Capital punishment is an important issue because it deals with life, the value of life, and personal liberties. The death penalty has been in existence for as long as America has been a country. Execution was quite common in the early colonial days, with punishment of death resulting from such crimes as denying the “true God,” lying, and stealing. Interestingly enough, the framers of the Constitution did not consider capital punishment cruel and unusual punishment. (Inciardi 488) The death penalty has always been a sensitive subject, sparking debate from all sides. Those who support capital punishment believe that it is a just and fair punishment for murder. They also believe that capital punishment serves as a deterrent for other would-be murderers. Those who oppose capital punishment believe that murder by the state is no different than murder on the street. They believe that lifetime prison sentences are fair justice.
However, abolitionists have always maintained that the death penalty is wrong. In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was “unconstitutional because it was being administered in an arbitrary and capricious manner” (White 131). It is not cruel and unusual punishment because it “achieves to important social purposes, retribution and deterrence” (132). In fact, the majority of Americans considers the death penalty an acceptable means of punishment and 35 states practice it. (Death Liberals favor equality over freedom and oppose any government involvement that restricts individual liberties. They approve of government action that promotes equality among individuals. In regards to capital punishment, liberals feel that executing a murderer is a form of harsh punishment. Liberals favor the death penalty with 37 percent and 60 percent would rather see murderers serve life sentences in prison. (Death Penalty Information Center) Liberals consider what is called the irreversibility argument that maintains the fact that there is always a possibility of executing an innocent person. This risk, however small, should be considered when the state takes the life of anyone.
Communitarians would like to see more government action to promote both order and equality. They believe that the community as a whole has moral significance and sometimes social rights override individual rights. They believe that capital punishment is justified if it protects and enhances the best interest of the community. In many cases, this theory is applied when a conflict of human rights is at issue, forcing one to yield to another. Many argue that such a position could lead to a totalitarian type of government where individual rights are subjugated to the rights of the Conservatives prefer freedom to order and see the role of the government as one that enforces order. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, conservatives favor the death penalty at 64 percent while 36 percent support life imprisonment. It is also interesting to note that 54 percent of conservatives “say the death penalty is not imposed often enough” (Death Penalty Information Center). Conservatives definitely believe in an “eye for an eye.” They believe that an individual forfeits any rights for such a crime. However, they risk executing innocent people that may have been wrongly convicted.
Libertarians oppose government actions that limit individual liberties. They generally see freedom as the most important element of being an American and would prefer the government to stay out of our personal lives. Libertarians have no clear consensus on the capital punishment. (Libertarian) In essence, they neither support nor oppose the issue. The Libertarian platform states on their web site, “Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval” (Libertarian). They encounter troubles just because they appear to be indecisive on the issue. However, because they don’t choose sides, they can view each case individually. When it comes to capital punishment, my personal opinion comes closer to that of the conservatives. I believe it makes sense because it offers retribution, punishment, and deterrence. Those who murder should know that have to pay the ultimate price for their crime. Life in prison is not deterrent enough considering they have free housing and food at the taxpayers’ expense. Simply put, we all grow up knowing murder is wrong – even children can grasp basic ideas concerning what is right and wrong. I believe the punishment should fit the crime. I subscribe to the idea that executing killers prevents more murder from occurring while letting murderers go after a few years in prison allows, and even enables, more Anthony Amsterdam states that capital punishment is a “necessary evil” (Amsterdam qtd. in White 150). His argument is based on the fact that just because execution might be evil, we should “not choose to do it without some very good and solid reason of which we are satisfactorily convinced upon sufficient evidence” (150). I agree with this position because premeditated murder is a greater evil that capital punishment.
I definitely fall into the category of freedom versus order when it comes to this issue. I also believe that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to possible criminals. If executions were administered in a swift, severe fashion, murders would decrease. Execution is by far more deterring than life in prison with medical bills paid, no rent to pay, no In conclusion, there will always be arguments surrounding the issue of capital punishment. However, the only logical and just punishment for such a horrible crime as murder, is to make the offender pay with his or her own life. The state is not guilty of murder when it is seeking retribution for the taking an innocent life. Not taking the crime of murder seriously