Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Morality of Capital Punishment

Discuss capital punishment and the moral dilemma it presents

An ancient proverb provides that “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”,  while the Code of Hammurabi in the 18th century B.C. likewise says that “if a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out, if he break another man’s bone, his bone shall be broken. These moral principles are the foundation of capital punishment. For centuries, the laws of many states adhere to and enforce capital punishment as a deterrent against heinous crimes. In essence, capital punishment is usually being observed to preserve peace and order and to prevent anarchy in the society. However, the enforcement of capital punishment raises some religious, moral and ethical issues since it involves the killing of convicted criminals and depriving them of their natural right which is the right to life. 

The principle of morality states that the taking of one’s life is wrong in all aspects notwithstanding the seriousness of the crimes and wrongdoings of such person. On the other hand, capital punishment is enforced to provide justice to the victims of the crimes.  In reality, both views are based on valid and solid grounds but one issue that calls for further evaluation is which of these two opposite views will produce greater benefit to the society in general.

As deterrent against crime, studies show that capital punishment significantly decreases the crime rate in most states which strictly enforce the law on capital punishment. Based on the study, prior to the enactment of Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996, the murder rate in California was 9.1 persons out of every 100, 000 people (Helen Chen). In the year 2008, the murder rate had declined to 5.8 persons out of every 100, 000 people (Helen Chen). Likewise, in 1996, the murder rate in Alabama was 10.4 persons out of every 100,000 people (Helen Chen).  The murder rate had significantly decreased dropped to 5.4 in 2004 (Helen Chen).
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The decrease in murder rate as a result of strict enforcement of capital punishment has not only been experienced in the US but in other countries as well. Countries like China and Singapore which have the highest execution rate in the world are presently experiencing low crime rates.

Recent studies also show that capital punishment improves the prison system since it consequently reduces congestion in prison cells. However, the aforementioned issue may raise moral question like, why does the state need to kill persons convicted of heinous crime in order to solve the issue on inefficient prison system? But it bears stressing that the effect of capital punishment in the decongestion of prison cells is mere incidental to the primary purpose of death penalty which is to enforce justice and to deter criminals from committing heinous crimes.

Most states that observe capital punishment have noble intention of enforcing it which is to preserve the order and protect the welfare of the society. Thus, it is worthy to note that the life of one criminal who was proven guilty of a heinous crime beyond reasonable doubt is worth the sacrificing for the benefit, safety and security of the entire society. The imposition of capital punishment may be immoral but the preservation of order and welfare of each individual shall be the primary consideration and shall prevail over all moral issues.

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