Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Philosophical Ramblings #2: Is the Death Penalty Justified?

It's been a few weeks since my first philosopical post, which you can read here.
Anyway, that post was received very well, probably because its topic was not that controversial. This one, though...

I'll be upfront and tell you that I don't believe in the death penalty. Not because I think criminals should be able to get off scot-free, or because I don't trust the legal system in this country.
No, I don't believe in the death penalty because of the number of wrongful convictions that occur world-wide.

A study has shown that approximately 10,000 innocent people are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year in the United States. One can only imagine what that number would be worldwide.
“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
                           -- William Blackstone
The fact is that wrongful convictions can occur due to eyewitness misidentification, false confessions or police misconduct. In countries where the legal system often faces scrutiny from the public, a lot of officials can be tempted to put anyone behind bars or on death row just to close the case. Being involved in traumatic situations can lead to the victim or eyewitness unintentionally picking the wrong suspect out of a lineup. The suspect, in turn, can be forced by the police, under threat of serious violence, to confess to a crime that he or she did not commit.

Can you imagine spending even a single day in jail for something you didn't do? Most people who are wrongfully convicted spend years in prison, and a significant percentage are on death row without any chance of proving their innocence. All because we as a society are so desperate to blame someone - anyone - for the crime. If not the victim, then the police. If not the police, then the suspect. It's a vicious cycle that's only making things worse.

Now, let's forget about wrongful conviction for a moment, and think about the effectiveness of the death penalty. Does sentencing someone to death lower the murder or crime rate in a country?
According to this study, 88% of leading criminologists believe that executions do not act as a deterrant to crime.

So taking into consideration the alarming rates of wrongful conviction, as well as the fact that the death penalty may not actually be effective in reducing the crime rate, why are we still sentencing criminals to death? Criminals are who they are as a result of nature and nurture. Why can't we look more into preventing crimes instead of playing the blame game?

Well, I should mention that this is just my opinion. Apart from two courses I took on the psychology of criminal justice, I have no legal background and I'm clearly not an expert. I'm sure many of you believe in the death penalty, and you have every right to. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

I hope you're enjoying this philosophical series. What would you like to discuss next time? Leave a comment below and let me know if you've thought of any interesting topics.

The next Pretty Little Liars episode comes out tomorrow. Stay tuned for my recap, Geeks!


  1. I'm glad you think this way, most people in this country believe fervently that death penalty should be awarded to all the rape accused but thankfully the legal system doesn't agree for the exact reason you mentioned above, i.e. wrongful conviction. Our system is a reformatory one and believes in awarding death penalty for the rarest of rare cases. So I agree wholeheartedly with this article.

    And on that very note, have you watched The Shawshank Redemption? I am yet to watch it but I've heard lots of good reviews and it is kind of related to this article. Speaking of movies, the Mockingjay 2 trailer was so cool! And of so course, waiting for both tomorrow's (or today's, technically) episode of PLL and your review. :D

    1. I'm glad you understand and agree with my thoughts. While rape is a horrible, horrible crime, the death penalty is neither a deterrant nor a foolproof solution.

      Yes, I'm planning to watch that movie too. :)

      THE MOCKINGJAY TRAILER WAS SO GOOD! Especially that last moment... "Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games". Francis Lawrence is going to turn this into a wonderful adaptation. I just know it.

      What did you think of the season premiere? I can't believe Sara Harvey was in there all along.


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