The Issue of the Death Penalty

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The issue of the death penalty is a highly emotive topic in the United States of America that has attracted criticism, as well as support in equal measure. In their arguments, proponents of the death penalty in America such as Rozenman (2007) bring out a convincing and precise justification for the same. On the other hand, opponents of the same such as Hawkins (2002) also have their reasons as to why it should be abolished. The greatest challenge to this issue is brought about by the way the American system works. While some states prohibit the death penalty, others allow it to happen despite their being in one country. This case has also been seen to be a tremendous challenge to the American government, which is the greatest advocate for human rights in the world and hence roots for the greatest debate on whether the death penalty should be upheld or not. However, upon conducting thorough research on the implication of the penalty, the paper points to the need not to abolish it in the US.

A death penalty is a form of deterrence

The death penalty needs to be upheld in society and especially the American society as a way of deterring members of society from committing despicable crimes against their fellow members of society. Most murderers kill their fellow members of society for selfish reasons meaning that killing is intrinsically motivated by the deepest need for self-preservation. Human life has been bestowed with the greatest dignity ever in the world. Thus, the protection of human life has been made to be the government’s business. Human life can only be equated to human life. Therefore, when someone takes away human life, the only way to punish the person satisfactorily is to take what is equal to what he or she has taken away from the other person. All living things work hard to preserve their lives with human beings not being an exception. Therefore, according to Rozenman (2007), the death penalty can serve as deterrence for anyone who wants to take other people’s lives or commit crimes that are punishable by death. The imposition of the death penalty has acted as a control measure for those who might want to kill others because they would want to live as much as they are taking other people’s lives (Rozeman, 2007). A practical example of this is when the British government was ruling India. A cult-like murderous gang would rob and kill its victims. To stop this evil undertaking, the governor gave an order that members of the gang be arrested and hanged. The gang, which had the name ‘Thuggees’, was finally eliminated between the years 1829 to 1848 after having been in existence for over 350 years. Therefore, the presence of the death penalty is a sure deterrence to criminal acts against the law that would thrive if the punishment were lesser. Although it is a terrific deterrence, it is still not the most effective punishment because crimes punishable by death continue to happen despite the presence of the death penalty sentence. According to statistics, murder rates doubled in the United States of America between the years 1972-1976 when the death sentence was suspended. This finding is a clear indication that the death penalty is a sure deterrent to murder. According to psychologists, 85% of human beings tend to toy with the idea of killing at some point in their lives. Thus, most people would kill if they can get away with it.

It is a way of stopping further killings

According to psychologists, murderers are ‘repeat offenders in the same offense of murder. It has been found that, once someone has been killed, there is a high possibility that he or she might kill again. Therefore, depending on the circumstances of the case, a person convicted of murder should die as well because there is a high possibility that such a person will kill again (Culhane et al., 2011, p.2). Opponents of the death penalty propose that such people should be locked away for life (Hawkins, 2002), which is something that happens occasionally. The reality of the penal code is that, at some point, authorities always have a reason to release these people back into society after they have been deemed to have reformed and hence acceptable back into society. This step has led to most murder offenders to kill repeatedly thus proving the claim earlier made in the paper of the likelihood of a murderer killing again even after having gone through rehabilitation. To eradicate this problem, there is a need to stop the person permanently through the death penalty. The death penalty, being the harshest capital punishment ever, gives a convict all the appeal opportunities as a way of exhausting satisfactorily any avenues that might prove that the convict is innocent. After all the appeal avenues have been exhausted, the person will be put to death. According to statistics, 54% of murderers kill again. Convicted killers have been known to attack and kill their fellow inmates or prison warders working with them and hence a clear indicator that such people do not deserve to live if innocent lives of people in society are to be preserved. An example of this case is that of Kenneth McDuff who was a convicted murderer on a life sentence. He was convicted of murder and rape in 1972 for offenses committed in 1966. He was later released on parole in 1989 after which he committed more and more murders within days of being released from prison. When killers are released from prison, they tend to kill more people since they are more careful not to be caught easily.

As a way of providing Closure

The death penalty has been cited by proponents of the same as a way of providing closure to the family and friends of the victims of murder. When someone dies, he or she is taken away from the face of the earth forever. He or she, therefore, leaves a gap behind that cannot be filled by people who were close to the person because everyone on this earth is different from the other and that no replacement is possible. This case, therefore, makes the bond between two or more people emotional in such a way that the attachment so created is one that none of the two parties would wish to cut off under normal circumstances. Death is death, and when a person dies a normal death, the person around the dead person will be emotionally hurt by the death as much as it is supposed to happen at some point. Therefore, when a person is murdered, the people around the person tend to get emotionally hurt because they feel that the person has been robbed of his or her life. To the people who have lost a loved one, only closure can give them peace. Therefore, one of the strategies of accomplishing the closure is by seeing the killer also put to death to neutralize the situation. Only the death sentence can even out this case under the law. Amour and Umbreit (2007) find, “Closure is possible once the scales have been balanced with a life for life” (p. 394). According to utilitarianism, punishment for wrongdoing brings the balance of happiness over unhappiness thus bringing closure to either victims or people close to the victims. All offenses are weighted and the weight of punishment should be equal to the weight of the offense. In the case of murder, nothing can be equated to a lost life. Therefore, death to the offender is the only way to even the situation.


In conclusion, the death penalty should be retained in law with its application being based on thorough and undisputed facts (Russell, 2005, p. 1029). Research on the same indicates that the presence of the death penalty is a sure deterrence for murder due to people’s love for their own lives. Although there is so much debate on it based on the claim that its backdrop is against human rights, human rights, in this case, should be viewed along with other theories. Therefore, people should not use and or apply it as a supreme theory that is above others. For the preservation of the larger society, the death penalty should be upheld for those who fall within crimes that are punishable by the death sentence not only in the US but also in every other country in the world.

Reference List

Amour, M., & Umbreit, M. (2007). The Ultimate Penal Sanction and Closure for Survivors of Homicide Victims. Marquette Law Review, 91(1), 391-394.

Culhane, S. et al. (2011). Self Reported Psychopathy in a Convicted Serial Killer. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 8(1), 1- 21.

Hawkins, W. (2002). Do we need the death penalty?: It is immoral and ineffective. Washington: The World & I.

Rozenman, E. (2007). Do we need the death penalty? Yes, it’s ethical and effective. Washington: The Washington Post.

Russell, M. (2005). People v. Cahill: Domestic Violence and the Death Penalty Debate in New York. Albany Law Review, 68(1), 1029-1053.

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