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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Essay on Alternatives to Death Penalty

Death penalty had long been imposed in the United States.  In the past, various methods were employed in order to hasten the death of the condemned prisoner (“Capital Punishment” p.1).  Some of these methods were hanging, firing squad, electrocution, poison gas and lethal injection. (John J. Patrick, Richard M. Pious & Donald A. Ritchie, p.2) To date, death penalty is only being imposed in some countries.  Other countries which have allowed death penalty have stopped practicing it.  For those countries which still practice it, the trend today is the movement towards a less painful and more humane executions.  Hanging and Guillotine which were being practiced before were gradually replaced by electrocution and gas chamber.  Lethal injections are now being used by counties which still allow capital punishment.   It is perceived that lethal injection is less painful and more humane than the other methods of executions. 

It has been more than three decades since the Supreme Court made its ruling in the case of Greg v. Georgia 428 US 153 (1976) where it ruled that the capital punishment do not violate the constitution.  Despite the implemention of the capital punishment, the United States is still far from achieving the objectives behind the death penalty.  Streets are still not safe.  Killiings continue to happen.  Heinous crimes are still committed.  It need not be emphasized that the capital punishment has been unsuccessful in deterrring crime. 

Proposed Alternatives to Death Penalty
If the death penalty does not serve its purpose then there is no other reason why it should be retained (Herbert Haines, 1996, p.167).  If a policy does not serve its purpose then the policy should be abolished.  Death penalty was implemented due to the need to become tough on crime.  However, it is clear that the said policy has no impact in reducing the crime rate.  As an alternative, it is suggested that instead of being tough on crime, the state should instead imposed longer prison sentences.

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Those against capital punishment cite studies showing that there is no empirical evidence that will establish a causal relationship between capital punishment and the commission or non commission of crime.  Studies show that in twenty-seven states where at least one execution occurred during the sample period, Executions deter murder in only six states (Joana M. Shepherd, 2005, p.2).  On the other hand, in some states, capital punishment even increased murder in thirteen states, more than twice as many as experience deterrence. In eight states, capital punishment has no effect on the murder rate. That is, executions have a deterrent effect in only twenty-two percent of states. In contrast, executions induce additional murders in forty-eight percent of states. In seventy-eight percent of states, executions did not deter murder.

It only goes to show that capital punishment is ineffective at preventing crime.  One of the possible reasons for the same is that the thought of immediate death does not deter would-be criminals from committing crimes.  In fact, for some criminals, an immediate death could be the solution to their miseries.  Perhaps, for some of them, they look forward to being in the death row so that they could end their miserable life. 

As an alternative, it is suggested that inmates should be imposed longer prison sentences so that they will experience the agony of spending time in jail.  There is basis in saying that as between death penalty and longer prison sentences inmates are more afraid of being placed inside prisons for longer periods. 

In addition, longer prison sentence means that inmates are given opportunity to ask for a re-trial of their case should a new evidence be discovered.  For instance, many inmates have been taken advantage of the development in DNA technology by asking for a comparison of their DNA and the DNA samples found in the crime scene.  The comparison eventually showed that it was not their DNA that was found in the crime scene. 

Moreover, when inmates serve longer prison sentences they have more time to think about what they have done in the past.  They also have opportunity to reflect and reform (Fox Butterfield, 2001, p.2).  In fact, the primary purpose of prison should be the reformation and rehabilitation of the individual but this purpose seemed to have been forgotten.  It is even suggest that inmates who have shown significant improvement even when convicted of a heinous crime should be allowed release.

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