Tuesday, 3 July 2007

The Death Penalty

I have just read J.S.Mill's speech in opposition to a bill banning capital punishment that had been proposed by Mr. Gilpin on 21st April 1868 - http://ethics.sandiego.edu/Mill.html Its quite brilliant. Here is a critique of arguements that many use against the use of capital punishment that I have composed. I have also included the main points that Mill puts forward in his speech. In my opinion, death should certainly be a punishment for the severest of crimes.

1) Many studies have shown the Death Penalty to be an ineffective deterrent.

We only know of the people who weren't detered by the death penalty, not of those who were detered and didn't commit a crime. You can't judge the effectiveness of a punishment by looking at its results on hardened criminals. The efficiency of a punishment as a deterrent, should be made by looking at its effect on the presently innocent. Just as a brave soldier isn't affected by the thought of dying in battle, the death penalty might not affect a sadastical killer. The differences between countries with the death penalty and those without it are numerous, and so it is impossible to analyse the effect that the death penalty itself has on crime rates. It is therefore wrong to make conclusions on the effectiveness of the death penalty by comparing crime statistics of countries. In some american states with the death penalty the amount of murders per 100,000 is higher than some states without the death penalty. This can further be explained by the fact that in America, more people on death row die from natural causes than are executed. If a punishment is only carried out for the worst of crimes, and hardly ever carried out at all in most cases, then its failure can be explained by murderers believing that they won't recieve it.

2) We have no right to take away someone's life and two wrongs don't make a right.

If you think taking away "life" is wrong because its a fundemental right, what about taking away liberty, do you think taking that away as a punishment is wrong as well? Once more saying that punishing murderers by murdering them is hypocritical and immoral, i.e. 2 wrongs don't make a right, is a flawed arguement because it can be applied to all crimes. When vandals destroy property we think it fit to confiscate their property, i.e. we fine them. When kidnapper's take away someone's liberty, we put them in prison and so restrict their liberty. Why therefore don't we apply the same logic to when someone takes away someone's life.

3) What if there is a miscarriage of justice?

Mill says that the only valid arguement against the death penalty is that the price of a mistake is high. If a mistake is made, it cannot be rectified. If someone is wrongly sent to prison they can be compensated, if someone is wrongly executed we can't give their life back to them. However the British Judicial System is the envy of the world, there aren't any documented cases where someone has been wrongfully executed.

4) Everyone deserves a second chance.

Not everyone deserves a second chance, for there are those who if given a second chance would use it to commit crime again. Whilst some criminals can be reformed, there are equally those who cannot be reformed. Perhaps some do deserve a second chance though, and therefore prison may be more appropriate for them.

I leave you with this quote.

"If we want to abolish the death penalty, let our friends the murderers take the first step." --Alphonse Karr