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Life Imprisonment is a Good Alternative to Capital Punishment

Life Imprisonment is a Good Alternative to Capital Punishment

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Published by Abhijit Jadhav

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Published by: Abhijit Jadhav on Sep 23, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Can life imprisonment be a good alternative to death penalty? The issue remains
unresolved. Even the US Supreme Court that had abolished ‘Death Penalty’
reversed its decision when new and less cruel methods of execution wereintroduced.Why does a society punish its members for certain acts that are offensive andunacceptable to its laws and codes? This can be a starting point of exploring ourdilemma about death penalty vs. life imprisonment.It is argued that fear of death deters people from committing crimes, and thepenalty of death exerts a positive moral influence.The American death penalty laws have invited ire and ridicule of human rightsactivists everywhere, including in the USA, and Courts in most democraticcountries, including India, have been very sparing in pronouncing death sentences
in the ‘rarest of rare cases”. Yet, crimes of murder and rape and the cruel manner
in which they were carried out, at times, make ordinary citizens support andcommend death penalty and believe that fear and intimidation of capitalpunishment shall keep other citizens from violating the social and normativecodes of their State and society.But there are contrary views and arguments, according to which capitalpunishment does not deter crime and death penalty is not necessary. Countries
that no longer have death penalty have not experienced an increase in thenumber of murders. Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland and Belgiumhave not carried out executions since the early part of the century, yet thesecountries have not experienced a rise in crime rates. But the retributive value of capital punishment dismisses the question of deterrence. Deterrence works onlyif forbidden acts are illegal as well as immoral. So the easily frightened will not
break the law, but “the fearless will break the law, the irrational will break thelaw, and all others will break the law”, it has been argued.
 Capital punishment is retributive justice, and murder rates bear no logical
correlation to the death penalty’s deterrent value. There are no actual statistics
about the deterrent value of capital punishment as it is impossible to know whomay have been deterred or not deterred from committing a crime.If some one is thinking of committing murder and is aware that he will bereleased because of early parole, then it will not deter any future crime fromhappening.Most criminals would ponder before committing murder if they knew their ownlives was at stake and, it is argued that because very few people are executed so
death penalty does not work satisfactorily as a deterrent. “During highly
publicised death penalty cases the homicide rate is found to go down but it goes
back up when the case is over (Bailey).”
According to some researchers “executions maximize public safety through a
form of incapacitation and deterrence. Incapacitating a person is deprivinghim/her of the physical or intellectual power. Executing a person takes away thecapacity of, and forcibly prevents recurrence of violence. Deterrence is the act orprocess of discouraging and preventing an action from occurring. The possibilityof execution, thus, gives a potential pause in the thought process of themurderer, using fear as an incentive for preventing recurrence or quite possibly
the first occurrence of murder.”
 Opponents of the death penalty argue that although it is said to exist as a crimedeterrent, in reality it has no effec
t on crime at all. “Modern supporters of capital
punishment no longer view the death penalty as a deterrent, but as a justpunishment for the crime. Previously, the deterrence argument put the burden of proof on death penalty advocates, but recently this argument has become lesseffective as in recent years the appeal of deterrence has been supplanted by a
frank desire for what large majorities see as just vengeance.”
The opponents to death penalty argue that criminals who are in the “business” of 
killing make sure that they do not get caught; they skilfully concoct plans tomake sure they are not suspected of criminal activity. A person who gets caughtfor killing another individual is usually someone who did not plan to murder in thefirst place. These
individuals fall into the “crimes of passion” category. Crimes of 
passion are defined as unlawful acts of an individual which are unplanned anderupt as a result of a fit or rage or anger. These illegal actions usually stem fromdrunkenness or a short term loss of logical thinking, which can be attributed to

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