The Death Penalty
Does any society have the right to take the life of one of its citizens? In many countries around the world, capital punishment is legal and practiced. In others it is considered barbaric and wrong. Under what circumstances and in what ways should a government have the right to pass a law that kills? Certainly the opportunity for rehabilating a person into a productive member of society is taken away, and there is a chance of a wrongfuld eath. On the other hand, perhaps executing someone wrongly is better than imprisoning them wrongly. Part of the problem is that no facts are certain, much less any philosophy. To better understand this, notice how arguments change when you change the facts. Notice how the impact of some facts is contingent on the impact of others. Obviously, rebutals are possible, but this just gives some idea.
Key points in this debate
The Case Against capital punishment:
The Case in Favor of capital punishment
Facts and figures
It is interesting to consider some facts and figures related to the death penalty. According to Amnesty International more than half the countries in the world have now abolished the Death Penalty in law or in practice. More than two countries a year on average have abolished the death penalty in law since 1976. Of those who retain the death penalty many have not used it for many years. Once abolished the death penatly is rarely introduced. Since 1985 twenty-five countries have abloished the death penalty while only four have re-introduced it. Of those four Nepal has since re-abolished the death penalty and there have been no executions in the other three. During 1996 4,272 prisoners are known to have been executed in 39 countries but more than 3,500 of these cases were in China. AI point out that the real figure is certainly much higher than this. In the USA 45 prisoners were executed in 1996 and more than 3000 were under sentence of death at the end of that year.
Here is a look the somewhat arbitrary history of the death penalty
For sites presenting more detailed coverage of this issue, see below.
E.B. Williams Law Library: This has links to a number of sites including those with primary legal resource material.
Amnesty International: An extensive list from Amnesty International of countries and their attitudes towards the death penalty.
Derechos - Human Rights: A list of links to sites with discussion on the death penalty.
Ethics Updates: This list includes suggestions for class discussions and exercises on the topic.
Courtroom Television Network: A case study of the Karla Faye Tucker issue.
Death penalty - right or wrong? What does it depend on? How can we fix it? What facts are pertinent? Share your thoughts and read those of others.
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