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Capital Punishment - for or Against

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Capital Punishment – For Or Against
Scott Cameron
Phase 4 Individual Project
Dana LaMantia

I’m sure you all have your thoughts on Capital Punishment, and whether you’re for or against it. I’d like to share a story with you about Donna Payant, a New York State Corrections Officer, and her killer. Lemuel Smith was an inmate where Donna worked; in 1976, he was sentenced to death for murdering a store owner and his employee, then kidnapping and murdering another woman before he was caught. However, his sentence was later converted to life in prison, sealing Donna’s fate five years later (Irvine, Kincaid,2003). My aim today is to share a few ideas that enforce capital punishment as an effective means of deterring heinous and horrific crimes, providing comfort for victims and their families, and saving the legal system money. Let’s start by taking a look at deterrence. Capital punishment can be looked at from the aspect of deterrence, which is discouraging individuals who may have the intention to participate in homicide. It is also a reference to the criminal, denoting that he may not commit a crime or participate in homicide. Deterrence is summed up by the deterrence theory (Siegel, 2012); this theory requires that individuals weigh the costs and rewards associated with different actions. It’s based on the premise that individuals will choose those actions that translate to greatest reward at lesser costs. The theory also proposes that crime is preferred when it is seen as yielding a greater reward at a lesser cost than conventional alternatives. In this case, capital punishment introduces the cost perspective; since nothing is costlier than life, criminals will be convinced that crime does not pay; this is referred to as general deterrence (Chandler, 2002). However, these actions would only be possible when the sanctions are severe enough to offset the benefits of crime, and there is no better sanction than capital punishment. I’ve explained why deterrence is a sound reason for capital punishment; now let’s examine the comfort it provides. The other consideration is the situation and feelings of victims and their families. Capital punishment is only an option in very sever crimes, such as homicide, gruesome torture and kidnappings; these situations present a great deal of trauma to victims or people witnessing such acts. Incase people survive such horrendous experiences they are left to live in fear of them occurring again (Petrezselyem, 2008). Support systems such as counseling and care mechanisms can be instituted to help; however, actual reprieve would only happen when the victim is convinced that the criminal has absolutely no chance of coming back to harm them. In most cases, the witnesses also never feel safe until absolute measures are taken to ensure that these persons will never have the chance to harm them again. To the victims and to some extent the witnesses’, incarceration is not an absolute way of guaranteeing safety; there’s always the chance, no matter how slim, of escape, or eventual release which means they remain living in fear. The only way these people can feel safe and be able to move on with their life is if these monsters are extinct, which is only possible through capital punishment (Siegel, 2012). Therefore, if absolute proof is existent for commission of the outlined crimes then this is the only way to allow victims to proceed with their lives and feel comfortable and safe in their own homes. Even though deterrence and comfort are sound cases for maintaining capital punishment, it has come under great scrutiny by activists who cite it as a source of wasted costs. To further the debate and support abolition of capital punishment, activists have teamed up with economists who compute the overall cost of capital punishment. The main point under this argument is that capital punishment, compared to Life without parole (LWOP), burdens society with unprecedented costs. Capital punishment is a means of avoiding life-long costs thus saving the government money; opponents of this view are informed by studies over the years, with the most prominent being one written by judge Arthur Alarcon and his law clerk in 2011. However, a closer look at the basis for such arguments reveals that they are founded on cases that took an abnormally cumbersome process. Two such cases are those of Scott Peterson and Charles Ng; even though these were arguably the costliest cases, these costs cannot be pegged on the resulting death penalty. Peterson’s case involved murder of a nearly full-time pregnant mother. On the other hand, Ng case involved horrific acts such as torture, kidnapping and murder (Salem Press, 2008). These two cases attracted huge media attention that called for relocating court proceedings rather than holding the trials in the area where the crimes were actually committed, which resulted in huge costs. These arguments though reasonably accepted have some major flaws; basically, the costs for prosecution seeking death and LWOP are the same. The only difference comes when trial courts conducts “a penalty phase” which involves the jury deciding whether the sentence is death or LWOP (Pojman & Reiman, 2004). However, the costs for this are not comparable to one of holding first degree murders for a lifetime. Due to this fact, capital punishment appears a more reasonable approach in cost saving as opposed to LWOP. In conclusion, capital punishment appears to be an effective measure to curb crime, provides reprieve and comfort for victims and their families, and saves costs. Any way you look at it, LWOP which may lead to killers killing again, has no substantiation when compared to capital punishment and the potential lives it saves. Even if costs for capital punishment and LWOP were the same, I want you to think about the following statistics. John McRae, a labeled pedophile, was convicted of taking an 8-year-old boy’s life; he was later paroled in 1971, and took another young boy’s life in 1998. Timothy Buss; received a 25-year sentence in 1981 for taking the life of a 5-year-old girl, and later paroled in 1993; three years later, he took a 10-year-old boy’s life (Lowe, 2011). These are only two examples of many that demonstrate to me that ‘LWOP’ and ‘Rehabilitation’ don’t work, and how thinking they do, has sadly cost the lives of others. You know my stance on Capital Punishment, and I hope if you weren’t for it before reading my argument, you are now.
Chandler, D. B. (1976). Capital punishment in Canada: A sociological study of repressive law. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. Retrieved at Capital+punishment+in+Canada:+A+sociological+study+of+repressive+law.&source=bl&ots=un43VmpdWt&sig=vzgBLP7Jl-EYuBeMM4fO_FQ67JA&hl=en&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Capital%20punishment%20in%20Canada%3A%20A%20sociological%20study%20of%20repressive%20law.&f=false

Irvine, R and Kincaid, C. (2003) Accuracy in Media Website. Killers Who Kill Again.

Retrieved at

Lowe, W. (2011). PRO DEATEH PENALTY WEBPAGE. Retrieved at

Petrezselyem, L. (2008). Capital punishment in contemporary US America: Development and debate. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH.

Pojman, L., & Reiman, J. (1998). The death penalty: For and against. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Retrieved at

Salem Press. (2008). American villains. Pasadena, Calif: Salem Press, Inc.

Siegel, L. J. (2012). Criminology. Belmont: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. Retrieved at

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