The Death Penalty
Contemporary Issues: The Death Penalty
The death penalty is said to be the greatest deterrent to crime in the United States. However, in recent years those states, which still use the death penalty, have seen a marked increase in crimes where death is a punishment. Is the threat of being put to death still an effective deterrent? According to FBI statistics (2008), the national murder rate per capita was 5.4 in 2008. With a national population of over 304 million people, that is around 16,000 murders for 2008 alone. Admittedly, not all of these murders occurred in states where the death penalty is in use, however, of the ten states with the highest murder rates, eight of them are death penalty states (FBI, 2008). It is true that violent crime trends have decreased over the past five years, however, it is important to remember that the violent crimes being committed the most are in areas where the criminal is risking death at the hands of the state. This alone shows that criminals have no regard for a state’s policy on the death sentence, which proves that the penalty has lost its effectiveness as a deterrent.
The death penalty has been the most severe punishment for crimes since the 18th century BCE, when King Hammurabi of Babylon held 25 crimes by which a criminal could be put to death. By the 7th century BCE, the Draconian Code of Athens demanded that all crimes committed be punishable by death. Throughout history, criminals have been put to death by such means as crucifixion, hanging, drowning, beating, stoning, burning, impalement, firing squad, electrocution, chemical asphyxiation, and lethal injection.
Throughout the history of criminal justice, society has used death as a means of subverting crime and eliciting cooperation. In the 10th century CE, society, especially Britain, had become so civilized that the more violent forms of execution had been replaced with simple hangings....