I-Backgrounds of capital punishment

A-Origin of capital punishment

B-Method of capital punishment

II-Bases for supporting capital punishment

A-Biblical interpretation

B-Crime deterrence

C-Protection of society

III-Bases for abolishing capital punishment

A-Stimulation of more violence

B-Failure as a corrective measure


D-Lack of equality

E-Insanity of criminals

IV-Capital Punishment and the Humanitarian Dimension



Capital punishment term paper help:

Death as punishment, or capital punishment as it is more popularly known, is still a major controversial issue for many societies. To kill a human being who has seriously violated the laws or the order of society is still widely practiced, and the legitimacy of this punishment is still recognized, despite all the inhumanity that it involves. People get killed accidentally everyday. They get killed in wars or in hospitals, crossing the streets or while driving their cars. Innocent as these people may be, sorrow is felt but little shock at all, because death is natural and an expected event any time. But capital punishment, although implying the death of a criminal who had seriously violated social and legal orders, is still shocking and horrifying. To get a man shot, hanged, or burned to death in the electric chair as a punishment imposed by society seems to be too much of a burden that not all people are willing to accept. Capital punishment is not a practice invented by the modern man. Rather, it is a practice inherited from the oldest civilizations and continues to survive through the twenty-first century in many countries.

Capital punishment was practiced in ancient cultures, as it was linked to the ancient rituals of cleansing as psychologists argue. Today, capital punishment is mainly practiced for the purpose of attaining and maintaining the security and protection of society against crime (Tunick, p.38).

Only a few hundred years ago, capital punishment was not only a punishment against crimes and criminals, but also a major social event that attracted attention. It was applied using very inhuman methods, intending to apply all kinds of sadistic torture upon the convicted criminal. As human values developed, and as the notion of crime developed, methods of execution became limited and less painful. Hanging is still practiced widely, especially as it yields faster results and with less expenses or pains. Electrocution was introduced as a new method by the state of New York in 1890. The gas chamber was used for the first time by the state of Nevada in 1923, whereas the lethal injection was introduced in Oklahoma in 1977. Utah is the only state in America that practices capital punishment using a firing squad. Stoning and beheading are used in Saudi Arabia, Iran and recently in Afghanistan (Bedau, p.1).

Basically, the legitimacy of applying death as punishment is traced back to religious texts. The Bible clearly condemns murder as a crime and consequently, sees death as the only remedy for death. Thus, the bible states that “Who so sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed,” and “He that killeth with the sword, with the sword must be killed with the sword” (McClellan, p.15). Islam’s attitude towards capital punishment is by no means different, for in addition to devising death as a punishment for murder, it is also applied for punishing those Muslims who defy their religion and return to the status of infidels (McClellan, p.15).

The ultimate logic behind capital punishment is that death is so horrible and undesirable as a punishment hat it will deter a person from committing a crime that could bring an end to his life. When such a crime as murder takes place, capital punishment is the means through which society reflects its anger and righteousness when a murder takes place (Tunick, p.64). Capital punishment, therefore, is to be used when lesser punishments such as imprisonment are not sufficient to bring back the order and security that were violated by the crime committed.

By setting a severe punishment, society guarantees its own protection against criminals and their willingness to terrorize society. The argument for capital punishment, therefore, holds that a criminal will not do what he will be punished for by death. He might commit lesser crimes, but he will think many times before he commits murder (McClellan 16).

Those who support capital punishment argue that the effectiveness of this punishment is mainly psychological. By evaluating the consequences for his action, a person will not be encouraged to commit a crime whose punishment he knows is death as he had heard, seen or known before in other cases. Interestingly, however, there are many psychologists who argue that capital punishment stimulates rather than deters more murder and violence in society. Some further argue that capital punishment is responsible for increasing murder in the same degree that it tends to prevent it (McClellan, p.49). Most of these arguments are based on the brutalization hypothesis arguing that execution is a form of brutality which increases the possibilities of homicide in community rather than reducing these possibilities (Nathanson, p. 43). Some anthropologists have also suggested that violence is more spread in societies that tolerate capital punishment. The reasoning for this hypothesis is that capital punishment is an organized form of violent murder that is imposed by the community as a whole against an individual who violated its laws. Thus, as the community tolerates such deliberate violence or murder, there is no actual deterrence to individual violence (Nathanson, p.45).

Past experiences have also strengthened the arguments against capital punishment. There is always a possibility that the individual sentenced to death is an innocent person who did not have the sufficient money to hire a good lawyer, or who was simply in the wrong place and time when the crime took place. If after his execution this person turns out to be innocent, there is no way to bring him back to life or to restore his humanity that was sacrificed by society (McClellan 23).

The most effective argument against capital punishment still remains to be the fact that in societies where capital punishment is practiced, the rates of murder and crime are still high. In fact, it has become an established fact that countries which abolished capital punishment did not witness an increase in their crime rates. Meanwhile, countries that have for many years been applying capital punishment have still not succeeded in proving that capital punishment is deterring criminals from murder (Nathanson, p. 31).

Capital punishment is not a philosophy:

Capital punishment is not a philosophy, but it certainly is a reflection of public perceptions and policy. Societies and states have for many years discriminated in applying all kinds of punishment, and punishment by death is only another example. People committing similar crimes of murder are not treated in the same manner, and in general, judges tend to be more lenient when the criminal is a woman, and more stiff and inflexible when the criminal is a member of a minority group. (Bedau, p.2).

Genetic science has in recent years made a number of important discoveries with respect to the biological basis of crime. Certain genes and DNA deformation seem to be responsible for extraordinary violence in the individual. Experiments involving hundreds of violent criminals have concluded that biological factors, especially when triggered by social and psychological pressures such as unbearable stress, abuse, or violence, can result in abnormally violent behaviors in individuals, crime for example (Sorell, p.34). The implications of such theories have been politicized. This has encouraged lawyers to demand release of their clients on the basis of insanity. At the same time, such theories are putting criminals in the position of victims, that is, victims of their own biology, victims of their own society, or perhaps victims of their own circumstances. The politicization of such theories has barred the opportunity of having them taken seriously to abolish capital punishment, specifically as they are used by lawyers in an opportunistic manner that aims at letting a criminal get away with his crime rather than get a fair punishment (Sorell, p.34).

After the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, Human Rights organizations started campaigning against capital punishment, especially Amnesty International which is an organization occupied with the defense of human rights all over the world.

These humanitarian organizations consider that every man has the right to have his soul and live his life, and that no one has the right to take these rights away from him, except those who gave it to him, which means either God or nature. Through capital punishment, these organizations argued, human beings are still living in the barbarian age stone age (Baldwin, p.98).

The efforts of these organizations have paid off in a number of countries. For example, the majority of European countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and many others, have all abolished capital punishment forever from their constitutions. They have only condemned it as a crime against human rights (Baldwin, p.99).

More interesting is the collective decision which the European Community made in the early 1990s. The EC decided that whenever a criminal living in Europe is requested back into his country, which is known as extradition of criminals, these countries will not extradite the criminal unless the requesting country gives a written promise that he will not be subject to capital punishment under any circumstances (Baldwin, p.100).

This shows the trend in the European Community to abolish capital punishment not only in Europe, but in the whole world. On the other hand, the majority of the American states still refuse the idea of abolishing capital punishment for two reasons. First of all, they believe that they already have enough violent crimes and cannot afford to encourage more crimes by abolishing capital punishment. The second reason is that Americans still consider capital punishment as a political issue, and it is not surprising to find issues such as abortion, minority rights, and others in line with capital punishment as part of a candidate’s campaign for elections. Once the elections are over, these issues return to the hibernation phase.

In conclusion, neither those who support capital punishment nor those who oppose it are able to prove their points. Capital punishment is believed to be used for deterring crime and protecting society, even though there is no evidence that proves that this is true or not. However, because capital punishment is supported by religion, many believe that it should be still used. Moreover, since capital punishment has been used since ancient times, there seems to be no reason why it should be abolished now. Nevertheless, this means that until world states and communities reach a final decision, which no believes they will, it seems that many  criminals will be executed for crimes which in other countries they may not be executed for. This may not sound fair, but the only to avoid thinking too much of this problem is to avoid killing in the first place.















Bedau, Hugo Adam. (1999). “Capital punishment.” CD-ROM,  Encyclopedia


McClellan, Grant. (1981). Capital Punishment. New York: The H. W.


Nathanson, Stephen.(1987). Eye for an eye. Boston: Rowman & Littlefield.

Sorell, Thoms. Moral theory and capital punishment. New York: Basil

Blackwells, 1987.