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Capital Punishment in the United States

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The death penalty is a controversial topic in the United States today and has been for a number of years. The death penalty is currently legal in 38 states and two federal jurisdictions (Winters 97). The death penalty statutes were overturned and then reinstated in the United States during the 1970's due to questions concerning its fairness (Flanders 50). The death penalty began to be reinstated slowly, but the rate of executions has increased during the 1990's (Winters103-107). There are a number of arguments in favor of the death penalty. Many death penalty proponents feel that the death penalty reduces crime because it deters people from committing murder if they know that they will receive the death penalty if they are caught. Others in favor of the death penalty feel that even if it doesn't deter others from committing crimes, it will eliminate repeat offenders.

Death penalty opponents feel that the death penalty actually leads to an increase in crime because the death penalty desensitizes people to violence, and it sends the message that violence is a suitable way to resolve conflicts. Death penalty opponents also condemn the death penalty because of the possibility of an innocent person being put to death, and because it can be unfairly applied. Death penalty opponents feel that the death penalty must be abolished because it cheapens the value of human life. The death penalty desensitizes people to murder and violence because, by executing people, the state sends the message that violence is an acceptable means of resolving conflicts (Terrill). The death penalty also reduces the gravity of the loss of human life by making it legal for the state to kill people it deems to be beyond reform (Winters 57). Death penalty oppo...

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...es, even though 80% of the population is in favor of it, because of the numerous ethical and practical issues that must be taken into consideration (Winters139-144). Experts on both sides of the argument have numerous statistics and studies to back up their claims and to refute the claims of their opponents. Death penalty supporters hold that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, and brings justice to killers. However, death penalty opponents maintain that the death penalty does not deter criminals, and desensitizes people to violence. There are no easy answers to the questions surrounding the imposition of the death penalty in the United States. Thus one should pursue this question with an open mind and consider all sides of the argument, because as Thomas Jefferson once said, "difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry leads to truth" (Winters 11).