Death Penalty Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2937 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] The problem with eliminating the death penalty is that there are people who are so evil that it defies our ability to understand the act of violence that they committed against the victim(s). One such case occurred in Connecticut in 2007, when the brutal murders of a physician's family impacted the opinions of the state's citizens so deeply that there is widespread support for the death penalty for the perpetrators of the crime (Canning, Muir, Netter, and Kamlet, 2010, online). Connecticut has a death penalty law, but has not imposed the sentence or carried out an execution in thirty-four years (Canning, Muir, Netter, and Kamlet, 2010, online). This case has changed the minds of Connecticut's citizens away from death penalty abolition.

No one argues against withholding the death penalty in cases of refutable evidence, but when the evidence is conclusive, irrefutable, as it was in the Connecticut case of the Petit family, then, there is no reason to withhold the death penalty.

Since the 1600s, even before America became a republic, the death penalty was being carried out in the colonies (Bedau, 2008, p. 5). Today, the processes and the methods of carrying out capital punishment are carried out in humane ways, mostly by lethal injections; and the last public execution occurred in Missouri, in 1937.

Rehabilitation, Reform, and Life Imprisonment

Rehabilitation, reform, and life imprisonment are consistent with the social evolution towards equality, human rights, and the notion that individuals who are asocial are that way as a result of social inequities such as poverty, neglect, substance abuse, alcoholism, and other social conditions that breed violence. Many people believe that social intervention, treatment, and curing social conditions which precipitate crime will cure the human conditions that lead people to commit criminal acts of violence. Michael J. Lynch (2007) says:

"We seem to have forgotten that the idea behind the founding of prisons in the United States was the rehabilitation and reform of inmates. Indeed, the portion of utilitarian philosophy devoted to the idea of reform and rehabilitation informed the development of America's prison system for more than a century after its founding. In the 1960s and the 1970s rehabilitation made a short-lived return, though it failed largely because of inadequate implementation and faulty fiscal investment strategies (p. 14)."

Lynch holds that the current privatization of the prison system, which is expanding under a corporate philosophy of growing business, is because we failed to adequately financially invest in the rehabilitation and reform of inmates, thus failed in rehabilitation and reform (p. 14). Lynch's claim that the current prison system has gone corporate and for-profit, and, as a result, foregone rehabilitation and reform, is a false one. While rehabilitation and reform might have been foremost on the mind of the public during the 1960s and 1970s, and less so since that time because it has largely failed; the for-profit system merely operates the prison system, expanding to accommodate larger numbers of persons being sentenced to prison terms, but has designed itself around the rehabilitation and reform concept of American prison system philosophies.

The Clinton Administration and, subsequently, the Bush Administration both made significant financial contributions to prison rehabilitation and reform. George Bush signed into law the Second Chance Act in 2008 (Travis, 2009, p. 2). President Obama has followed through on Presidents Clinton and Bush's commitment with a request for $75 million for reentry programs in the 2010 budget (Travis, 2009, p. 2). These commitments recognize that, today, more than 700,000 prisoners a year are released back into society (Travis, 2009, p. 2); many of them after having served terms for violent criminal acts, including murder. This excludes those individuals whose violence was so egregious that they were sentenced to life in prison without parole; however, many of the prisoners being released into the community are violent offenders and, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 67% of them will commit offenses that cause them to be incarcerated within three years of their release back into society (Travis, 2009, p. 4).

Hugo Bedau (2008) says that the data on releasing rehabilitated murderers back into society is encouraging (p. 172). He does, however, concede that statistics also show that some murderers released back into society do kill again (p. 172). Bedau citing statistics in support of rehabilitation and release cites the statistics reporting on death row inmates released back into society this way:

"While execution would certainly have prevented seven additional murders, our data also show that 551 prisoners, or 98%, did not kill either in prison or in the free community (172)."

This takes a cavalier approach to the seven murders that did occur, and it lacks consideration of the pain and suffering of the families of the victims. Bedau does not indicate the age or health of the 551 prisoners at release. However, if the inmates were death row inmates whose sentences were commuted to life, and, then, released, it would be logical to conclude that these offenders were aged and even infirm when released back into society. Bedau, however, cites the inmates' claims that the personal of experience of being on death row contributed to their reformed behavior (p. 172). He does not report on their post-release social experiences except to comment that they did not murder. Bedau is willing to sacrifice a few innocent for the greater number of offenders who might not murder again.

Bedau's statistics do not comport with those cited by Travis (2009) in his testimony before the House committees. John P. Clark (2002) says:

"research data are never in themselves conclusive. Any meaning associated with data lies in how the data are interpreted and in the values of the interpreters. Consequently, data will always have different meanings when interpreted from different standpoints (p. 8)."

In other words, those who support rehabilitation and reform of violent offenders will always interpret the data from that perspective -- and, like Bedau, conclude that seven innocent people losing their lives at the hands of people who would have otherwise been put to death for a previous crime, or who were released from life sentences because they were believed to have been rehabilitated and reformed will always be insignificant from their society as a whole, which includes the perpetrator, perspectives.

A life sentence of prison in an environment where the philosophy is to rehabilitate, reform, and release back into society fails on its face when we consider the psychosis and psychotic nature of the many murderers whose crimes fall into capital punishment sentencing guidelines. is tantamount to torture. No amount of therapy or mentoring is going to be effective when the person suffers schizophrenia, paranoia, brain damage, and other psychological and neurological conditions that manifest in murderous ways.

Louis P. Pojman says that the death penalty is morally justified (Bedau, 2005, p. 51). Pojman makes that the argument that as society becomes more enlightened and, therefore, is offended by unnatural death, even capital punishment, that it does not take into account the immoral actions of the perpetrator (Bedau, 2005, p. 51). One cannot expect their own views and morals to be transparently transposed to another human being who lacks the moral values of the rest of society who do not commit brutal acts of violence and murder. This might be why we have seen a significant increase in the number of people who support the death penalty today (Bumgartner, 2008, p. 21).

Reference List amnestyusa.org (2010). States with and without the Death Penalty. Retrieved from http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty/death-penalty-in- states/page.do?id=1101153.

Bedau, A. And Cassell, P. (2005). Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Case. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bedau, H. (2008). The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies. New York: Oxford Paperbacks.

Bumgartner, F., De Boef, S., and Boydstun, A. (2008). The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Canning, A., Muir, D., Netter, S., and Kamlet, L. (2010). Dr. William Petit Takes the Stand, Tells of His Family's Slaughter. ABC News, September 14, 2010. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/U.S./dr-william-petit-testifies-trial-familys-alleged- murderer/story?id=11633236.

Crank, J.P. (2002). Imagining Justice. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Co.

Lynch, M. (2007). Big Prison, Big Dreams: Crime and the Failure of America's Penal System.

Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University.

Mallenhoff, Q. (2009). Criminal Reform: Prisoner Reentry into the Community. New York:

Nova Science Publishers.

Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) (2010). What's New. Retrieved from http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/

Turow, S. (2004). Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty. New York: Picador.

Vronsky, P. (2004).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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