I do not believe any civilized society should be at the service of death. I don't think it's human to become an agent of the Angel of Death. ~ Elie Wiesel
Indeed, while claiming ourselves integral part of the new civilized society, aren't we doing injustice to our very claim by propagating the theory of execution? Heated debate is going on and there are people advocating capital punishment and there are many against it. We oppose the death penalty not just for what it does to those guilty of heinous crimes, but for what it does to all of us, it offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life. - Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza, President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1999. Well, there are numerous reasons against capital punishment. Before discussing those reasons in detail, let us have a look at its history.
According to the legal codes of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) the death penalty was inflicted on the culprits indulged in practice of a different religion, pre-marital sex, homosexual behavior, prostitutes, rebellious teenagers, and blasphemy. Afterward, it also served as the means by which rulers could suppress their rivals.
There are 7 types of capital punishments known to world. These are :
1. Death by Hanging
2. Execution by Firing Squad
3. Lethal Injection
4. Gas Chamber Executions
5. Death by Stoning
6. Death by Beheading
All these types are of inhumane nature. The questions that arise here - when there are other means of punishment available today, why we still persist with such inhumane punishments?
Arguments Against Death Penalty
Denial of Basic Rights
According to the Humans Rights Association, capital punishment overrules our most basic human right - the right to life. Human life has a fundamental value. The blessedness of human life is denied by the death penalty. Life is precious.
Possibilities of Error
When an individual stands for a trial, he is convicted on the basis of the evidence against him. There have been times wherein evidence has been fabricated against an individual to settle personal scores. If later investigations find that there has been an error in judgment, then it can release the person and compensate him for the injustice, however, in case of a death penalty, the jury can do nothing apart from feeling guilty for taking the life of an innocent.
Generally, it is observed that capital punishment is inflicted unduly on the poor and minorities. If you follow the data of these victims, you will find that the mentally ill, poor, and people belonging to minorities form a large chunk of the total number. You can also notice a kind of racial discrimination happens due to varied reasons. Because the poor can offer very low compensation the defense lawyers are often incompetent, resulting in losing the case. Due to prejudice and bias, poor people, and people from minority sections become soft target for such capital punishments, as unrestricted discretion has been offered to District attorney. If any one wants to appeal, then it becomes a burdensome process for him often resulting in denial of justice.
Lack of Deterrence
The purpose of any punishment should be deterrence from repeating the same act. But, according to the statistics available, the death penalty has not been effective in controlling the homicide rate. The studies have revealed the shocking truth that executions actually increase the murder rate. That means the capital punishment does not deter violent crime. According to a New York Times study, the last 20 years witnessed 48% homicide rate in states with the implementation of capital punishment compared to 23% in the states without it.
The validity to the deterrence argument is annulled by the delays, endless appeals, retrials, and technicalities that keeps a person waiting for execution for years. In fact, we are not competent enough to carry out execution. This uncertainty and incompetence offers another great injustice. It is itself cruel and a form of torture.
Sometimes, individuals suffering from emotional trauma, abandonment, violence, neglect or destructive social environment commit such heinous crimes. These mitigating situations can have devastating effect on their humanity. So, it is unfair to hold them fully responsible for their crimes. It is our social responsibility to show sympathy to some extent.
Effects on Society
Capital Punishment is itself a premeditated murder. This is unacceptable even it is inflicted by state authority as it lowers the value of life. In fact, such act can only brutalize the society. "Revenge is essential" can become a society attitude. By witnessing such acts, our own mental makeup starts believing that violence is necessary to curb the wrongdoings.
In conclusion, capital punishment is a moral dishonor. The mockery is that the very civilizations that have no right to impose it, are in particular leading the traditions of capital punishments. The economic malfunctions and cultural diseases in those very societies contribute to the violence. So, instead of inflicting capital punishment, it's our duty to provide opportunities for all people to accomplish a good life in a rational culture. As Most Rev. David B. Thompson, Bishop of Charleston, S.C. said, "Capital punishment feeds the cycle of violence in society by pandering to a lust for revenge. It brutalizes us, and deadens our sensitivity to the precious nature of every single human life."