Death penalty

Death penalty, also known as capital punishment, can be defined as the execution of an individual through a judicial process as a punishment for a crime committed. Crimes that can elicit capital punishment are normally referred to as capital crimes or offenses. Capital in this context owes its origin to a Latin word capitalis that means regarding the head. Initially, the punishment for a capital offense was severing the head. Death penalty has always existed in every society and thus has almost attained a universal status, except for a few states that prescribe to religions that condemn it.
    Historically, execution of criminals and political opponents has always existed as a way to both punish crime and subdue political dissent. Some of the crimes that attract capital punishment in most countries include espionage, murder, and treason. Some societies also rate sexual offenses as capital and thus attract death penalty. Such sexual crimes may include, rape, incest, adultery and sodomy. Individuals who commit religious crimes like apostasy in Islamic states are also subjects of capital punishment. Some countries also rate crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, and serious cases of corruption as crimes worth capital punishment. In military circles, cowardice, desertion, insubordination, and mutiny are acts that easily attract capital punishment.
    The methods that have been employed have been changing from severe, painful and long processes to short painless methods that limit the suffering of the victim. Some of the methods that were traditionally applied included boiling to death, wheel breaking, slow slicing, flaying, crucifixion, crushing, burning, stoning, decapitation and so on. Prosecution by firing squad was later adopted. Other more human methods that were adopted included guillotine in France, hanging, suffocation, and dropping from high points. The current methods that are in application include the electric chair, gas chambers and lethal injection. Some countries have not yet upgraded their methods and thus still apply some of the painful traditional ways (Cottrell, 2004).
Death penalty in the United States
    Capital punishment has been dated back to the inception of the United States. It has been viewed to aid in vengeance, incapacitation, and compensation against the most dangerous criminals. Though federal government still prescribes death penalty for espionage and conspiracy, capital punishment has mainly been a preserve of murder cases only. There have been questions that have arisen concerning the efficiency of capital punishment. From an economical point of view, the marginal benefits of the process should be greater than the marginal cost. Marginal cost from this perspective is used to mean the difference between the costs of murder trial that can attract life sentence and the costs related to capital trial process (Bienen, 1999a).
Benefits of Death Penalty
    It has been noted that due to the threat of capital punishment, the rate of homicide has decreased. Death penalty is thought of to act for a greater deterrent effect. Though this may not hold in all the circumstances, for example, offenders who act in passion normally do not reflect on the penalties attached to their actions. Many countries usually convict criminals to death sentences but do not carry out the actual execution. This gives the offender time to prepare for their deaths, write wills and organize their families future before they die. They are also able to come up with propaganda and other strategies that may in the final end earn them freedom. The most disturbing aspect of this process is that they do not always give their victims the chance to do all these preparations. They normally strike in surprise leading to the suffering of the families of their victims. They do not always give their victims the opportunity to summon their lawyers or have the last word with their families. In most cases, the methods they normally apply to carry out their acts are ruthless and meant to inflict great pain. Why should they in turn be given some privileges that they themselves do not extend to their victims (Cottrell, 2004)
    Countries such as Singapore, which are famous for the actual execution of death row convicts, capital offenses are always on the decline. This is a clear indication that capital punishment is a deterrent. Capital punishment tends to discourage planned capital offenses when execution is almost certain. Though this kind of punishment is not premeditated as it occurs as a surprise even to the offenders and thus there is usually no time to think about the consequences of their actions. Under such circumstances there are degrees of murder and thus each case can be evaluated independently and appropriate punishment accorded (Bienen, 1999a).
    Crime rates have been on the increase in the United States due to a number of factors but chief among them is leniency. The situation worsens when we are talking about capital crimes as they normally end up in loss of life. Capital punishment serves a very crucial role of removing capital offenders from the society and thus serves as a step towards a sustained safety in the society. When an offender is dead, one is not in a position to carry out the agenda or better still other potential offenders are not able to learn from one and build up on ones strategies. Capital offense as is the case of many other offenses is a matter of free will and normally the offender is not usually compelled to do their heinous acts (Bienen, 1999b).
    Every human being fears death, even the most dreaded and brave criminals or soldiers do. If it was possible for a murderer to be executed instantly, then definitely homicide cases would hit their all time low. This may not be achieved due to the necessary legal procedures that ensure that an innocent person may not go through death sentence because death penalty is irreversible. All the same, we agree that death penalty would save a number of people who would have otherwise been victims of such acts (Geraghty, 2003).
    Execution is a real punishment and cannot be prepared with some measures aimed at rehabilitating the criminals. In most cases, capital offenders prove to have passed the point of rehabilitation and instead get hardened in prison. They are also able to build networks in prisons with like-minded individuals which can lead to more vicious acts that are well planned in future. In some cases, some of the offenders are convicted more than once for the same capital offense and thus they know that even if they are apprehended they will still gain their freedom. Some convicts are very dangerous, even to other convicts in prison and the prison staff. They even proceed to kill inmates knowing that they have been detained for life and there is no other severe punishment they can be subjected to (Bienen, 1999a).
    Capital punishment by many aspects outweighs life sentence, as those serving life sentences can get amnesty or some cases of capital offenders escaping from prison. The worst thing with this is that the capital offenders do not normally change but normally come for vengeance against those who acted as witnesses against them. There is also the possibility of a relative to the victim not being able to contain themselves when they see the offenders free in the society and in the process may end up taking the law into their own hands. Victims of sexual offenses may not withstand seeing these offenders free and may end up committing suicide or trying to eliminate such offenders making them capital offenders themselves (Bienen, 1999b).
    The resources we have are very limited and cannot even adequately cater for the citizens. It would not be prudent enough for the government to spend huge sums of money in catering for the needs and upkeep of capital offenders serving life imprisonments. The worst aspect of this is that unlike petty offenders who are able to change and focus on more important and economic activities, very many capital offenders are unable to change. Most of these offenders usually grow more vicious by the day. It may be true that the cost of executing and actual costs incurred before the execution in terms of legal appeals usually deplete the victims family resources and normally expose them to mental torture as the trials normally last for in excess of twelve years (Kasten, 1996). 
The cost is much less compared to the families of their victims losses, the many productive citizens they eliminate, and the torture they expose such innocent people to. With regards to the slow process, this should not be viewed negatively as it is aimed at ensuring that only the guilty offenders are executed. This is normally due to the irreversibility of this form of punishment (Bienen, 1999a).
    If we have empathy for the victims concerned, then capital punishment remains the way to go. The only caution is to establish that it was done intentionally and that the person executed is the actual criminal. Innocent lives can be saved in the process. Life is sacred and should not be taken away, more so if it is done intentionally. The benefits of execution to the society are immense and immeasurable and tend to be directed towards the realization of a safer society. More so is the deterrent effect associated with capital punishment.
    It is noted that the cost incurred during the investigation, attorney preparation, trial, appellate proceedings, and the actual execution has been estimated to be higher than the cost of life imprisonment. The situation becomes more complicated when we take the cost incurred when productive members some of them being sole providers of their families are killed. The only adjustment that needs to be in place is reformation of the capital process because the costs normally increase in the course of trials and appeals (Kasten, 1996). The judicial system has maintained a good level of reliability in terms of ensuring that only the offenders are prosecuted. This is normally because of the rigorous and detailed judicial procedures with almost unlimited number of appeals being extended to the offenders. We cannot claim that the judicial system is completely reliable but it has risen to almost unquestionable status..


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