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Essay Sample on Death Penalty

death penalty

Death penalty generates controversy in the current human civilization. Both in the moral and legal sense, the issue continues to provoke heated debates in our contemporary society. Depending on one’s philosophical disposition regarding the issue, it is agreeable that the penalty of death as a punitive measure will continue to generate sentimental reactions amongst scholars and even politicians. While many societies are currently scrapping off the constitutional regulation of the death penalty, a lot of individuals still advocate for more strict provisions within the penal code to ensure that criminals who commit heinous crimes are subjected to the gallows without any consideration of a pardon. This work will explore the arguments of both the opponents and proponents of the death penalty and eventually evaluate its efficacy as a tool for dispensing justice.

Cons of the Death Penalty

The opponents of the death penalty have been incessantly quoting the canon laws of religion as one of their bases opposed to the penalty of death as a punitive activity. According to the opponents, there is a prominent level of sanctity attached to the life of every human being that cannot be taken away by the same human fraternity. According to Snyder (1999), the sanctity of the human life is not debatable. It is not awarded by fellow humans but is rather a divine award to the humanity. This obviously gives a very strong and meaningful significance to the human life. In this regard, any decision to “snatch” life away from any individual negates the principle of “sanctity” as desired by the Supreme Being Himself. However, while the reasoning behind religion regarding the sanctity of life is understandable, many scholars are quick to poke holes in it. The doctrine has been accused of “protecting” those who commit capital crimes like murder.

According to some scholars, if the doctrine of sanctity of life dictates that humans have no right to determine others’ life, then what right do criminals have while killing and causing havoc in the society? Most religious beliefs subscribe to the principle that since the giver of life is God or rather supreme being who himself is immortal, no mortal being has any right whatsoever to put the others to death. Ultimately, this reasoning has morphed over time depending on the scriptural interpretation in various religious entities. Other religions like Islam have strong beliefs in the death penalty (Snyder, 1999).


Cruelty: Does the Death Penalty Contribute to Cruelty and Brutality?

Winters (2011) avers that the death penalty constitutes a very inviolable brutal measure that defies the basic tenets of human civility. According to him, it is not possible to eliminate crimes such as murder and other violent wrongdoings if we subscribe to the same technique that criminals use – brutality. Death penalty is the propagation of brutality towards human life; it advances the very same issue that it seeks to correct. 

Most subscribers to this reasoning derive their dispositions from the legal precepts especially regarding human rights and freedoms. Canons of human civilization inherently seek to protect people from brutality and any act of bestiality. It is therefore self-defeating that the provisions of the Bill of Rights and civil liberties would seek to advance cruelty against the same people they seek to protect.

While several legal jurisprudences argue for “commensurate” punishment provisions for criminal offences, the human rights fraternity argues that subjecting humanity to cruelty, whether guilty or not guilty, goes against the spirit of the provisions of human rights precepts. The conceptual proposition of the human rights understanding is that the law should be used as a correctional platform but not insert harm on the criminals. Essentially, the human rights defenders argue that the death penalty has no provisions of rehabilitating the offenders. Rather, it is meant to “terminate” the offenders (Snyder, 1999).

Pros of the Death Penalty

The proponents of the death penalty believe that the fear of death is a very serious deterrence to crime. Humanity is known to be afraid of death; for this reason, any capital punishment will automatically yield deterrence to criminality (Winters, 2011). While this argument has been labelled as debatable, some anthropologists admit that there are societies where the thought of death as a capital punishment prevents quite a number of criminal cases. Many legal experts agree that the inception of the provisions of death penalty in the penal code was derived from the universal fear of death by humans. The inherent trepidation of death will automatically deter people from getting involved in the activities that may lead to someone’s death.

Snyder (1999) admits that while petty offences are committed almost daily within any society, the capital offences are quite sporadic in nature. According to him, this could be due to the fact that capital offences are punishable through death. Since death is an obvious answer to these capital offenses, then the majority of people will not risk engaging in these activities. There is a logical progression in the assertion of Snyder. The offenses that have a very strong legal bearing are usually inclined towards the death penalty. 

An “Eye for an Eye” Principle

The mosaic law of tit for tat has been frequently used to rubberstamp the death penalty around the globe. Interestingly, this philosophy has been derived from the Bible to sanction the death penalty in the society. Providently, most criminals are eliminated by death squads in case they engage in acts that defile the sanctity of the human life. The supporters of the “eye for an eye” philosophy are firm believers in the “elimination” of offenders other than their rehabilitation. The basis of this argument was to target the criminals who caused harm to the human life in the erstwhile generation (Winters, 2011). However, the philosophical interlude of this belief is slowly being due to the emergence of a new dispensation of human rights defence precincts.

Cost of Death and Prison

Most social anthropologists argue that the prison life is more demeaning to offenders than death sentence. In this sense, the argument is that it is better to put an offender to death rather than subject him to the hard life in prison. The rehabilitation capacity of prison cells has been questioned with most people doubting whether it is rational to subject one to the cruel treatment behind bars (Winters, 2011). According to behavioral psychologists, a considerable number of offenders adopt several criminal behaviors while they are in prison. It is better, therefore, that the offenders are simply eliminated through death. 

Death Penalty or Not? A Critical Analysis

The philosophical gap between the proponents and the opponents of death is a pointer that no singular agreement will ever be reached. Nevertheless, I am a supporter of the death penalty if it is administered under the law. The legal statutes that protect the human life cannot be slackened under any condition. It is the legal and moral mandate of any society to administer security to it members. In this regard, I think that the death penalty is indeed justified and but must be administered within very strict terms of law. It must be anchored on the basis of the constitution that governs the society.


This work has elaborately explored the merits and demerits of the death penalty for the society. Despite the ideological difference in the society regarding the death penalty, it is evident that either side has very poignant rationale behind the justification of their belief. In this light, this work supports the admission of death penalty as long as it is performed within the canons of law.


Snyder, J. (1999). The death penalty: An historical and theological survey, and: Against the death penalty: Christian and secular arguments against capital punishment. Human Rights Quarterly 21(2), 553-557.
Winters, P. (2011). The death penalty: Opposing viewpoints (3rd ed.). San Diego, CA: Green Haven Press.

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