Capital Punishment in America

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Capital Punishment in America

Capital punishment or the death penalty as it is commonly termed is of all the penal practices, the most controversial. This is not at all surprising, concerning the fact that it involves taking a human life. Because it is the most severe of all sentences, there have been countless efforts to abolish the death penalty, and these efforts have proved effective in most of the industrialized nations, with the exception of Japan and the United States of America. It is very important to know the issues surrounding capital punishment, because it occurs in the country we live in and affects us even if we are not on death row. Because capital punishment occurs in just about half of the world, it would be difficult to talk about all of the circumstances and issues of capital punishment in each country, and because of this, the focus of this analysis will be the United States of America.

It is difficult to describe the death penalty without discussing the methods used to carry out this punishment. In the past there have been various means to accomplishing it. For instance, crucifixion, drowning, burning, impaling, hangings and shootings have all been used as methods to inflicting a legal death upon an individual. However, most of these have been dubbed inhumane and therefore eliminated in most lands. So, in efforts to "civilize" executing a person, new techniques have been developed. For example, in France the guillotine was created as a quick and civilized means for meting out death as an alternative to beheading the criminals with a sword, which was sometimes too dull and required that the executer swing multiple times before the job was complete.

But today in the United States, capital punishment is typically met out by lethal gas, injection or electrocution. Three states execute by hanging, and another three do so by a firing squad. In the United States, there is a distribution of authority. On the federal level, the death penalty is provided for over forty crimes including premeditated murder, drug-trafficking and treason. But the federal government allows for the individual states to define crimes and choose their own penalties for crimes committed. Twelve of these fifty states have abolished the death penalty entirely.

Currently, in the US there are about 3,500 people on death row. California heads the list with 603 offenders awaiting their deaths and it is possible that by the end of the year another man, Scott Peterson, may join these ranks.
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