A Look At The Death Penalty Essay

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A Look At The Death Penalty Essay, Research Paper A Look at the Death Penalty In recent years, crime in America has been on the rise; in particular, violent crime. This has led not only to an overcrowding of prisons in our country, but also to an increase in the number of death sentences handed down by the courts. With the increasing number of death sentences issued, one would expect a decrease in the frequency of violent offenses. What then is the problem? Why is violent crime still on the rise? Despite the fact that the number of inmates on death row is climbing, the number of sentences actually carried out in any given year lags far behind. For example, between the years 1973 and 1992, four thousand seven hundred and four convicted murderers were sentenced to die, but only

one hundred eighty-eight of them were executed (Stewart, 1994). That is but a mere four percent. In fact, the number one cause of death for inmates on death row is neither the electric chair nor lethal injection, but “natural causes” (Kaplan, 1995). The reason for this disparity is the costly and lengthy appeals process to which every death row inmate is entitled. To remedy this situation, the death penalty should be used more often as a way of curbing violent crimes in America because it will prevent murderers and other criminals from striking again, discourage future crime, and help to promote and maintain a sense of justice and moral order. By examining the history, the methods, and the arguments surrounding capital punishment it is clear that the death penalty is an

effective way to deter violent crime in America. Capital punishment, is defined as “the use of death as a legally sanctioned punishment” (Kronenwetter, 1993). Carried out in many different ways, the death penalty has been prescribed as a punishment for various crimes by nearly every society throughout history. Capital punishment is one of the oldest institutions in America. Americans have implemented capital punishment ever since Daniel Frank of Virginia was put to death in 1622. Since then, more than 18,000 convicted felons have been put to death (Bedau, 1982). Although it almost certainly predates written records, the death penalty first appeared in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi which dates back to the eighteenth century B.C. This code called for death as punishment for

a total of twenty-five different crimes. The oldest known death sentence for a particular individual was carried out was in ancient Egypt and dates back to the sixteenth century B.C. Although many ancient societies punished minor if not petty crimes with death, none were as severe as the Draconian Code which governed Athens during the seventh century B.C. According to this legal code, every illegal act was punished by death. During the fifth century B.C., the Roman Empire also followed suit with a harsh code governing the prescription of the death penalty. Under their code for example, death was the punishment for “publishing insulting songs” and “disturbing the peace of the city at night” (Kronenwetter, 1993). However, unlike the Athenians, Romans used execution as a

form of public entertainment. Being the first to do so, they put many unfortunate individuals to death through their infamous gladiatorial games. Other methods of execution practiced during ancient times included stoning, burning, and crucifixion. These forms of execution were also practiced widely in Europe during the Middle Ages, with the addition of beheading as a punishment for those accused of being witches or branded as heretics by the Church (Kronenwetter, 1993). This persecution caused many to flee Europe in order to gain freedom in the “New World.” Although they found freedom from religious persecution in the “New World,” the colonial settlers brought many European laws with them. In particular, many of the laws were borrowed from England, including their laws