Capital punishment has been and is currently a hot topic among the sociological community. It is very easy to get lost in the emotions that coincide with the death penalty and even easier to analyze it from a biased prospective. The sociological community is divided over the issue.
One key argument among sociologist is whether the death penalty is crime deterrence. Some people believe capital punishment works as a deterrent because we have been using punishments to discourage people from committing crimes for decades. The theory insists criminals see other murderers being executed then this will cause them to think twice before committing a crime. This theory is very hard to test because it takes many years to execute people due to the way our current criminal justice system operates. In 1973 Isaac Ehrlich asserted that 7 lives are spared and that is attributed to the death penalty deterring people from committing murder. Criminologists theorize the death penalty is the ultimate deterrent because it incapacitates the offender permanently.
The counter argument to this is the death penalty is not a deterrent for potential offenders. Sociologists assert that it’s no more a deterrent then serving a life sentence in prison. Another theory is potential offenders aren’t deterred because they do not plan on getting caught or they commit a crime of passion. According to Adam Hugo, crime rates are not lower in states that do not have the death penalty thus making the death penalty not a viable deterrent to crime.
Another raging debate is retribution. The idea is people who commit murders need to pay for what they have done. This principle theorizes, an eye for an eye mentality. Basically, if a person is murdered then the person who committed the crime deserves to die also. This concept is derived from a religious perspective. People who support the death penalty claim our government should not have to provide food, clothing and shelter to criminals when much more deserving people who are going without. Another reason people favor the death penalty is based on emotion. The idea is the victim’s family deserves to have closure and the offender’s execution helps bring that about.
The counter argument claims the death penalty is not a sufficient means of retribution. According to the thesaurus retribution is another word for revenge. . Some would say being pro death penalty causes us to send out mixed signals about violence. Many psychologists believe our increasing dependence on capital punishment is a sign that we are losing respect for human life. There are a number of people who would assert the death penalty is an easy way out for criminals because they escape the prison culture where violence and rape is common place.
In conclusion the sociological community is divided over the death penalty. There are difficulties when attempting to analyze this issue because of the way due process works. Even more difficult is being fully objective about an issue that is so emotionally charged and religion oriented.
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