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Capital Punishment Is Wrong Essay, Research Paper

To this date, Seven hundred and seventy two criminals in the U.S. alone have been

subject to Capital Punishment. (Executions USA 2002). Using specific examples such as

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Timothy McVeigh execution, capital

punishment is seen as inhumane, wrong and an unusual punishment.

The death penalty is greatly rejected and discouraged by many countries and states.

There are more than one hundred countries who have abolished the death penalty in law or

practice, while the United States has increased the rate of executions and the number of

crimes that are punishable by death (The Death Penalty…2000). Many politicians claim

that they are tough on crimes, but they should spend ninety four percent of criminal justice

money on preventing crimes instead of after the crime was committed (Get the

Facts…2000). Protocol No.6 to the European Convention on Human Rights to Abolish is

an agreement to abolish the death penalty in peacetime. The other two protocols, the

Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and

Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty,

provide for the total abolition of the death penalty but allows states wishing to do so to

retain the death penalty in wartime as an exception (Facts and Figures…2000). There are

several different procedures that are used to execute such as hanging, the electric chair,

gas chamber, lethal injection and the fire squad, which is still used in Idaho and Utah (The

Death Penalty, 2000). The death penalty is abolished for all crimes under the Human

Rights because it is believed to be inhumane, cruel and degrading, but it is still enforced

today. The death penalty should also be abolished because the failure to prevent the

execution of the innocent and the cost for executions are outrageous.

In the eyes of those who are for the death penalty, they believe that the criminal

should lose all rights once they commit a heinous crime and they also believe that the cost

of imprisoning someone for life without parole is extremely higher than just putting them

to death. They also take into consideration that the death penalty is okay by their religion.

They believe that God was for the death penalty and they claim that He once killed men

who crossed Him. Some people believe that there is no proof that an innocent person was

sentenced to death. There has been proof that there are twenty three cases, since the

1900’s, that were proven to be innocent, but it was too late (Death Penalty Facts, 2000).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Punishment has the primary aim of

redressing the disorder introduced by the offense.” If I commit a serious offense against

society, I bring about a disorder, and the point of punishment is to reestablish the lost

order. If I willingly accept my punishment, “it assumes the value of expiation.” And it can

protect you from future crimes I might commit. The Catechism thus gives three purposes

of punishment: defending public order, protecting people, and moral change in the

criminal. Paragraph 2267 reminds us that “the traditional teaching of the church does not

exclude recourse to the death penalty” but then adds, “if this is the only possible way of

effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” This appears to make a

secondary purpose of punishment override the primary. That appearance has led to some

fuzzy thinking. The correct meaning must be that the primary aim of punishment can be

achieved short of exacting the death penalty. A single means-say, life imprisonment

restores the order lost by the crime, protects society against future crimes of the

incarcerated, and gives the prisoner a chance to repent.(The Catechism of the Catholic


One human right is the right to life and by taking a life away by execution is cruel,

inhumane and degrading. The United Nations pledged to promote fundamental rights of

freedom, justice, and peace in the world which was adopted in 1948, the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights. (Death Penalty Facts, 2000). There are two rights stated in

the Declaration: 1. A person has the right to protection from deprivation of life and 2. No

one shall be subjected to cruel or degrading punishment. The death penalty clearly violates

both these rights because it is taking a life in cold-blooded, cruel and in an inhumane way.

The techniques used to kill a prisoner are profoundly brutal, humiliating and against the

Declaration. The physical pain caused by electrocution, gassing, hanging, poisoning, or

shooting are all barbarian methods. Prisoners have their flesh burned and their organs stop

during electrocution. Asphyxiation during gassing, tearing of the spinal cord or

asphyxiation during hanging, respiratory paralysis during poisoning, and destruction of

vital organs or the central nervous system during shooting, which one may have to face

when sentenced to death (Death Penalty Facts, 2000). Under no circumstances in the

Declaration of Human Rights does it say that the government has the right to take the

“right of life” away from anyone, but yet they are making that decision quit often. No one

should have to live their last few minutes of life being tortured and put to death; we are

not animals where you can take a life away just because it did wrong. You teach that

animal and train it to where it is suitable to live in the world and imprisoning a person for

life will teach them that lesson. The United Nations Economic and Social Council adopted

the “Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death

Penalty” in 1984 (Death Penalty Facts, 2000 ). The safeguards application of the death

penalty pertain to certain categories of the accused, such as being under the age of 18

years when the crime was committed, which will allow that person sentenced to death to

appeal to a higher court and to petition for pardon or commutation of the sentence. The

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty because they believe that it is inflicted

upon the most vulnerable in society, such as the poor, minorities, and the mentally ill or

retarded persons. They even track down death penalty cases and write letters to clemency

boards and governors asking the executions to be halted for the cases in which the person

was a minor at the time of the crime, mentally impaired or foreign nations because they

oppose the death penalty under law whenever and wherever carried out, irrespective of the

crime and the legal process leading to their implementation (The Death Penalty, 2000).

Human rights are not given or granted by the government, so why should they have the

right to take a life away? Human rights belongs to everyone from the time of birth.

As long as the death penalty still exist, there is not a hundred percent security that

an innocent will not be executed. There are several reasons why an innocent person may

be executed for a crime they did not commit, such as their ethnic background, legal errors,

poor defense or investigation which can all contribute to false imprisonment and death. In

the United States, there has been over four hundred wrongful convicted cases for capital

offenses between the years 1900- 1991. The majority of these cases were found innocent

after years of spending time in prison, but in twenty three cases, their innocence was not

proven until it was too late (Death Penalty Facts, 2000). Though, the study proves that

there were twenty three cases, there are probably more because authors of the report claim

that this number does not represent the total of all innocent victims. This is because once a

victim is executed in the U.S., their case is legally closed which unables them to

investigate for further innocent victims. The U.S. criminal justice system offers no legal

mechanism to review posthumous claims and uncover lethal error (The Death Penalty,

2000). Even though there may be strong doubts about a person’s guilt, the U.S. and

several other countries continue to pursue on the procedures to execute that person.

Approximately seven thousand prisoners were put to death this century and there were

some that were faultless for the crimes they were being convicted for. Amnesty

International has documented numerous cases where there were serious doubt about a

person’s guilt even before the execution. A report from the Subcommittee on Civil and

Constitutional Rights of the US Congress which examined fourty eight cases who were

released from death row because of innocence, concluded: “Americans are justifiably

concerned about the possibility that an innocent person may be executed. Capital

punishment in the United States today provides no reliable safeguards against this danger.

Errors can and have been made repeatedly in the trial of death penalty cases because of

poor representation, racial prejudice, prosecutorial misconduct, or simply the presentation

of erroneous evidence. Once convicted, a death row inmate faces serious obstacles in

convincing any tribunal that he is innocent”. (The Death Penalty, 2000). After serving

many precious years of life in prison, these prisoners were later found not guilty of capital

offenses. There is a need for a better safeguard in protecting the innocent from being

convicted of a capital crime because they do not need to waste their time in prison or be

executed for something they did not do, and the best safeguard is to abolish the death

penalty permanently.

The cost of the death penalty has also been of a great concern to everyone. In the

United States, the cost for executing a prisoner is far higher than imprisoning that person

for life. The United States Supreme Court has recognized this because the death penalty

requires safeguards against this procedure. The main things that are costly, in terms of

money and human resources, in a capital case are the two-phased judgment and sentencing

trial, automatic state review, post-conviction hearing, and Supreme Court petitions. The

cost of maintaining the death row inmates in prisons, clemency hearings, and of the

execution itself are also added to the price of capital punishment. In New York, there was

an in-depth study about capital cases. They proved that over $1.8 million is spent on

execution, which is three times the cost of imprisoning someone for life. This includes

three stages of the judicial proceedings and does not include additional court, security,

counsel fees, estimated millions of dollars associated with state and federal post-conviction

reviews and with the execution itself. California spends approximately an extra ninety

million dollars per year on capital cases and Florida spends $3.2 million on each execution,

which is six times more than incarcerating a prisoner for life. Texas with the highest

murder rates and the highest executions, spend about $2.3 million per case. This is roughly

three times more than imprisoning someone for fourty years. (Death Penalty Facts, 2000).

The cost of incarceration is cheaper than execution because capital cases are not taken

lightly and are long procedures to make sure that no miscarriages occur, which do.

The case of Timothy McVeigh sets an example showing that if the state executes

him, it is involved in state-sanctioned “murder.” Hard cases make hard law. The execution

of McVeigh apply to any other death penalty case and it involves all the same arguments.

Capital Punishment is a morally uneasy venture at best. It gives the state the power to kill

somebody who no longer poses a threat and who has been incapacitated through

imprisonment. Timothy McVeigh is a man who committed a mass murder to get back at

the U.S. government for a previous mass murder and with the execution the U.S.

government will be getting back at Timothy McVeigh, in other words revenge. (Don’t kill

McVeigh, 2001). The issue is not McVeigh, but whether our State and government should

at ant time take the life of anyone convicted of murder. If capital Punishment is wrong, it’s

wrong in all circumstances. Bud Welch, who in the blast lost his only daughter, was

quoted in a New York Times story as saying that Bill McVeigh, Timothy’s father, “he’s

going to lose his only son”. (David McReynolds… 2001). Mr. Welch and Bill McVeigh

have been talking twice a week since the government announced the May 16th date set for

the execution. Julie Marie is the lost daughter of Mr. Welch, he said “…when we take Tim

McVeigh out of that cage and execute him, it isn’t going to bring Julie Marie back”.

(David McReynolds, 2001). If murder is wrong all together, it doesn’t become right when

the State does it. The U.S. remains one of the most barbaric societies in the treatment of

crime and the handling of punishment. A nation that builds prisons faster than low-income

housing. They are one of the few nations left which retains capital punishment. (David

McReynolds, 2001).

The death penalty overall is cruel, inhuman, degrading and against Human Rights.

Even at that, the miscarriages of executing the innocent and the high cost for the

execution to be carried out are extreme. The highest toll we would pay, is not with money

and not with time, but executing the innocent. Those who are also under the age of 18

years when the crime was committed should not be put to death because their minds are

not fully developed and they are still immature. There are even states who executed a

person who was mentally ill or retarded, which the execution should not have been carried

out for obvious reasons. This punishment for any crime is brutal because of the procedures

that are used to carry out the punishment because it inflicts great pain, burning and slow,

barbaric death. This is taking away the right to life, which the government does not hand

out or grant to people, it is automatically given to you by the Declaration of Human

Rights. Capital punishment should be extinguished from the grounds of earth for many

other reasons other than cruel, inhuman, the cost and execution of the innocent, but these

are a few good reasons why to abolish this hideous punishment.

Work Cited

The Catechism of the Catholic Church. N/A. N/A. N/A.

Amnesty International. (2000). Death Penalty Facts (Online).


Amnesty International. (2000). Death Penalty Facts (Online).


Amnesty International. (2000). Death Penalty Facts (Online).


Amnesty International. (2000). Death Penalty Facts (Online).


Amnesty International. (2000). The Death Penalty in the U.S.A. (Online).


Amnesty International.(2000). Facts and Figures on the Death Penalty(Online).


Civil Liberty. (9 May 2001). Don’t Kill McVeigh (Online).


CUADP. (2000). Get the Facts, Then Decide (Online).


David McReynolds. (27 April 2001). The Case of Tim McVeigh & Capital Punishment (Online).


ECADP. (30 April 2002). Executions USA 2002 (Online).


Human Rights Watch. (2000). The DEATH PENALTY(Online).


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