What is the death penalty? Essay

‘Punishments are imposed on a person, not on racial or economic groups. Guilt is personal. The only relevant question is: does the person to be executed deserve the punishment? ’ (Ernest van den Haag, 1986) According to Amnesty International, 139 countries have abolished the death penalty. In 2010, only one country, Gabon, abolished the death penalty for all crimes. During 2010, 23 countries executed 527 prisoners and at least 2,024 people were sentenced to death in 67 countries.

More than 17,833 people are currently under sentence of death around the world (‘The Death Penalty Worldwide’) According to the United Nations, the highest per capita use of the death penalty is in Singapore, with a rate of 13. 57 executions per one million population for the period 1994-99 (‘Executions Under Fire’) The death penalty is the most extreme form of punishment a government can use on its citizens Pros for death penalty Simply put there is a class of people whose crimes are so heinous…that the death penalty should apply’ (Paul Rosenzweig, 2003) It is believed that governments can protect people by retaining the death penalty for murder and serious crime Opponents believe that governments should not take a life under any circumstance International human rights law forbids the execution of people who are under 18 years of age at the time of their crime (‘Death Penalty For Minors’) Cons for death penalty

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Unlike other punishments, the death penalty is final and cannot be reversed Opponents say that miscarriages of justice result in innocent people being executed or sent to death row – in recent US cases innocence has been proved through the use of DNA testing Supporters say that few innocent people are executed and DNA testing will make convictions safer Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. In 2003 alone, 10 wrongfully convicted defendants were released from death row.

Opponents of the death penalty believe the majority of people sentenced to death are poor and badly educated. Many belong to ethnic, racial or other minorities, and some are mentally ill or disabled. Alternative to death penalty The alternative to the death penalty is life imprisonment, either for a set time after which the prisoner might be released, or life without parole, which means the prisoner will never be released. Some believe a Moratorium should be imposed on the death penalty until the flaws have been fixed in the system.


Ernest van den Haag. 1986. THE ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT: A DEFENSE. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. bs. org/wgbh/pages/frontline/angel/procon/haagarticle. html. [Accessed 19 November 12]. The Death Penalty Worldwide — Infoplease. com. 2012. The Death Penalty Worldwide — Infoplease. com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. infoplease. com/ipa/A0777460. html. [Accessed 19 November 2012]. Executions under fire | South China Morning Post. 2012. Executions under fire | South China Morning Post. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. scmp. com/article/449280/executions-under-fire. [Accessed 19 November 2012]. The Death Penalty, America, and the World . 2012. The Death Penalty, America, and the World. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. eritage. org/research/commentary/2003/10/the-death-penalty-america-and-the-world. [Accessed 19 November 2012]. Death Penalty for Minors – Minors – Death Penalty. 2012. Death Penalty for Minors – Minors – Death Penalty. [ONLINE] Available at: http://deathpenalty. uslegal. com/minors/death-penalty-for-minors/. [Accessed 19 November 2012]. Death Penalty and Innocence | Amnesty International USA. 2012. Death Penalty and Innocence | Amnesty International USA. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. amnestyusa. org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-innocence. [Accessed 19 November 2012]


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