The Issue of Capital Punishment in the United States

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Death Valley: The Issue of Capital Punishment in the United States

Should capital punishment be practiced in the United States? This question has been highly debated for many years because of the numerous, often conflicting perspectives from which various parties have attempted to answer it. These parties range from high-ranking politicians seeking to lower the national crime rate to the average United States taxpayer who does not want to see his or her money being spent inefficiently. In addition to such empirical concerns, moral issues such as conceptions of justice arise as well. After examining the history of the issue, its international status, and the arguments of the opposing factions, we will recommend that capital punishment remain in use in those states that want to regulate it, but that reforms are necessary in order to improve its system of implementation.

The debate over the death penalty dates as far back as the late 1700s when incarceration became an alternative to killing criminals and gave rise to the abolitionist movement. The abolitionists supported the idea that the state did not have the right to take anyone’s life. Although the death penalty became an important issue in the mid nineteenth century, the civil war shifted more focus towards the anti–slavery movement. It wasn’t until the Progressive Period of the early twentieth century that the capital punishment debate was in full swing. Again between the 1920s and 1940s capital punishment was being used as an intended deterrent to crime. Finally from the 1950s on, capital punishment again became unpopular and since then many nations have banned capital punishment altogether. International comparisons show us that the United States is one of the few i...

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