[GP] The death penalty

Lots of gp today whoa. Found an interesting topic that might not be too useful but is pretty interesting.

Is capital punishment ethically acceptable?

The retentionist perspective

1. A relatively humane form of retribution, while being able to incapacitate the worst criminals

The criminal is made to suffer in proportion to the offence. (e.g. a life for a life) Furthermore, the criminal gets to die in a humane manner and has time to say farewells to his loved ones, unlike his victim. Capital punishment can also be considered appropriate for removing the worst criminals beyond reform – no need to worry about future crimes possibly to be committed. 

2. Efficient form of deterrence 

Argue that rehabilitation does not work. (of criminals released from prison, more than 2/3 are rearrested within 3 years) For countries with life imprisonment as the maximum, there is incentive to murder since it’s impossible for the punishment to increase, and the murder of witnesses might reduce chances of apprehension 

Singapore – strict enforcement of capital punishment, sees less serious crime too. A plausible observation, but we cannot discount other possible factors such as social and cultural reasons.

Evidence:

  • Singaporeans know for sure that they will receive maximum punishment if convicted for drug trafficking or murder – juxtapose this with the USA which allows for convicted murderers to appeal and receive a lighter sentence.
  • Journal of Applied Economics: for every execution, approx 14-19 lives are saved (really????? seems dubious)

 

The abolitionist perspective

1. Goes against basic human rights

Argue that it is never right to put someone to death regardless of whatever crime committed (won’t the murderer have done that too? and thinking about it Singapore’s punishment for drug traffickers seems highly unfair also) also, if killing is wrong for individuals, it is immoral for governments to do it too – two wrongs do not make a right.

  • UN Declaration of Human Rights: all people have the right to be exempt from cruel and unusual punishment. Just as someone breaks the law, it does not hence follow that he ceases to be human and is exempt from human rights.
  • French Revolution: the public dehumanized criminals as a result of the many killings of nobles. Public may forget that they are essentially condoning the killing of another human being.

 

2. More of a symbolic action, not a real solution

  • The function of the death penalty is to give society psychological comfort; to boost public confidence in the safety of the state, and to give politicians moral justification for being tough on crime. 
  • Does not bring long term closure to the victims. Most victims and families do not find long-term comfort in the deaths of their perpetrators.
  • One should not deny also the suffering of the murder’s family and loved ones.

 

3. Renders any miscarriage of justice irreversible

The justice system is flawed on the basis of human error. Judgement must be impeccable for such a harsh form of punishment – a life is at stake. Possible for innocent people to be executed, and there is not possible re-compensation for miscarriages of justice of this sort.

  •  Over the past 20 years, 100 Americans sentenced to death were eventually found innocent and released.

Also, the law system is structured in a way that punishment is meted out based on the skill of prosecution and defense lawyers. Unfair to ethnic minorities (subjective), for they at times suffer from prejudice in court. Unfair to the poor, for they do not have resources to hire top lawyers – defendants who are unable to afford good legal representation are more likely to receive harsher sentences.

 

My perspective

Leaning more towards the abolitionist side – I think it’s inhumane to put a life down just like that, but I can’t really collect my thoughts on this haha

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