The degree of civilization of a society is always determined by the attitude to women, children, and the elderly. Perhaps, in this test on civility, not the least important item is an attitude towards the death penalty. On the road to civilization, mankind has gradually got rid of the barbarian cruel habits. This is the case of justice: once on the entire planet, it was considered normal to maim or painfully execute. We can name such sophisticated executions of the Inquisition as rack, quartering, planting at the stake, burning – all they are only a small portion of the known methods of killing people.
Now, we can hardly imagine an existing guillotine in the Paris area or bandits hanging on the streets of any city but still, Iran and Afghanistan, which for certain offenses publicly beat people with stones, are rather the exceptions to the global practice. Supporters of the death penalty appeal to the instincts of the crowd, while its opponents – to the spirit. However, as world practice shows, intelligence does not always prevail over instincts.
The death penalty through the eyes of any society is seen differently. The experts of the independent research in 2006 surveyed 800 inhabitants of large cities in the age from 16 to 45 years for their attitude to capital punishment (Fellner, Tofte 23). The survey results were as following: the death penalty was disapproved only by 22% of respondents (Fellner, Tofte 23). It was difficult to answer 10% of respondents. The remaining respondents had a positive attitude towards the use of the death penalty. If we consider the arguments used by citizens for and against the death penalty, the answers are as follows. The main argument for the abolition of the death penalty is a moral factor because the death penalty means killing people.
If we consider the arguments against the abolition of the death penalty, 45% of respondents believe that the abolition of capital punishment will lead to an increase in serious crimes. Approximately the same number of respondents (41%) believes that the death penalty is just retribution for crimes (Fellner, Tofte 26). Thus, this survey demonstrates that the perception of those polled varies greatly since people have a lot of pros and cons regarding the death penalty.
According to the supporters of the death penalty, there is a good reason to save such a punishment. It is nothing more than the representative of strict truth, which pursues evil and saves the public order established by God himself from it. The death penalty is threatening as a sword, as the fear of possible death, as a ghost, haunting the offender with its terrible invisible presence. Thus, only thought of it restrains many people from evil deeds. In other words, supporters of the death penalty argue that the very existence of the death penalty makes people feel a sense of awe and respect the rule of law. This naturally will result in fewer crimes. Indeed, does the crime rate depend on the occurrence or absence of the fixed possibility of using the death penalty in the legislation (Gumbel 25)? Yet, this point faces bitter disputes. Abolitionists of the death penalty say that in countries where the exceptional measure of punishment is not applied, the crime rate is lower than in countries where it is not prohibited. However, it is likely that in this case, the death penalty is not the cause but rather a consequence of the reduction of crimes. The countries where the situation is favorable for the crime rate cannot afford to abolish the death penalty.
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It is no secret that our time presents a great financial crisis for many countries in the world. Paradoxically, a legislator advocating for the abolition of the possibility of the death penalty often cannot protect people from the fate of being “executed without a sentence” due to appalling conditions of detention. How are we going to sustain people who have been convicted to life imprisonment? On average, each year about 500 people commits crimes and face life in prison. It means that after 10 years we will have 20 colonies. How should they be sustained? Do killers and maniacs deserve more pity than children from poor families who are dying due to an inability to pay for medicine? For instance, one person sentenced to life imprisonment needs on average more money than the cost of 10-15 children’s hospital beds. Surely, such a comparison does not speak in favor of a pardon. There are other aspects to this matter whether to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment. Among them, there are several abstract statements on the purpose of punishment. It is generally accepted that punishment is primarily intended to protect society from the offender’s actions and to correct his/her behavior. If the first is possible in life imprisonment, the latter is unlikely to be true. Can a person become better in prison? It is doubted. Death is necessary as retribution. People who are capable of killing do not deserve any pity (Prejean 36).
Thus, people are inclined to think that the death penalty is necessary and that its removal may lead to negative consequences. The statistics given at the beginning shows a clear advantage of the supporters of the death penalty. The inertia of law will still be affecting the assessment of various legal institutions and funds. Painstaking efforts are required to build a true system of legal and democratic views. Unfortunately, a state “seized” many human rights and civil rights, and ultimately brought them to a minimum. Thus, our society is simply not ready for the adoption of a radical decision to abolish the death penalty, since it contains the shortcomings and contradictions that lead to violent crimes.