Capital Punishment: The Value of Life
InSITE correspondent Stephanie Pugh explores the moral values and questions surrounding the death penalty. Should it be re-instated?
The Death Penalty has always been a controversial issue. Since it was abolished in this country as a punishment for murder in 1969, many have called for it to be re-instated. Is Capital Punishment morally right? Is it truly necessary for a safer world? Some may argue that it is the best form of compensation for a grieving family, the criminal has to suffer as his or her victim suffered.
The saying “An Eye for an Eye” also supports the idea of the Death Penalty, suggesting that is a “fair” consequence to the crime that they committed. Perhaps these criminals would be considered a “waste of space” if they were to be merely dumped in a prison cell. Maintaining their survival may be seen as a waste of money. Also it may be fair to say that, because they have broken the law, they should be stripped of their basic Human Rights, seeing as they have taken them for granted. The Death Penalty can be seen as a deterrent, preventing people with intention to kill from committing the crime. Also it assures the public that the criminal will never again have the option to reoffend. Some people think that a life sentence is a strong punishment but “life” is usually an exaggeration. However it is stated in the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill”.
Though it is a sin they have committed themselves, when having killed someone, is it not also a sin to kill them? Surely it is hypocritical to commit the same sin? It can be argued that keeping them in prison is a waste of money, but also it costs an extortionate amount to kill someone. Some may say that it is an “easy way out” surely it would be better to make them suffer a life sentence in prison? There are often cases of wrongful convictions being made. If the supposed criminal is found innocent and they had been sentenced to death they would never be able to seek justice and the execution of an innocent person will bring further grief to those involved with the case. Derek William Bentley was hanged for a murder in January 1953, aged just 19. He had suffered from permanent brain damage due to falling head-first into rubble during the London Blitz in World War II, therefore having the mental age of 11.
The murder he was hanged for was committed by a friend, in the course of a robbery attempt. This caused outrage within the public and led to a 45 year long campaign. In the end he received a pardon, but only a partial one. Was this death sentence a punishment that fitted the crime? On the other hand there are cases such as that of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady who took part in the abduction, torture and murder of five children during the period of July 1963 to October 1965.
These children were sexually abused whilst having their photograph taken and their voices were recorded on tape as they begged for their lives. Hindley and Brady received a life sentence in May 1966, which allowed them to continue their life, though they had taken five. Brady was even described by one judge as "wicked beyond belief" and "beyond hope of redemption". Surely they, if anyone, were more deserving of a harsher punishment? It is a tough decision to make. The Death Penalty can be understood to be the just punishment for such an offence. Nevertheless, as Gandhi said, “an eye for an eye and soon the whole world is blind”. If you would like to respond to this article and let us know what you think email firstname.lastname@example.org