Pros and Cons of Capital Punishment


Capital punishment, which is also equivalent to the death penalty, has been considered as one of the most controversial issues in department correction and politics. Besides, capital punishment is a topic with a very long and diverse history in different countries and states that have led to a change of laws numerous times. Over time, methods of capital punishment have adjusted from the public to privately managed execution and from the use of gas and hanging to use lethal injection. Despite these changes, there are many burning issues yet to be solved such as whether capital punishment has a direct relationship with the rate of murder in a given region. Another burning issue is the pros and cons associated with capital punishment. Many questions still remain unanswered on the efficiency of capital punishment as a way of correcting capital crime. This paper is going to look specifically at the pros and cons of capital punishment. As much as capital punishment benefits some individuals as a way of serving justice, it is against the universal human rights to terminate anybody’s life in the name of serving justice. That in itself is an injustice.

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Pros and cons of capital punishment

Different analysts came up with various pros and cons based on several factors such as morality, constitutionality, deterrence, irrevocable mistakes, race, retribution, cost of death vs. life in prison, among other perspectives.

Pros based on Morality

The crimes involving rape, treason, kidnapping, torture, larceny, murder, and perjury revolve on a moral human code that diverts apodictic [indisputably true] evidence by an expert witness or otherwise. However, societies would plunge themselves into unwarranted anarchy if they do not act on ethical assumptions less sure than that the sun will always rise in the eastern side of the world and set on the western side. Activists may argue that the death penalty is characteristicallyimmoralsince governments should never take any human’s life, no matter what the aggravation is. However, that is an article based on faith, not of fact thus the death penalty still becomes justifiable. According to Bruce Fein, “the death penalty honors human dignity by rewarding the defendant as a free moral representative who can guide his own destiny for the good or the evil; it does not consider the defendant as an animal which lacks a moral sense. (Fein)”


Eventually, the moral controversy surrounding capital punishment in the United States of America has little to do with whether the convicts of violent crime deserve to lose their lives. This view disagrees with whether state and federal governments need to kill those whom it has already imprisoned. The legacy of racial bias, racial apartheid, and ethnic discrimination is undoubtedly evident in the issuance of capital punishment in America. Death penalties are slapped in a criminal justice system that season better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and at the same time innocent. This is an immoral situation that makes avoiding the death penalty on moral issues not only defensible but also necessary for those refusing to accept discriminative or unjust administration of punishment. (Stevenson)”

Pros based on Constitutionality.

Under this basis, scholars and lawmakers argued that just because capital punishment procedure may result in pain that is caused either by an inescapable consequence of death or accident does not institute the type of ‘objectively intolerable hazard of harm that satisfies like being cruel and unusual. Kentucky alone has developed a method of execution that many people believe to be the most humane available on earth and it shares with 35 other States. Kentucky decided to adhere to its own systems and cannot be seen as probative of the vicious infliction of agony and pain under the Eighth Amendment. Throughout history, whenever a method of capital penalty has been defended in a Court of law as cruel and unusual, the Court has to reject the challenge. Nonetheless, society has steadilytransited to more humane means of carrying out capital punishment on convicted (Rees).”



There is no justification for putting anyone unusually severe punishment, unusual consisting of pain, in its finality, and the enormity. The most lethal constitutional frailty in the punishment by death is that it considers members of the human fraternity as non-humans but only sees them as objects to be played with and eventually discarded. It is, therefore, inconsistent with the fundamental aspect of the Clause that even the most dangerous criminal remains a human being who is possessed of ordinary human dignity. As a result, death is a penalty that ‘subjects humans to a fate that is forbidden by the norm of civilized treatment that is guaranteed by the Clause. It, therefore, would hold, on that very ground, that death is, in fact, a cruel and painful punishment prohibited by the Clause.  (William J. Brennan)”

Pros and based on deterrence

Liberal thinking, lately encouraged by statistics, states that the death penalty will prevent murder since many convicts fear nothing else as much as they fear death. Therefore, the threats of the death penalty will prevent a criminal from committing any crime more than life in prison threat would have perverted. Murderers clearly prefer serving jail terms to execution. Therefore, life in prison needs to be less deterrent than a death sentence. Ernest argues that in order to reduce the rate of capital crime we must execute murderers as it would help protects citizens from subsequent murder (Ernest Van Den Haag).



There has never been credible proof that the death penalty reduces the rate of crime more effectively compared to long term imprisonments. States having death penalty laws do not represent any lower crime rates or murder compared to states that lack such laws. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, states that abolished capital penalties show no evident changes in the crime or murder rates. Therefore, the death penalty does not have any deterrent effect on the rate of crime. Claims by certain groups that each execution carried out deter a given number of murders have been sensationally been discredited by social research on science ((ACLU)).


Pros based on retribution

Society is considered to be justly arranged when each receives what is due to him. Crime causes disturbance to this just societal order since it takes away lives, liberties, peace, and worldly materials in order to give criminals undeserved benefits. Capital punishment shields the society morally by reviving this just order and making the criminal pay a price that is equal to the damage he has done. This is considered to be retribution which in this case should not be confused with plotting revenge, whose guiding motive is different. In retribution, the spur is the quality of indignation, which solves injury with another injury for public benefit. Retribution is considered to be the primary purpose of just penalties such as protection, rehabilitation, and deterrence which has a lesser effect in punishment compared retribution in the long run (Budziszewski).


Retribution is defined as just another simple word for revenge, and the craving for revenge is viewed as one of the lowest points in human emotions. Perhaps, sometimes revenge can be understandable, but it is never a rational response to any critical situation. Killing a person who has murdered another one close to them is simply a continuation of the cycle of violence which eventually destroys both the avenger and the offender. This execution would somehow give the solution to the tragedy in the form of a myth. Expressing an individual’s violence simply emphasizes the need to express the violence itself. Just as showing anger simply makes one angrier, killing a murderer does not drain away they had caused. It compromises the otherwise humanity which any human needs to advance in love and understanding (Raymond).



Pros based on race

The fact that most blacks and Hispanics are punished with capital crimes out of the percentage of their numbers in the overall population may basically mean that blacks and Hispanics carry out capital crimes based on the section to their numbers. No one should be surprised to find more men than women in the racial class of criminals. It is not shocking to find more twenty-year-olds than septuagenarians in the criminal category. This is because most criminals believe that poverty, if not handled amicably breeds crime and the poor are disproportionately minority. It is, therefore contingent, to execute black criminals who are few in American society in order to reduce the rate of capital crimes (Clegg).


Despite the fact that black Americans consist only 13 percent of the whole population, close to 50 percent of these blacks are on the federal death for capital crimes. However, of the three individuals who have been executed based on the federal death penalty in the contemporary era, two of them have been from racial minorities.  The biggest suggestion against capital punishment is that it was carried out in a biased and racially disparate manner among Americans (Clegg).


In conclusion, capital punishment as a way of correction has its pros and cons that can lead to adverse human problems if not looked into. In as much as, everyone has the right to life, someone who takes away another person’s life is considered to be the villain and should also be murdered. However, even if the execution is carried out, the damage is already done and future capital crimes cannot be prevented through capital penalties. Capital penalties might be considered to be useful in reducing capital offenses but at the same time can be viewed as a form of revenge and not justice


Works Cited

(ACLU), American Civil Liberties Union. The Death Penalty Questions and Answers. Los Angeles: New York Publishers, 2007. Print

Clegg, Roger. General Counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity. Chicago: National Online Review, 2001. Print

Ernest Van Den Haag, Late Professor of Jurisprudence at Fordham University. New York: New York Times, 1983. Print

Fein, Bruce. “The Death Penalty.” Individual Rights and Responsibility (2008): 20-22.

Rees, Baze v. US Supreme Court, in a decision written by Chief Justice John G. Robert. Kentucky: The Judicial Press, 2008. Print

Stevenson, Bryan. Close to Death: Reflections on Race and Capital Punishment in America. New York: World Press, 2004. Print

William J. Brennan, JD. Justice of the US Supreme Court. Georgia: International Publishers, 1976. Print



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