The question of whether or not Capital Punishment is ethical
has been a problem society has faced for a long time. The death penalty is given
to those who commit crimes so heinous, like murder, that society believes the
criminal responsible deserves death as a punishment. A widely controversial
subject, the death penalty ethical question is split among many people of
differing ideas with some believing it is bad, and some believing it to be good.
This essay will go over why the death penalty is ethical with support from
Immanuel Kant, Utilitarianism, and Retributivism.

Immanuel Kant believed that the death penalty was morally
justifiable in certain cases and insisted on the capital punishment for murders
saying, “whoever has committed murder, must die” (Avaliani). He
believed that a society that does not sentence someone who has killed people to
death is just as bad as committing the crime itself. Kant criticizes the belief
that no one has a right to deprive a person of a right to live. He believed
that a state should have the right to kill a murderer.

Kant believed that capital punishment is justified only for
serious crimes such as murder or anything that causes a very large amount of
damage to society. He believed it was impossible to allow any type of situation
where a murderer should be entitled to any legal rights and would be able to
justify his actions. He also believed that we could not get rid of capital
punishment and didn’t know what could take its place it if it was abolished.
Kant thought that if a criminal is not punished then society has a
controversial nature and undermines itself. He also believed punishing an
innocent man by accident was better than failing to punish someone who has
committed a crime and believed a murderer sentenced to death shouldn’t be allowed
to appeal for a lighter punishment.

Utilitarianism views the death penalty as being morally
justifiable if it benefits society as a whole or “promotes the general
happiness” (Punishment). So, if someone commits very serious crimes like murder
then it would promote the general happiness of the public to have that person
be punished with the death penalty. So, while even though punishing criminals
might cause sadness and pain for them and the people who are close to them,
these punishments will ensure the happiness of the society as a whole. It can
be said that Utilitarianisms support death penalty because, violating laws
causes pain for the majority of the society so preventing this pain is
necessary. However, they don’t believe it is all right to punish criminals in
order to give them what they deserve or exact revenge or retribution on them. The
problem with retribution, for utilitarianists, is that it promotes suffering
without any gain in happiness.

Utilitarianists also believe capital punishment is meant to
deter many criminals from committing murder. The severity of losing one’s life is
intended to cause fear and consequently prevent crime. The death penalty is
also better than life imprisonment because it prevents the criminal who
committed such heinous crimes from being released from prison and committing them
again. From this viewpoint, the taking of the criminal’s life is justified because
it prevents the taking of other, innocent lives. If decided that the permitting
the criminal to live may result in consequences of more terrible crimes, then capital
punishment would be considered an appropriate alternative in that case.

The Retributive Theory is a form of justice that comes from
the old saying “an eye for an eye” and “holds that wrongdoers morally deserve
punishment for their wrongful acts” (Walen). The basic principles of it are
desert and proportionality with desert referring to something which has caused
a person to commit a crime. Proportionality refers to how much punishment the
criminal should get according to the crime they committed. Retributivists do
not punish a criminal for what they might do, but only for what the person has
done for the whatever the person deserves.

In the retributivist theory, the punishment given out is
seen as a form of retaliation for whatever crime was committed. Retributive
justice tries to atone for the crime. The supporters of retributive justice say
that criminals deserve punishment on account of their wrongdoing. If they
deserve discipline, then justice demands we do so and injustice is done if we
don’t. An advantage to this theory is that it targets punishment only for those
who deserve it therefore, an innocent person can’t be punished. For a
punishment to be given out, a person must be found guilty of committing the
crime they are accused of. Retributivist theory emphasizes the need of
proportionality of the punishment to the desert. Also, such proportional
punishment gives a sort of protection against severe and disproportional
punishments for crimes. This keeps it ethical because punishments are only being
given out to those who deserve it and the punishments are not exceedingly cruel
or unusual. Therefore, the death penalty would be ethical according to this type of theory because it would only be
used against very dangerous or psychopathic criminals who have murdered people.

Executing murderers prevents them
from committing their crime again, and thus protects innocent victims. The good
outweighs the bad, and the executioner is morally justified in taking the
murderer’s life. It is actually more morally wrong to simply incarcerate a
murderer to a life of air-conditioning, television equipped prison where they
get three free meals a day, recreational time, and visits from people close to
them. Someone who murders another person can only be made to pay for their
actions by forfeiting their rights and giving their life in place of the person
they killed. It should be this way because a loss of freedom does not compare
to loss of life. If the punishment for smaller crimes such as theft is
imprisonment, then the punishment for murder must be even more severe, because
human life is much more valuable than any material item. For example, if a
murderer took the life of a child and the criminal was only given a life
sentence then, the family of the victim will be paying taxes for his meals and
his television. And if he were to take the college courses that prison might
offer him, the family of the victim would be financing that as well. This goes
against Kant and utilitarianism because it doesn’t strip the criminal of their
rights or punish them accordingly, but it also doesn’t promote happiness to the
victim’s family.

Many people also tend to claim
that the death penalty is just a means of revenge. However, it is not while in
reality, the murderer actually gets off fairly easy when they are sentenced to
death. The murderer is often only injected with a lethal injection. If a person
is given the lethal injection they are put to sleep and then given a shot that
will stops their heart. The criminal dies from overdose and respiratory and
cardiac arrest while they are unconscious. The small amount of pain the
criminal goes through does not even begin to compensate for the pain of the
victims and their families.

The death penalty in the United
States is reserved for only the most heinous of crimes. It is not a state-run
lottery that randomly chooses people at random from among all those convicted
of murder. Instead, it is a system that selects the worst of the worst. If you
were to sentence killers like the ones previously described to a lighter
punishment, such as a long period in prison, would be disproportionate to the
severity of the crime.

The Death Penalty also gives
closure to the victim’s families and friends who have already suffered a lot.
When the criminal responsible for a murder is caught and sentenced, it can
bring the family of the victim comfort in knowing that the person who killed
their family member has been caught and will be brought to justice. This
promotes their general happiness in knowing that a murderer has been caught and
goes along with the utilitarian view of benefitting society.

Capital Punishment also
eliminates the chances of a criminal getting free either through parole or
escaping, and therefore prevents other murders. Some murderers are not always
given life sentences in prison and can have chance at being released. The death
penalty would alleviate that problem because it ensures that criminals are not
given a chance to get out and commit other murders. It also prevents any
possibilities of inmates escaping out into the world, who might also commit
more crimes and jeopardize the lives of the innocent.

The death penalty is also a
deterrent. The utilitarians view this as being one of the main reasons for
supporting the death penalty. Studies have shown that in over many states and
years the death penalty has shown a deterrence for crimes like murder. With the
amount of serious crimes going down it saves the lives of innocent people who
could have been potential victims. With the fear of potentially losing their
life, criminals don’t commit as many crimes therefore the death penalty is the
best deterrent.

Kant’s problem of potentially punishing
the wrong person has gone down significantly with DNA testing effectively eliminating
almost all question as to whether or not a person is guilty or innocence. Many
modern crime scene testing procedures such as checking for fingerprints allows
the police to come up with enough evidence to prove who committed the crime.
This also fits in with the retributive theory of punishment making sure the
right person is being punished and is only being used against murderers.

          These views show that the death
penalty is an ethical solution to terrible crimes. All of these viewpoints state
that the death penalty should only be used in scenarios where the criminal in
question has committed the most heinous of crimes, murder. Kant states that if
a criminal has killed someone then he forfeits his rights as a human being and
his punishment should be equal to the crime. Utilitarianism believes that it
would help promote general happiness in society due to getting rid of murderers
or criminals who have committed heinous felonies and ends the chance of them
doing it again and provides closure to the families of the victims. Retributive
Theory believes it to be ethical because it is only being used against the most
dangerous criminals who have murdered people and the punishment should fit the
crime. It also shows that it is ethical in that it allows victim’s families
closure and is deterrence to future crimes. 


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