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Critically evaluate arguments for and against the death penalty.

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Seminar Leader: Tom Cockcroft Natalie Norwood Critically evaluate arguments for and against the death penalty The Sage Dictionary of Criminology1 defined capital punishment as "punishment by execution...imposed for a range offences....but in Western countries, it is usually reserved for murder." Capital punishment has existed since the early 11th century, when hanging was the penalty imposed on those committing capital crimes. As well as this, until 1868, hangings were public affairs, which were attended by hundreds of civilians. The aim of this essay is to look at the death penalty from the view of pro-death penalty and the abolitionists' views. The abolition campaign for the death penalty in the UK began in 1808 by Samuel Romilly, who introduced reforms to abolish the death penalty for around 200 "b****y" crimes, including being in the company of gypsies for one month or evidence of strong malice in children aged between 7 and 142. Gradually, over the next two centuries, offences for which the death penalty would be imposed began to receive alternative punishments such as prison sentences. There were many attempts by the British government to abolish the death penalty, but all were rejected. In 1957, there was the introduction of the Homicide Act, which restricted the use of Capital Punishment for 5 different types of murder. These restrictions attempted to reserve the ultimate punishment in law for those people that were viewed as deserving the final and irreversible punishment, by society's politicians. ...read more.


A solution for assuring this guilt or proving an individual's innocence has been found in scientific measures such as DNA testing. Although not allowed in most states, it is believed that there would be a greater decrease in the prosecution of innocent victims. As well as this, pro-death penalty views stated that there is no legal system, which is flawless and that the risk of some innocents being executed is one that must be taken to keep order in society. This leads on to the argument of whether the death penalty is in fact a deterrent or whether it makes no difference in levels of crime. A recent survey in the New York Times showed that there were lower homicide rates in states without the death penalty that in those which did have it. Statistics showed that states with the death penalty have had between 40% and 101% higher crime rates in the last 20 years. There has also been a difference in crime rates in the South and the North of the USA. Crime rates in the South tended to be higher than in the North. This may be to do with the culture in the South and their high gun ownership7. All these statistics and surveys show that capital punishment does not deter crime. As well as this, it is important to look at crimes and how they are committed. ...read more.


There are many other arguments used for and against the death penalty, including whether the cost of executing someone costs more than imprisoning them for life, whether the biblical term "an eye for an eye" should be referred to in the case of the death penalty or whether it teaches the wrong ideas about killing if justified. The lack of any strong statistical evidence for either views restricts the validity for most of the arguments, making it harder for either side to make their point plausible. It seems that the death penalty will continue to exist in many countries, including the United States, since it popularity is still relatively high, but more individuals seem to be leaning towards using an alternative punishment. An alternative could be if they were sentenced to life without parole and were required to make some sort of financial restitution. The controversy will remain for many years since the split views are strongly emphasised. On a personal note, I have always been opposed to the death penalty, based mainly on the view that no one should have the right to take another life. It is setting the wrong example, as someone could decide one day to kill another person with the view that it is a justified killing, which is what the death penalty suggests. As well as this, unless it can be proved that the death penalty somehow deters crime and is unbiased, fair and just, there is no need for it. ...read more.

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