Point/Counterpoint pt 2

Tony Cox

Capital punishment is justifed

Capital punishment isn’t fun, and I personally don’t get any kind of excitement from the idea. But life isn’t always pleasant, and abolishing capital punishment could be a major setback in the preservation of a just civilization.

I tire of hearing the same litany of pathetic excuses for why the death penalty should be abolished. These arguments are so often repeated and are stated with such unyielding moral superiority that many believe they have no choice but to reject capital punishment as a crime against humanity. While excessive penalty is certainly to be avoided, it is not unjust or unreasonable to expect the punishment to fit the crime. In fact, one might make the argument that a sanitary, humane execution is far better than many convicts deserve given the nature of their crimes.

If such executions are inhumane, then certainly life sentences are as well. If the death penalty is abolished on the grounds that it is cruel and unusual punishment, certainly life sentences would be next on the chopping block. Prison life isn’t easy. Physical and emotional abuse are everyday occurrences and usually tend to do more harm than good in the long run.

Capital punishment might also help those inside the prison system fulfill the objective of rehabilitation if they didn’t have to put up with violent and sexual brutalization from life-long prisoners who have nothing to lose and, therefore, kill and rape without hesitation. Think about it: A convict who might be serving 10 years for a drug conviction might actually have a chance at rehabilitation if he could avoid the psychological abuse that comes with the daily shankings and rape that are so prevalent in the correctional system today.

Some are also quite fond of suggesting that there is no evidence to suggest that capital punishment is not a deterrent to violent crime. This is false. There are plenty of studies to suggest that since the death penalty was reimplemented in the 1970s, it has served as an effective deterrent to crime.

A legitimate criticism of the capital punishment system lies in wrongful conviction — i.e., that someone who was wrongly convicted of a crime will be executed for it. However, these cases are exceedingly rare, and with the rising influence of DNA evidence, they’re becoming more rare all the time.

The bottom line is that capital punishment is an unfortunate necessity, even in modern times. People today often fall victim to what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” — the belief that we’re better off than our ancestors because we’re living now, and they were living way back then. It’s true that we have rectified many mistakes of the past, but it’s equally true that we haven’t learned every lesson that they have to teach us. They knew the necessity of capital punishment in certain situations, and even when it was unjustly applied, few called for its complete abolishment.

We can and should explore other options where appropriate, but the unfortunate fact is that there are circumstances in which the death penalty is the only means of re-establishing justice and returning order to civil society when certain individuals breach the rules of civilization.

Tony Cox is a junior philosophy major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].