discourage those who would-be offenders from committing the same criminal act. Since nations are supposed to protect the lives of their citizens, it is acceptable to meet the strongest punishment possible to offenders who take other people’s life irrespective of their age. The argument is that when a murderer is prosecuted and sentenced to death, would-be offenders will have to think over and over before committing the act for the fear of losing their lives. However, death penalties are carried behind walls away from the public and do not actually serve the purpose of deterrence.
The death penalty, therefore, should be abolished since arguments for the death penalty do not justify the commission of punishment, particularly on minors.