Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” In this quote, he is referring to the ancient Babylonian law, the Code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi’s code justified the death penalty by reasoning that if somebody kills another, then they should be killed for their actions.
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Hammurabi’s Code was the first death penalty law established, and it dates back to the 18th century B.C. The death penalty is still in place today and is a barbaric, severe, and irreversible punishment. The death penalty should be abolished because it does not deter future murderers, there is no crime that justifies taking a life, and it is applied unfairly.
To begin, the question of whether capital punishment, in the manner it is being imposed now, deters criminals from committing murder anymore than sentencing them to life without parole. While most criminologists, an overwhelming 84%, agree that the death penalty does not deter crime, it is very difficult to determine if it does or not, statistically (“Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty”).
Proving the death penalty as a deterrent has been a burden on opponents of the death penalty since the debate began. Studies such as those conducted by Isaac Ehrlich determined a clear relationship between the death penalty and deterrence of crime. In Ehrlich’s studies, he found that for every execution, seven lives were spared. Studies like these have been imitated and followed up, but have been widely discredited.
The National Research Council of the National Academies Deterrence Report claim that studies on deterrence are flawed in three ways. Firstly, studies do not factor in the deterrence of noncapital punishments on the population (“DETERRENCE: National Research Council Concludes Deterrence Studies Should Not Influence Death Penalty Policy.” ). Secondly, they do not properly calculate in the perception of potential murders’ to the use of capital punishment. Lastly, these studies are invalid because they use estimates and assumptions that are not credible. The Wilson Quarterly states that there are not enough executions to base a study off of and the murder rate varies dramatically from year to year, which makes it even harder to statistically conclude the validness of deterrence in the argument for capital punishment (“Does the Death Penalty Deter?”).
While it is statistically very difficult to conclude whether or not capital punishment serves as a deterrent against future crime, there is more “obvious” evidence that it does not. In the United States, 30 states still practice the death penalty. Comparatively, the states who do not practice capital punishment generally have lower murder rates than those who do. In 2016, the average murder rate for states that employ capital punishment was 5.4, but the average for those who do not was only 3.9 (“Murder Rates Nationally and By State.”).
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