An Analysis of the Death Penalty Controversy in America

Essay by exitmusicHigh School, 12th grade June 2004

download word file, 7 pages 5.0

Capital punishment, the lawful taking of a person's life after conviction of a crime, is a highly controversial issue. It has raised difficult ethical, practical, and legal debates. In most of the industrialized world, the death penalty is outlawed and is no longer an issue of concern. However, it is still used in the United States. At present, the U.S. government and 38 states allow the death penalty. Methods of execution include lethal injection, electrocution, the gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad (McCuen 13). The capital punishment debate in the United States has raged for almost four hundred years. Supporters of the death penalty often cite its roles as necessary retribution and a deterrent of crime. Opponents respond by pointing out discrepancies in their arguments, the possibility of executing an innocent person, and claiming it defies the United States Constitution.

Does capital punishment deter crime?

Deterrence is the most frequently made and most widely accepted argument in favor of capital punishment.

Deterrence is the idea that punishments for criminals imposed by society discourages other criminals from doing the same. Supporters of the death penalty contest that fear of death deters people from committing serious crimes; the average person will think twice before running the risk of a possible execution. Until the 1970s, no statistical study supported this theory. Isaac Ehrlich published a study in 1975 that made a case for deterrence. His sophisticated model looked at many different variables such as arrest rate in murder cases, conviction rate of murder arrests, the rate of labor force participation, the unemployment rate, per capita income, and also the murder rate and the number of executions (Hanks 81). Based on his analysis, Ehrlich concluded that an additional execution per year may have resulted in seven or eight fewer murders. When the study...