The question of whether or not Capital Punishment is ethicalhas been a problem society has faced for a long time. The death penalty is givento those who commit crimes so heinous, like murder, that society believes thecriminal responsible deserves death as a punishment. A widely controversialsubject, the death penalty ethical question is split among many people ofdiffering 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 fromImmanuel Kant, Utilitarianism, and Retributivism. Immanuel Kant believed that the death penalty was morallyjustifiable in certain cases and insisted on the capital punishment for murderssaying, “whoever has committed murder, must die” (Avaliani). Hebelieved that a society that does not sentence someone who has killed people todeath is just as bad as committing the crime itself. Kant criticizes the beliefthat no one has a right to deprive a person of a right to live.
He believedthat a state should have the right to kill a murderer. Kant believed that capital punishment is justified only forserious crimes such as murder or anything that causes a very large amount ofdamage to society. He believed it was impossible to allow any type of situationwhere a murderer should be entitled to any legal rights and would be able tojustify his actions. He also believed that we could not get rid of capitalpunishment 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 acontroversial nature and undermines itself. He also believed punishing aninnocent man by accident was better than failing to punish someone who hascommitted a crime and believed a murderer sentenced to death shouldn’t be allowedto appeal for a lighter punishment.Utilitarianism views the death penalty as being morallyjustifiable if it benefits society as a whole or “promotes the generalhappiness” (Punishment). So, if someone commits very serious crimes like murderthen it would promote the general happiness of the public to have that personbe punished with the death penalty. So, while even though punishing criminalsmight 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 canbe said that Utilitarianisms support death penalty because, violating lawscauses pain for the majority of the society so preventing this pain isnecessary. However, they don’t believe it is all right to punish criminals inorder to give them what they deserve or exact revenge or retribution on them. Theproblem with retribution, for utilitarianists, is that it promotes sufferingwithout any gain in happiness.Utilitarianists also believe capital punishment is meant todeter many criminals from committing murder. The severity of losing one’s life isintended to cause fear and consequently prevent crime.
The death penalty isalso better than life imprisonment because it prevents the criminal whocommitted such heinous crimes from being released from prison and committing themagain. From this viewpoint, the taking of the criminal’s life is justified becauseit prevents the taking of other, innocent lives. If decided that the permittingthe criminal to live may result in consequences of more terrible crimes, then capitalpunishment would be considered an appropriate alternative in that case.
The Retributive Theory is a form of justice that comes fromthe old saying “an eye for an eye” and “holds that wrongdoers morally deservepunishment for their wrongful acts” (Walen). The basic principles of it aredesert and proportionality with desert referring to something which has causeda person to commit a crime. Proportionality refers to how much punishment thecriminal should get according to the crime they committed. Retributivists donot punish a criminal for what they might do, but only for what the person hasdone for the whatever the person deserves.In the retributivist theory, the punishment given out isseen as a form of retaliation for whatever crime was committed. Retributivejustice tries to atone for the crime. The supporters of retributive justice saythat criminals deserve punishment on account of their wrongdoing. If theydeserve discipline, then justice demands we do so and injustice is done if wedon’t.
An advantage to this theory is that it targets punishment only for thosewho deserve it therefore, an innocent person can’t be punished. For apunishment to be given out, a person must be found guilty of committing thecrime they are accused of. Retributivist theory emphasizes the need ofproportionality of the punishment to the desert.
Also, such proportionalpunishment gives a sort of protection against severe and disproportionalpunishments for crimes. This keeps it ethical because punishments are only beinggiven out to those who deserve it and the punishments are not exceedingly cruelor unusual. Therefore, the death penalty would be ethical according to this type of theory because it would only beused against very dangerous or psychopathic criminals who have murdered people.Executing murderers prevents themfrom committing their crime again, and thus protects innocent victims. The goodoutweighs the bad, and the executioner is morally justified in taking themurderer’s life.
It is actually more morally wrong to simply incarcerate amurderer to a life of air-conditioning, television equipped prison where theyget three free meals a day, recreational time, and visits from people close tothem. Someone who murders another person can only be made to pay for theiractions by forfeiting their rights and giving their life in place of the personthey killed. It should be this way because a loss of freedom does not compareto loss of life. If the punishment for smaller crimes such as theft isimprisonment, then the punishment for murder must be even more severe, becausehuman life is much more valuable than any material item. For example, if amurderer took the life of a child and the criminal was only given a lifesentence then, the family of the victim will be paying taxes for his meals andhis television.
And if he were to take the college courses that prison mightoffer him, the family of the victim would be financing that as well. This goesagainst Kant and utilitarianism because it doesn’t strip the criminal of theirrights or punish them accordingly, but it also doesn’t promote happiness to thevictim’s family.Many people also tend to claimthat the death penalty is just a means of revenge. However, it is not while inreality, the murderer actually gets off fairly easy when they are sentenced todeath. The murderer is often only injected with a lethal injection. If a personis given the lethal injection they are put to sleep and then given a shot thatwill stops their heart. The criminal dies from overdose and respiratory andcardiac arrest while they are unconscious.
The small amount of pain thecriminal goes through does not even begin to compensate for the pain of thevictims and their families.The death penalty in the UnitedStates is reserved for only the most heinous of crimes. It is not a state-runlottery that randomly chooses people at random from among all those convictedof murder.
Instead, it is a system that selects the worst of the worst. If youwere to sentence killers like the ones previously described to a lighterpunishment, such as a long period in prison, would be disproportionate to theseverity of the crime. The Death Penalty also givesclosure 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 canbring the family of the victim comfort in knowing that the person who killedtheir family member has been caught and will be brought to justice.
Thispromotes their general happiness in knowing that a murderer has been caught andgoes along with the utilitarian view of benefitting society. Capital Punishment alsoeliminates the chances of a criminal getting free either through parole orescaping, and therefore prevents other murders. Some murderers are not alwaysgiven life sentences in prison and can have chance at being released.
The deathpenalty would alleviate that problem because it ensures that criminals are notgiven a chance to get out and commit other murders. It also prevents anypossibilities of inmates escaping out into the world, who might also commitmore crimes and jeopardize the lives of the innocent.The death penalty is also adeterrent.
The utilitarians view this as being one of the main reasons forsupporting the death penalty. Studies have shown that in over many states andyears the death penalty has shown a deterrence for crimes like murder. With theamount of serious crimes going down it saves the lives of innocent people whocould have been potential victims. With the fear of potentially losing theirlife, criminals don’t commit as many crimes therefore the death penalty is thebest deterrent. Kant’s problem of potentially punishingthe wrong person has gone down significantly with DNA testing effectively eliminatingalmost all question as to whether or not a person is guilty or innocence. Manymodern crime scene testing procedures such as checking for fingerprints allowsthe 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 theright person is being punished and is only being used against murderers.
These views show that the deathpenalty is an ethical solution to terrible crimes. All of these viewpoints statethat the death penalty should only be used in scenarios where the criminal inquestion has committed the most heinous of crimes, murder. Kant states that ifa criminal has killed someone then he forfeits his rights as a human being andhis punishment should be equal to the crime.
Utilitarianism believes that itwould help promote general happiness in society due to getting rid of murderersor criminals who have committed heinous felonies and ends the chance of themdoing it again and provides closure to the families of the victims. RetributiveTheory believes it to be ethical because it is only being used against the mostdangerous criminals who have murdered people and the punishment should fit thecrime. It also shows that it is ethical in that it allows victim’s familiesclosure and is deterrence to future crimes.