A much maligned form of punishment for certain severe crimes. In America, that can include murder and rape. Since the death penalty and Why Capital Punishment is a Bad Idea nodes were overcrowded and my measly dialup can barely load either page, I'll post it here instead.

Capital punishment has had a long history in human civilization. In the past, this was often combined with torture to teach the prisoner a lesson before sending the poor sod off to wherever it is people go when they die. Obviously a waste of time, but people seemed to take a childish delight in making their enemies suffer those days. True enough, that was in accordance to the eye for an eye morality of the Bible. I recall that the Pillars of Ur (or something like that) dictated the law of ancient Sumeria. Centuries before the bible, those set of rather draconian laws were exactly eye for an eye. You know, chopping a thief's hand off, killing the murderer, castrating the rapist, and all that.

Perhaps the brutality of some methods of the death penalty drove people to go against it. The old torture/execution mix came up with some pretty macabre ways to end a person's life (see my list Strange Execution methods). However, that is not to case, at least in America or China anyways. Lethal injection is purely chemical, and the tranquilizer puts the condemned into a coma before the heart is stopped. In China, the single bullet to the head is not exactly "prolonged" suffering.

Please, don't throw the "bill for the bullet goes back to the family" complaint at me. It only serves to confuse the issue, and since China's taxes are so damn low, I'm not suprised the justice department will bill the condemned's family. In any case, it is a mere distraction to the real point of the debate.

No judicial system is perfect. And there won't be any, ever. The need for such a system derived from the flaws of humans, our flaws. Hate begets hate. The crime/punishment system will never be perfect, because it is in itself a way to make people suffer for actions they perpetrated to cause their victims to suffer. You can make it as fair and just as possible, but it will never be perfect. Part of the flaw is the possible innocence of the prisoner. But the pros beat the cons.

Some crimes deserve extra punishment. Are you telling me a muderer is fit to live for decades in a prison, spending our money? First of all, its cost-ineffective. Secondly, some people don't deserve to live. Since punishment increases as the severity of the crime goes up, the death penalty is the harshest penalty possible. Seriously, are you telling me that rapists, after submitting their victims to lifelong psychological torment, deserve to live in a comfy little cell for 50 years? I think not.

There is also the huge benefit of intimidation of potential criminals. China's liberal use of execution has stemmed crime to much lower levels than America. The same applies to Saudi Arabia and Singapore. In all honesty, I believe part of the reason America's average crime rate is higher than other industrialized nations is due to the lax nature of its judicial system, and its slow nature. The argument that the death penalty is expensive is only because the American system is so sluggish. Despite all that, the death penalty, with all the appeals and other costly processes, is still chepaer than keeping a prisoner for decades in a cell.

The eye for an eye ethos does not apply here any more. If execution is applied to drug traffickers, rapists, and traitors to the nation, then isn't it more about the dispensing of justice? If you cause harm to others and society, you're going to pay for it. If your crimes were heinous enough, your life is forfeit. Don't confuse the issue with religion or ethics. When they committed rape or murder, their ethics flew right out the window. We shouldn't require the benefit of ethics when dealing with them.

And no, executing them does not make us as bad as they are. This is not a karma contest, remember. This is about justice.

Just my $0.02.

Today, Britain remains the only country in western Europe where a return to capital punishment is regularly and seriously proposed. In recent years bills to restore the death penalty for all murderers or the murderers of police officers have been introduced in the House of Commons by Conservative benchers every time they have had the chance.

The back-benchers usually emphasise that they are not seeking mere revenge and that capital punishment is a better deterrent than imprisonment. They have, however, never managed to produce any concrete evidence for this. Instead they have cool-headedly tried to misinterpret the actual statistics, for example by comparing the pre-abolition murder rate with the naturally much higher post-abolition homicide figure.

The rise of international terrorism in the seventies and eighties led to MPs' invoking the specific threat of terrorist acts in defending hanging. But their opponents have been quick to point out that terrorist murders are the ones for which the death penalty is most inappropriate: first, the martyrdom created by execution may actually entice terrorists to commit murder to win publicity for their cause, and second, the great number of people involved in terrorism cases might result in especially tremendous miscarriages of justice.

The pro-hanging people are a vociferous minority, even within those who vote Conservative. The 1992 British Election Study indicates that only 49 per cent of Conservative supporters would endorse the restoration of hanging. The fact is that there is no real threat of a person being judicially hanged in Britain ever again, even for high treason or piracy on the high seas, the two remaining capital offences unaffected by the Murder Act.

Capital punishment is taken so seriously in Western Europe that the EU forbids it among all of its member nations. (The last execution practiced in the EU was by France in 1977.) This leaves the United States and Japan as the only two modern industrialized nations in the world who practice capital punishment.

In addition, Pope John Paul II (and by association the worldwide Roman Catholic Church) is morally opposed to capital punishment under any circumstances, as it qualifies as the taking of human life by human hands.

The following is from the 2000 European Union Annual Report on Human Rights:

Capital punishment raises a range of philosophical, religious, political and criminological questions. The EU countries have all concluded that the death penalty is a uniquely inhuman and irreversible punishment.
Even highly advanced legal systems, which rest upon the principle of the rule of law, including the principle of due process, are not immune to miscarriages of justice, for example through different interpretations of the law, convictions based on unreliable evidence, or a lack of adequate legal representation. This inevitably leads to the execution of the innocent. And the irreversible nature of capital punishment removes any possibility of correcting such miscarriages of justice.
Nor is there sufficient justification on either criminal or criminological grounds for maintaining capital punishment. Studies have failed to demonstrate scientifically that the death penalty deters crime any more effectively than other forms of punishment, such as life imprisonment. And capital punishment assumes that those convicted of crimes are incapable of rehabilitation. The European Union is therefore opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. This view is increasingly shared throughout the international community. To date some 108 countries have abolished the death penalty in law (86 States) or in practice (22 States). And neither the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court nor the United Nations Security Council resolutions establishing the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda include any provision for the death penalty even for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
The EU has therefore agreed to promote universal abolition of the death penalty.

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