The death penalty is a necessary evil that has a positive effect on society today. It is an effective deterent of crime as well as a safeguard for society. It also helps to keep order in our cities. Furthermore, I fell it is a just and effective punishment for those who have commited crimes heinous enough to deserve death. The death penalty is not a new idea in our world. Its origins date back over 3,700 years to the Babylonian civilization, where it was prescribed for a variety of crimes. (Capital Punishment p.10). It was also greatly used in the Greek and Roman empires. It continued into England during the Middle Ages, and then to the American colonies where it exists still today. In the colonies, death was a prescribed punishment for crimes such as: murder, rape, arson, and perjury. In America today, the main crime deserving death is obviously murder. (
p.11-15). Does the death penalty truly deter crimes and murder? This question is at the heart of a heated political controversy over the punishment. Opposers to the death penalty say no because of the large amount of people on death row today. They also say that states that have the death penalty have a higher crime rate than those that do not, and therefore it is not effective and somewhat contributes to the problem. (http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html). I must point out though that states that have the death penalty are usually highly urbanized areas that most likely will have high crime rates because of the large population. Rather, in rural states there is no need for the death penalty because the population is most likely low and scattered throughout the region. States that practice capital punishment do so because of high crime rates, not vice versa. (http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html). Abolitionists also state that the death penalty is a racist punishment, and only given to African Americans. In the May 11, 1998 issue of JET magazine it stated that over 50% of all blacks favor the death penalty. (JET Magazine). According to a U.S. Dept. Of Justice press release on December 13, 1998, ^Óthose executed were all males: 45 whites, 27 blacks, 1 Asian, and 1 American Indian. Five were hispanics...At the end of last year, 34 states and the federal prison system held 3,335 men and women (44 females) on death row: 1876 whites, 1406 blacks, 28 American Indians, 17 Asians, and 8 of other races. There were 283 Hispanic prisoners...^Ô (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/cp97.pr). Also a 1985 University of North Carolina study by economist Stephen K. Layson states that, ^Óevery execution of a murderer deters, on average, 18 murders^Ô (http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html). This proves that without the death penalty our murder rate would be immense. For example in Utah on June 10, 1988 Arthur Gary Bishop was executed for sodomizing and then killing a group of young boys. In the first half of the year (January-June) there were 26 murders in Utah. In the second half (July-December) there were only 21 murders, an almost 20% drop in the murder rate. (http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html). The sanctity of human life is at the heart of a huge philosophical and spiritual debate over the death penalty. Many Catholics believe that all people^Òs lives are sacred and killing them only adds to the fire. They say that two wrongs don^Òt make a right, and that God and the bible states that ^Óthou shall not^Ô(Exodus: 10 Commandments) kill. (Survey done of 50 Catholics). Professor Ernest van den Haag said that ^ÓAll religions that I^Òm aware of feel that human life is sacred and that its sacredness must be enforced by depriving of life anyone who deprives another person of life.^Ô (Capital Punishment p.31). Many christians say that all life is holy because it was given to us by God and it is not up to us to decide if a person should die. According to Pope Pius XII: ^ÓWhen it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death the State does not dispose of the individual^Òs right to live. It is then reserved to public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already he has dispossessed himself of the right to live.^Ô(The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints p.70). This forcefully disproves any and all statements of christians to claim that the death penalty is morally wrong to the church. Also many people believe that by not executing a victim^Òs murderer, one is putting higher value on the murderer^Òs life than on the victim. (Survey of 50 Catholics) John Stuart Mill says in his 1868 address to Parliment, opposing a bill banning capital punishment that, ^ÓWhen there has been brought home to any one, by conclusive evidence, the greatest crime known to the law; and when the attendant circumstances suggest no palliation of guilt...nothing to make it probable that the crime was an exception to his general character rather than a consequence of it, then...it appears to me that to deprive the crimianl of the life of which he has proved himself to be unworthy...is the most appropriate...^Ô(http://ethics.acusd.edu/mill.html). Capital punishment is truly a safeguard to society because, ^ÓIt is the finality of the death penalty which instils fear into the heart of every murderer, and it is this fear of punishment which protects society.^Ô(The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints p.41 quote by Robert E. Crowe printed in The Forum). An example of this is England practiced capital punishment throughout the early 20th century, and had a lower crime rate than that of any large US city. Since England has abolished the death penalty in 1968, their murder rate has risen over 100%, and 75 English citizens have been murdered by released killers. (http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html). This proves not only is it a safeguard but it also helps deter crime because in the hundreds of years before England had one of the lowest murder rates in the world. The death penalty is the most effective means of crime detterent as you can see. It not only punishes those who commit the crimes, but also prevents future crimes by scaring the would-be murderer with the consequence he would pay for his actions. It has proven effective throughout history, and will hold strong through the ages as long as people continue to be corrupt and commit crimes. Bibliography The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints Written by David L. Becker, © 1991 pp. 41, 70 Capital Punishment Written by Michael Kronenwetter, ©1993 pp. 10-15, 31 ^ÓMore Blacks Favor the Death Penalty^Ô JET Magazine, Vol. 93, Issue 24, May 11, 1998 pp. 5-6 Pro Capital Punishment Page http://www.rit.edu/~wwl2461/cp.html Capital Punishment http://ethics.acusd.edu/mill.html U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, Sunday December 13, 1998 http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/cp.97.pr Survey of 50 Catholics Performed by Grad student Ages of surveyed range from 15 to 55 years of age.