Perspectives of the Capital Punishment Debate

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Perspectives of the Capital Punishment Debate

In today's world, terrible crimes are being committed. Many believe that these crimes deserve one fate: death. Debate over the merits of capital punishment continue on a daily basis. Proponents of capital punishment defend it mainly on two grounds: death is a fitting punishment for murder, and executions maximize public safety through incapacitation and deterrence. Opponents claim that it is inhumane, does not deter crime, leaves too much room for error, and in some cases is racist and discriminatory. This discussion will center on capital punishment, focusing on three topics: 1) views of the proponents; 2) views of the opponents; and finally, 3) possible solutions and alternatives to what is a very controversial and emotional issue facing our society.

Proponent's View

Capital punishment supporters' view is very simple: the death penalty works. Many base their judgment on religious principles. Regardless of their faith, they point to the Bible, Koran, Torah, or other scriptural texts that advocate an "eye for an eye" remedy for murder or other heinous crimes. However, religious faith aside, they also cite other evidence as proof of their convictions.

A recent Department of Justice study lends merit to their claim. During the 1930's, murders hit an all-time high. Executions also peaked in 1935. In those distant days, people were executed fairly routinely and the number of executions coincided with the number of murders.

Over the next 30 years, both the murder rate and the number of executions declined. This could be interpreted two ways: murders declined because of some external reason (the end of Prohibition) and the number of executions fell accordingly; o...

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... through the penal system. Opponents reason problems of crime and violence can only be solved by reforming our social and economic system, and reformulating the cultural and moral values that have produced that system and are in turn reinforced by it.

Until both sides can find some common ground, the debate will continue to rage.


Berelson, B. and Steiner, G. (1964). Human Behavior: An Inventory of Scientific Findings. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.

Gilligan, J. (2000, Fall). Punishment and violence: is the criminal law based on one huge mistake? Social Research. 745-783.



Tucker, W. (2000, October). Why the death penalty works. American Spectator. 34-37.


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