Essay on Capital Punishment - A Complex Social Issue

Essay on Capital Punishment - A Complex Social Issue

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Should the government abolish capital punishment? This is a question that has plagued the United States since its birth, as it is a complex social issue not easily resolved. The law, society, and many religious institutions consider life to be precious. Also, because capital punishment is irreversible, an innocent life could potentially be at stake in the pursuit of justice. Groups that are opposed to the death penalty – such as Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the majority of Christian religious institutions (Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodist, Presbyterians, and the United Church of Christ)– feel that it is an unnecessary violation of human rights. (“History of the Death Penalty”) On the other hand, supporters for the death penalty – such as the Republican Party and the Fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and Mormon churches – argue that it is a just punishment for heinous crimes and an effective deterrent for potential criminals. (“History”) These groups have raised additional questions: Does the government have the right to execute its own citizens as punishment? Should the Death Penalty be replaced with life imprisonment without parole? And why is the United States the only industrialized, Democratic nation that still uses capital punishment? To begin, we can look for answers in the history of capital punishment in the U.S.

Scholars estimate that since colonial times, at least 15,000 people have been executed in the United States. (“Paternoster 14”) Since 1930, however, there has been a gradual decline in the number of executions performed per year (14). Between 1967 and 1977, there was a temporary abolishment of capital punishment; but since it was...

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... the Death Penalty: The Views of the Experts.” Death Penalty Information Center 1995. 16 Feb 2004.

Rupp, Ashley. “Death Penalty Prosecutorial Charging Decisions and County Budgetary Restrictions: Is the Death Penalty Arbitrarily Based on County Funding?” Fordham Law Review May 2003. Vol. 71, no. 6, pp. 2735-80.

Scullin, Jeff. “Death Penalty: Is the Price of Justice Too High?” National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty 14 Dec 2003. 16 Feb 2004.

van den Haag, Ernest. “On Deterrence and the Death Penalty.” Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science. 1969. Vol. 60, pp. 141-147.

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