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The debate over capital punishment

The debate over capital punishment involves every citizen that lives and breathes; no individual is immune from the threat of death, and no individual living in the United States can ignore that in 38 of 50 states the government has been vested with the power to take the lives of those who would kill (Amnesty International Sec. 10). Creating a moral paradox in the truest sense, the death penalty demands that we at once justify and forbid the same act. If killing is wrong, and we aim to deter wrong action, how may we rightly wield death as a punishment for those who murder? Such logic seems the essence of hypocrisy. And yet, proponents of the death penalty invoke an idea that makes an appeal to reason: capital punishment is the epitome of proportional justice, and those who murder are, once executed, forever incapacitated. They will never strike again. Various socio-psychological perspectives may be viewed to address or even explain the possible causes of capital punishment, and why it troubles us today.

The extent of the debate in American society is significant; the death penalty is a divisive issue, and that some states allow for executions while others do not makes the argument particularly thorny. In the United States, more than half of the nation's death sentences, 115, were issued in just five states in 2000: Texas, California, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania (State Government News 6). This figure indicates a decline in frequency, as the 214 death sentences meted out in 2000 constitute a 29 percent drop from 1998 (State Government News 6). According to Amnesty International, in 2002, 71 people were executed in the US (Sec. 4). Thus, for American citizens, the incidence of capital punishment is on the wane; in a nation of nearly 300 million, 71 executions seems a rather paltry sum.

However, just who can be executed in the United States remains particularly troubling. Of all the countries in the worl...

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The debate over capital punishment. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:35, January 20, 2021, from