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  • Hrudhai Chand

The Two Sides of Death Penalty

Is Death Penalty an archaic law or the only means to right a wrong?

There has been a thematic and articulate debate on the concept of the Death Penalty; some strongly deem it to be an essential part of law-and-order maintenance in the modern society, some condemn it calling it a barbaric and outdated idea. This contentious debate has evolved so much that it has made into political. This begs us the necessity to examine both arguments for both sides and reconsider the very root of the modern executionary system. A survey believes 55% of the people support the death penalty and the only way of combating crimes. Recent trends have shown that numbers have been plummeting from 68% in 2001, as more people are leaning towards a lighter and humane way of punishment. The death penalty argument was and remained the same over the decades: 'The crime which the accused committed was so heinous the befitting way of countering this is by extending the severest form of chastation: death.' The People's Republic of China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have the strongest laws for legalised killing, which are to such an extent that they have the world's highest capital punishment rates and lowest crime rates. This is also another factor the supporters weigh in to instigate fear in citizens so that such misdeeds couldn’t be possibly fathomed. The supporters of capital punishment also believe that the loved and close ones of the victims would also be provided with a sense of justice and ease their suffering and mourning process. Supporters also say, keeping the people who are proven guilty of committing such crimes to cheapen the value of a human life weaken the justice system and provide a safe haven for future crimes to take place similarly. Since the onset of the United States president, Joseph R. Biden Jr, strong adversary against the death penalty and the formation of the bill which has yet to be introduced in Congress, there is an inclination for the method of forgiveness. The adversaries, which mainly comprise human rights activists and supporters, firmly believe that Judicial killing is an out-fashioned and bygones of the medieval age. The major arguments against capital punishment are that ‘A crime can’t be committed to criminals who were found guilty for the same, to prevent any further crimes in the future. It would make them and the criminals the same: killers.’ They are also firm believers that humans can’t play the hand of God to decide who lives and dies. The adversaries are deeply trenched within the idea of instead of killing them. A reformation centre takes a better place in reforming the criminal to be a better human being and help them understand the gravity of the crime they have committed, encompass them with a sense of humility, and change them to have humanity. Many first-world countries have outlawed judicial killings and reinstated the purpose of restorative justice. The countries that have adopted these methods have seen phenomenal results in reducing the crime rate within their nations. Many arguments favour a philosophy called 'Restorative Justice'; in this form of justice, people aren't punished for their crimes they make, but they've been treated in love and compassion and kindness where they've been forgiven for their mistake. They've also been taught the cause and necessity to change; they've been shown the effects of their action. Many different approaches for many different actions are taken place; the best form of restorative justice is the following exemplar. During the heroin outbreak, the United States adopted inflexible laws against the 'war on drugs campaign, which led to the formation of the Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) which led to a massive lockup of all sellers and consumers of heroin, without embracing the outbreak through necessary counselling and healthcare services. This approach of handling the situation ‘like a war’ worsened the heroin outbreak in the US. Overdosage (OD) and HIV infection rates were sky-rocketing. And the growing level of consumers was desperate to find new heroin sources and got it through shady and unsanitary means. This led to an increase in OD’s and HIV rates throughout the United States. Seeing the effects of causing a ‘nation-wide ban’ and short sailing of the situation, Switzerland tried to find a more considerate and appropriate way to tackle this situation. Switzerland began starting mass-educational campaigns on the adverse effects of heroin and incorporated it into their education syllabus. Awareness was vital in the shorting of the outbreak. The other unprecedented step the Swiss Federation took was by opening centres for free heroin usage where adults could come, and heroin would be administered to them for free by doctors. This seemed illogical and faced a significant international outcry on how the Switzerland government allowed selling free heroin to any teenager or adult. But Switzerland took these steps to eliminate the significant consumer base instead of cutting the supply base by this:

  • the HIV infection rate of Switzerland was practically zero since the doctors administered clean and non-utilised needles.

  • No overdosing cases were reported since the doctors administered heroin in a small viable amount and reduced the quantity per visit to minimise the drugs’ dependency.

  • The drugs which were sold in the black market was eliminated since the government provided free drugs.

  • Mental health and welfare schemes were also present at these centres where victims of this outbreak could have access to proper mental healthcare.

In comparison between the US and Switzerland on handling a drug outbreak that is entirely unrelated to the issue, an example of restorative justice could be provided where one takes the situation by jailing and imprisoning the victims of a cycle without understanding the core issue. In contrast, the other country eliminated the core issues. There is a middle ground for this whole issue; while both left-wings and right-wings argue for the most pro or anti penalties, Middleists tried to find the most common ground between both arguments. The middleists believe in opening a select committee within every nation that reviews every death penalty sentence serving. After a court ruling the criminal guilty, they would form another committee with another trial set and check if the criminal portrayed any remorse, guilt, and future redemption signs. They believe the cases which have ‘shook the conscience of the society and accused have shown no sign of humanity’ will only be the reasons for the death penalty to be provided. Mandatory air-tight proof proving the accused is genuinely guilty, with modern equipment like DNA and fingerprinting testing, are the cases in which a death plea will be served. This is to eliminate the 4% of innocents who have been executed previously. Mild and severe cases should be removed from the judiciary of death, with only the most extreme cases under it. Regardless of the side which some support, the facts still stand out justice should be swift and prompt but honest and true. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels


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