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Death Penalty

Death penalty research papers discuss that the death penalty has been controversial in the United States since founding fathers established the criminal justice system.  With 1998 winding down, the United States penal system has 3,517 death row inmates and of those inmates 55 have been executed.  Punishment has come a long way since 1701 England, when the basic idea behind execution was best summed up as: "Those who shew no mercy should find none; and if hanging will not restrain them, Hanging them in Chains, and Starving them, or breaking them on the Wheel …should".  While chains and wheels are no longer methods of execution, the debate concerning the death penalty continues.  There are many arguments for and against the death penalty.  To show why there should not be a death penalty it is necessary to look at its history, some of the key arguments, and its lack of effectiveness as a deterrent.

Death Penalty

Death Penalty in the US

According to a Gallop Poll, two-thirds of Americans approve of capital punishment and overall its approval has risen steadily since 1981.  In the thirty-eight states that use capital punishment for convicted criminals, different methods of the death penalty appear. The five present methods of the death penalty are electrocution, firing squad, gas chamber, hanging, and lethal injection. Twelve states and Washington DC do not utilize the death penalty. Thus, 38 states use the death penalty, whereas only 12 do not. According to the Death Penalty Organization, 76% of America practices the death penalty as part of the criminal justice system in the following percentages:

  • Electrocution -- 31%
  • Firing squad -- 5%
  • Gas chamber -- 13%
  • Hanging -- 5%
  • Lethal injection -- 71%

History of the Death Penalty

To understand how far the death penalty has come over the years, it is necessary to look at the history of capital punishment not only in the United States but also around the world.  As shown previously the idea in 18th century England was a great deal different than it is today.  In a paper presented to parliament, author unknown, the death penalty could be handed out to criminals of two hundred different crimes, which included pick pocketing and petty theft. The author goes on to state that the "Punishment should not exceed the fault."  This type of thinking goes back to the Old Testament type of thought, an eye for an eye.  In spite of his severity, he states that there needs to be no doubt as to the convicted ones guilt.

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