Why The Death Penalty Does Not Deter Crimes


An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. –Mahatma Gandhi

About a hundred UN member countries or nations with observer status have totally abolished death penalty for all crimes as of March this year. This number represents the majority.

Capital punishment can be dated back to the ancient times when kings and pharaohs codified laws to punish several crimes with death. In extreme cases such as in Athens, death was the only punishment for all crimes at one time. It’s more likely difficult to have lived during the olden days, as laws were not that polished. Some were sentenced to death merely on the grounds of unfounded suspicion. Back in the day when a woman was suspected to have practiced witchcraft, rules of evidence were not really that plenary. In the time of our ancestors, the rule was that the criminal is guilty until proven innocent.

Capital punishment was carried out in many morbid ways, perhaps unimaginable to many. Criminals were crucified, some impaled. Others were beaten to death, or drowned like most saints were, and others were poisoned. Some too were burned alive, or hanged. And of course, we remember the guillotine (RIP Ned Stark).

Today, capital punishment is still being observed by the world, albeit not as much as the last centuries. Many countries have reservations on death penalty, as only specific crimes are punishable by death. There are many more countries that have not abolished the death penalty but have not practiced it for over course of a decade or so. Also there are still a few countries that have not abolished and are still practicing death penalty. A recent example would be Indonesia’s execution of the Bali 8 (as Mary Jane Veloso has been granted reprieve) for drug trafficking.

While respect for other nation’s laws must be observed for when entering their territories, this is not the main point here. The central idea is how much value humanity puts in life just to maintain a civilized society.

Law and order is undoubtedly necessary in order for the society to thrive. Without the law, there will be no bare minimum to abide by. Capital crimes like murder and drug trafficking must not go unanswered. However, is there really a necessity to kill these criminals, if only our purpose for punishment is peace and order?

Many say that a lesson must be learned the hard way, hence capital punishment. But regardless of what is done, the wrongful act of murder or drug trafficking cannot be undone. The life lost cannot be resurrected. The drug sold may no longer be retrieved. The killing of the murderer does not bring back the victim to life. All that is left is to seek justice and to indemnify the victims. Capital punishment is not teaching a lesson to these criminals. What’s there left for us to teach when the person is dead?

Many say that death penalty serves as a warning to the rest of the world how crimes are dealt with accordingly. It has probably done a good job at that, but do we even know if there is a direct correlation between capital crime rate and the imposition of death penalty? Many criminals are still underground, and it seems that death penalty is not really a good deterrent to decreasing, if not stopping, commission of capital crimes. In fact, there could be a possibility that criminals have learned to employ strategic schemes to stay low-profile because of death penalty.

Death penalty might be an efficient punishment, but probably not an effective one at reaching our aim of teaching criminals a lesson. Death penalty drives the bad men underground. Death penalty forces our criminals to be smarter. Death penalty cuts what can be untied. Rather than focusing on sweeping out criminals, why not trace back to the very roots why they committed crimes in the first place? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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