If statistics are to be believed, as many as 59 countries, including the United States, retain capital punishment (A.K.A. death penalty) as a form of punishment for criminal activities even today.
Some people argue that concepts like ‘capital punishment’ don’t fit in the civilized society that we are a part of. Not everybody is impressed by such arguments though, and statistical data hints at this very fact. Countries where capital punishment is deemed legal and executions are carried out within a short period have a significantly low crime rate as compared to those countries where this form of punishment is considered illegal, or the process takes several years.
The World Perspective
As of 2008, 59 countries have the provision for capital punishment as a part of their legal system. Among these 59 countries, 25 countries actually carry out executions depending on the seriousness of the crime. Asian countries lead the pack, with the total number of executions surpassing the total number of executions in the world in 2008. In the same year, China alone had 1,178 executions to its credit, while the rest of the world together amounted to 672 executions. In fact, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United States together constituted for about 93 percent of the total capital punishment executions of the world in 2008. In Americas, it is the United States which leads the pack as far as capital punishment sentences and executions are concerned.
The United States Perspective
In the United States, the first person was sentenced to death in 1608, when he was found guilty of spying for Spain. The Espy File―a database of the executions carried out in the United States, cites that 15,269 executions were carried out in the nation between 1608 and 2002. If we break the data in accordance to the state, Virginia recorded 1,375 executions, Texas recorded 1,152, New York 1,130, and Pennsylvania recorded 1,043 executions as of July 2007. A Supreme Court ruling in 1972 resulted in suspension of capital punishment for a brief period between 1972 and 1976. After the same resumed in 1976, more than a thousand people were executed by the 37 states wherein this form of punishment is deemed legal.
Besides these states, states like Louisiana, Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Delaware, California, Illinois, Nevada, and Mississippi have also recorded 10 or more executions since 1976. On the other hand, states like Kansas and New Hampshire haven’t recorded any executions over the last 3 decades even though there is a provision for the same according to the law of the land. Several states in the US have outlawed capital punishment. These include Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the US Virgin Islands.
Methods of Execution
While the historical methods of capital punishment, which included strangulation and beheading, were quite harsh, things have changed considerably today. Among the various methods of execution used in the United States, the most prominent one is electrocution, wherein the convict is killed by an electric shock. Other methods include the use of lethal injection, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad. The statistical data pertaining to the number of executions carried out in the United States by each of these methods since 1976 is given below.
In some countries death penalty is executed in complete secrecy, which, in turn, makes it very difficult to ascertain the actual number of executions carried out in these countries. While human rights activists and people against this practice argue that it is a cruel act and hence, should be outlawed, people in its support argue that it is necessary to ensure justice and to make sure that our surroundings are safe.