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Essay/Term paper: The death penalty: to be or not to be...

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Argumentative Essays

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The Death Penalty: To Be or Not to Be...

For the past several months Americans have regularly listed crime and
violence as the number - one problem facing the nation, far surpassing worries
over the economy or health care.
Despite the many government and community initiatives launched during
recent years to reduce crime, most Americans see no improvement. In a 1993
survey asking respondents if they felt crime was increasing or decreasing in
their areas, only 5 % felt that it was decreasing, a full 93 % felt that crime
was either increasing or staying the same. And it is not just statistics: I
consider myself along with those 93 %. Because while Guiliani administration is
talking about crime rates in the New York City going down, all I see and hear
in the media are reports about horrible crimes committed by New Yorkers.
As George Pettinico states in his article " Crime and punishment:
America changes it's mind ": The media's extensive coverage of crime, especially
the most brutal and horrific cases have heightened the public's fear and anger
over this issue to a near frenzy. When asked in January of this year, " How
often do you see reports of violent crime on television ? " 68 % replied "
almost every day ".
Although the media have played an important role in raising the public's
awareness of lawlessness, crime in America is far from a media - created
phenomenon. Government statistics support the image of a nation which has
overwhelmingly lost the war against crime. For instance, in 1960 there were 161
reported violent crimes per 100,000 people By 1992, the figure had jumped to 758
per 100,000 -- a rise of over 350 %.
More and more people today are starting to think that something is
terribly wrong when a modern, civilized nation must confront statistics like
these. The American public is demanding an end to this violence, and surveys
show that they believe swift and harsh punishment is the most appropriate and
effective means to these ends.
The death penalty, or as it is sometimes being called " capital
punishment " is the hardest punishment that could be received when a person is
convicted of a capital offense. Until recently it did not exist in New York
State but after new governor, George Pataki was elected he managed to bring it
back. Since September 1, 1994 the death penalty law was in effect. And even
though, as far as I know, there is no strong statistical evidence that the death
penalty lowers the murder rate, many people were very happy with that decision.
What they probably though was " some people would not commit a murder, rape
or another violent crime if they would know that they could get on a death row
for that ".
However, my personal opinion is that death penalty has to be justified
on its own goodness, rather than by some pragmatic result it brings about. The
governor and legislature of New York State evidently agree with this contention,
for they enacted a death penalty law in the face of falling rates for murder and
other serious crimes.
Currently there are two opinions about the death penalty law. First
opinion is that the existence of such a law helps keeping the crime rates down.
The opposite one is about a fact that killing people should not be done by
anybody, including state and federal law enforcement system. Let us take a
closer look on both of those opinions.
Bringing the death penalty law back to life was a part of Gov. George
Pataki's election program. As we have seen learned from the media and from the
results of numerous surveys, a quite large number of people who supported George
Pataki, were doing that mainly because of this part of his program.
But does having a death penalty law actually help keeping the crime
rates down? The answer is in the statistics: it turns out that the violent crime
rates in New York State did not go down for the past year since the death
penalty law was in effect. Another thing that would surprise those who support
death penalty is it's price. The fact is: each death penalty case costs about
2.3 million dollars. That is three times more than a price for keeping a person
in a prison for the rest of his life. Here is what Mr. C.Hoppe states in his
article " Executions Cost Texas Millions ": For the states which employ the
death penalty, this luxury comes at a high price. In Texas, a death penalty case
costs taxpayers an average of $ 2.3 million, about three times the cost of
imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40
years." A lot of articles were published in the newspapers and magazines
concerning the question of a death penalty law.
One of those articles lists many arguments against the death penalty.
Here is what David Dunlap writes about the death penalty:

" Opposition to the death penalty does not arise from misplaced sympathy for
convicted murderers. On the contrary, murder demonstrates a lack of respect for
human life. For this very reason, murder is abhorrent, and any policy of state -
authorized killings is immoral.

Capital punishment denies due process of law. Its imposition is
arbitrary and irrevocable. It forever deprives an individual of benefits of new
evidence or new law that might warrant the reversal of a conviction or the
setting aside of a death sentence.
The death penalty violates the constitutional guarantee of the equal
protection of the laws. It is applied randomly at best and discriminatorily at
worst. It is imposed disproportionately up on those whose victims are white, on
offenders who are people of color, and on those who are themselves poor and
The defects in death - penalty laws, conceded by the Supreme Court in
the early 1970s, have not been appreciably altered by the shift from unfettered
discretion to " guided discretion. " These changes in death sentencing have
proved to be largely cosmetic. They merely mask the impermissible arbitrariness
of a process that results in an execution.
Executions give society the unmistakable message that human life no
longer deserves respect when it is useful to take it and that homicide is
legitimate when deemed justified by pragmatic concerns.
Reliance on the death penalty obscures the true causes of crime and
distracts attention from the social measures that effectively contribute to its
control. Politicians who preach the desirability of executions as a weapon of
crime control deceive the public and mask their own failure to support anti-
crime measures that will really work.
Capital punishment wastes resources. It squanders the time and energy of
courts, prosecuting attorneys, defense counsel, juries, and courtroom and
correctional personnel. It unduly burdens the system of criminal justice, and it
is therefore counterproductive as an instrument for society's control of violent
crime. It epitomizes the tragic inefficacy and brutality of the resort to
violence rather than reason for the solution of difficult social problems. "
As we can see, from these points of view, death penalty in it's every
aspect is a thing that American society must get rid of .
But, as in every issue that involves the life of the human being, there
are different kinds of opinions regarding the death - penalty law. Some people
actually believe in effectiveness and usefulness of a death penalty. Even though
those opinions are not backed up by any facts or statistics, there still is a
very large number of people of all races, ages and genders who support the
death - penalty law. Lawrence Altman is a part of the group of people who
support the capital punishment. Here is what he thinks are the main arguments
for having a death penalty : " Is it described in a Holy Bible that a death
penalty is required for a wide variety of crimes, such as murder, rape, etc.
Another reason why the death penalty should be in effect is that many
people feel that killing convicted murderers will satisfy their need for justice
and / or vengeance.
Deterrence is another fact that speaks for the capital punishment: many
people feel that the death penalty will deter criminals from killing. However,
there are no known reliable statistics that support this belief.
Also capital punishment reduces the costs that are required for
imprisonment: once a convicted murder is executed and buried, there are no
further costs. "
My personal opinion regarding this article is that listed above
arguments for the death penalty are very wrongful and could be easily turned
down by the results of numerous surveys and different statistics.
Even the fact about the Holy Bible is wrong because, The Holy Bible
speaks positively against any killing of a human being whatsoever. But that is
exactly what capital punishment is - a killing of a human being that is
authorized by law.
The statement about criminals being deterred by the presence of a death
penalty is wrong also. According to statistics, the violent crime rate in New
York State did not go down since the death - penalty law became effective.
Another fact from statistics is that numbers of committed violent crimes
in the states that do have a death penalty law and numbers of committed violent
crimes in the states that do not have that law are approximately the same.
Another false opinion about the death penalty is that it killing the
convicted murderer actually reduces the costs. As we learn from the Mr. Hoppe's
article, " Executions cost Texas millions ", the cost of executing a convicted
prisoner costs three times more than keeping him in the cell for 40 years. As we
can see, the above opinion does not have any sense.
The only true fact about the usefulness of a death penalty is the fact
that many people feel that killing convicted murderers will satisfy their need
for justice and / or vengeance. The only bad thing about it is : executing a
criminal does not bring his victim back to life. Even though some people fell
relieved when the murderer is executed, there is no way to reverse the crime(s)
that he has committed.
Even though almost everything and everybody speak against the capital
punishment, I think that people who committed violent crimes should be punished
to the fullest extend of law, which capital punishment basically is.
As well as no human being deserves to be executed, no human being
deserves to have his or her life taken away by the criminal. The laws of living
say: " Sooner or later you will be responsible for everything you do in your
life, whether you like it or not, and whether you regret it or not ".


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