The death penalty, also known as the Capital Punishment, is a government – sanctioned practice that is followed in many countries around the world. It involves putting a person on death row, and have them killed by and on the authority of the state, as a punishment for a crime that they have committed. When any person is given this sentence in their court hearing verdict, then it is referred to as a death sentence, and the act of the sentence being carried out, known as an execution. As such, any crimes that are deemed as punishable by the death penalty, are known as capital offences or capital crimes. Some of the most common reasons for people being given a death sentence, includes crimes like murder, espionage, crimes against humanity, treason, war crimes and genocide.
As of today, there are fifty – six countries which retain capital punishment, for various crimes that could be tantamount to receiving the death penalty. There are six countries which have abolished the death penalty (while maintaining it for certain crimes like genocide, terrorism or war crimes) and around 106 countries which have completely abolished it for all crimes. Comparing all the countries around the world, all of the European countries (except Belarus) and many of the oceanic states (such as New Zealand, Australia) and Canada have abolished the death penalty. Even in Latin America, many have completely abolished using Capital Punishment for crimes committed, while some such as Guatemala and Brazil still allow it for exceptional situations like war crimes, serial murders, terrorism, etc.
Human rights activists and many ordinary citizens of each state have recognized and exposed the flaws and failures that capital punishment propagates. They have also put forward stringent problems that they have with the death penalty, such as how they believe that the Death Penalty doesn’t deter crime, that the death penalty is used within skewed justice systems where people are often executed after grossly unfair trials. Also, it is argued that the death penalty is discriminatory, in that it does not take into account the prisoner’s socio – economic backgrounds or racial or ethnic experiences, and how they might not have access to a good legal representation. However, following are some major points of concern that Human Rights bodies have put forward and is widely recognized by many proponents of law and justice in many countries:
Many agree that the prime focus of any law – making body in any country, should be to prevent crime and violence in the country. This is one notion that can only be achieved once there is enough focus on the root cause of crimes, rather than what punishment should be there to deter criminals. Normally, crime often happens when serious issues concerning people such as housing, access to education, mental health, upbringing and unemployment are neglected. If and when these issues are addressed by the government or the society as a whole, entire communities become vibrant and safer.
When you look at death row, at those prison inmates just awaiting death as a punishment for their crimes, you can actually see the cost societies pay for neglecting men and women, children and entire families, by putting them at such risks. Communities and entire nations can be seriously helped in moving forward, by addressing such root causes of crime, which will lead to stronger, healthier families and communities. When you look at today’s societies, you’ll find that many law enforcement officials agreeing that how the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime. Perpetrators don’t normally thing of consequences, and those who do, believe they’ll get away with it and as such, having the Death Penalty doesn’t make much of a difference.
Another major concern that has been put forward by human rights activists and even by Amnesty International, is that the death sentences which are imposed, are often unfair and not applied evenly across many countries. In many places, the death penalty being given to a person doesn’t depend on the worst crime, but rather the place where they committed it. As such, many don’t get the basic instruments to defend themselves. In many cases, the death penalty is often given to people to whom the state fails to provide public defenders or who can’t afford one, even if the constitution requires them to. In such a case, a person being sentenced to death boils down to whether they had a good lawyer assigned to them or not.
In countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia, there have also been instances that alleged criminals have been subject to death by firing squads, without even getting them through a fair trial. China, reportedly hasn’t classified around 1100 deaths by capital punishment. Also, in many cases, death penalty is decided on the basis of evidence that’s been extracted through means of torturing or blackmailing a person. As such, one can never be sure that in the case of a death sentence, that the person is actually guilty and deserving of such a punishment, or if they’re just being killed for political or emotional mileage.
Although many nations around the world have actively abolished the use of the Death Penalty as a capital punishment, around 60% of the world’s total population live in countries where the death penalty is still retained. This includes countries like China, India, United States of America, Pakistan, Indonesia and other Islamic Countries, and is still maintained in Sri Lanka and Japan. Following are some major merits of Death Penalty that many believe to be true and thus advocate it for the legal system in their country:
There are many liberals and abolitionists who argue that death penalty really doesn’t do much, as it never tackles the root causes of the crimes committed. Also, how perpetrators don’t really fear the consequences of their actions, making the death penalty really futile. However, there’s a lot of truth to the statement that ‘The Death Penalty acts as a Deterrent’. Studies have been undertaken over the years, which show that roughly, around 3 to 18 people could be saved by executing serial killers. Results from the University of Colorado in Denver shows how executing a criminal saves upto 5 lives, and commuting the sentence can result in 5 more. Another example could be of the research which shows when executions were suspended in Illinois, there were an extra 150 homicides over the following 4 years.
Another major claim of Abolitionists and human rights activists is that many of the poor accused and convicted of a crime, don’t have access to good, legal counsel. They argue that they have to make do with public defenders, and that in their logic is unfair to the poor since they believe (or at least seem to project) that public lawyers are incompetent, unprepared and easily corrupted. This allows them to paint a picture where the poor are being denied due process. This is far from the truth, as the states have routinely increased funding for their public defender systems, in order to combat any inadequacy in the entire process. Also, many law firms today routinely take on capital cases, often on a pro bono basis, which even helps those on death row, access to top – notch lawyers to help defend their cases.
In conclusion, the death sentence is certainly a valid point of discussion and considerably, people can be torn between the two – either advocating the death sentence or wanting it to be restricted or abolished. People often believe that this is not something for the people to decide, and that their country’s judiciary, and the government should take a collective decision that is decisive and fair. However, you can certainly affect the state of things, by making your voice heard on a public platform. You must voice your opinion and get people to believe in what you do, as things can always change, regardless of whether you are in support of it, or against.
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