The reintroduction of the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for an offender in the criminal justice system, is perhaps one of the most controversial topics of discussion. There are of course several viewpoints one can take, however this article will not take sides on either stance of the campaign to reinstate the death penalty, nor it's counterpart.
According to the national offender management service, an agency of the ministry of justice, each prisoner costs £34'766 anually – at the expense of the state. Naturally, let us assume that those given the ultimate sanction would be Category A prisoners (such as murderers) – those who are deemed to be very dangerous to the safety of the public in the event of an escape. Out of the current prison population of 85,493, 1028 are Category A prisoners. Each year these category A prisoners cost the state over thirty five million pounds. Considering that the sentence given to a Category A prisoner ranges anywhere from 12 years to life imprisonment, the death penalty would save the state vast sums of money – a rope costs very little, and other forms of execution such as lethal injection are dwarfed by the amount it costs the state to keep Category A offenders in prisons.
The purpose of a prison is to punish, rehabilitate, and deter. It could be argued that there is no better way to achieve some of these purposes than with the death penalty. Execution is perhaps the ultimate punishment, depriving an offender of his or her life is more of an punishment than being locked up. Execution could be argued to be a 'common sense' method of deterring those considering committing crime, after all – would anybody commit a serious crime if they were going to face execution as their potential end? Finally for the prevention of reoffending – a dead man cannot reoffend.
A common argument is what if the wrong man is sentenced? In response to this, courts now have full use of DNA/ Forensic evidence, which is over 99.9% accurate and rarely provides a 'false positive' as it were. The chances of DNA evidence being false is only 0.1%, a number so low that it is negligible.
Considering all these arguements, there are also equally valid points against the implementation of human sacrifice in the criminal justice system. The common sense arguement that people would not commit serious crimes such as murder if their potential sentence was death, is false. If this were the case, then surely the USA (of which 32 of the 50 states have the implementation of the death penalty) would have a lower reoffending rate than the UK? The statistics show this to be untrue, the USA has a reoffending rate of approximately 65% while the UK has a reoffendig rate on average of about 50%. This difference is significant, and shows that there is no clear link between the introduction of the death penalty, and lowering reoffending rates. It is not a detterence if the statistics show that the USA has a 15% higher reoffendiing rate than the UK.
Upon the implementation of the death penalty, one must also consider the potential effects on the executioner himself. It can be argued that there would be no effect whatsoever as they are not depriving an innocent of life, but a criminal. However, if this were to be true then there would certainly be no cases of post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers. Soldiers kill the enemy (such as Al-Qaeda) and PTSD is not uncommon within the armed forces – so the mental health of the executioners themselves would most certainly require care and consideration.
Perhaps the most important point to consider is that any system that implements a sentence is a human creation, and henceforth subject to human error. There is no guarantee that the system will be free from fault, and therefore there is the small chance that an innocent mistaken to be an offender could be executed. Although this currently happens in the criminal justice system, the government has a compensation scheme for those falsely imprisoned – however this means very little to those who have been executed on a false premise.
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