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Capital punishment has long been a debated topic; the argument has been around as long as crime has. By definition, capital punishment is the legally authorized killing of someone as punishment for a crime (Capital Punishment). Typically it is only used on offenders that commit crimes such as murder, but currently in the United States it can be used on those committing murder, treason,  espionage, large-scale drug trafficking, or attempting to kill a witness, juror, or court officer in certain cases. In Japan it can be administered as a punishment for murder, arson, creating a flood in which something is damaged, terrorism-related acts, causing damage to a structure while trespassing, and for causing an explosion in an area where people are present (Death Penalty Database). In Belarus, “national legislation stipulates its application as an exceptional punishment for particularly serious crimes (Reuter).” Many of these countries have their own reasons for having and using capital punishment in these events, but one of the biggest points of arguments is the use of the death penalty on murder cases. Since the beginning of this debate, studies and research have been conducted to prove whether or not capital punishment is truly an effective punishment. There are also many aspects of this debate, with experts calling in topics such as religion, ethics, and statistics on its ability to deter crime. Some studies claim to prove that the death penalty does influence whether or not one commits a murder, while other studies will claim the complete opposite. Supporters of the death penalty may also argue that it ensures that offenders get the punishment they need according to the crime that they commit, while a more popular argument among those opposing capital punishment is that these offenders should not be defined solely by their crimes. Both sides have logical points that they commonly make, but is the death penalty really effective as a punishment? Supporters of the death penalty have brought up that with the existence of the death penalty, those who are seriously contemplating committing a murder may be deterred from doing so in fear or respect of the serious consequences it would bring. A study by Michael Summers, a Professor of Management Science at Pepperdine University in California, that was published in the Wall Street Journal states that, “Each execution is correlated with about 74 fewer murders the following year.” Summers further states that this was drawn from United States FBI sources, and is open to the public. This statement can provide evidence and data to the argument of deterrence brought up by capital punishment supporters as it insists that putting one murderer to death can save the lives of 74 innocent people. Another point to support the argument of deterrence is that the person that committed the murder and was executed would never be able to take another life under any circumstances. This, statistically speaking, lowers the amount of murderers in the world, which is a common argument point for death penalty supporters. One reason supporters give on why the death penalty is effective is that they want to ensure that there is no possible way a murderer could kill again. Although they may seem rare and unlikely, situations in which prisoners escape from prison are not all that uncommon. In fact, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics data from 2013, “there were 2,001 counts of “AWOL/escape” among prisoners serving sentences of more than one year, including 22 in New York alone (Moyer).” The Bureau’s statement also points out that this year was an outlier; it was significantly lower than that of previous years, meaning more than 2,000 prisoners a year escape from United States prisons and do not serve their sentences. These escaped felons have committed any from a wide selection of crimes, including, in some cases, murder. This gives these murderers the opportunity to not only avoid jail time, but also a chance to kill again, robbing more innocent people of their lives. These innocent people could be saved if these criminals were given the death penalty instead of life in prison, and the criminals could be given the punishment they deserve for committing such heinous acts.  This is another popular point voiced by those who are in support of the use of the death penalty. They believe that through the use of life in prison without the possibility of parole as a punishment, criminals are taught that their crime of taking someone else’s life is simply worth a timeout. In his 1797 book, The Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant, an 18th century German Philosopher, states, “If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice. For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death.” Even the worst like, like one spent in prison until death, can in no way be compared to being killed. The ending of someone’s life is an adequate punishment for the stealing of someone else’s, and this punishment is not effectively communicated through life in prison.  The handling of this punishment so effectively can also bring peace of mind to those closely affected by the murder that occured. The victims who experienced firsthand how horribly such a heinous crime can affect a family know better than anyone the reassurance and peace that knowing a loved one’s murderer is dead can bring. For example, Smita Salaskar, the wife of encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar who was murdered during the 11/26 terrorist attack in Mumbai, says that, “Though the execution was delayed, Kasab was finally hanged. With this hanging, homage has been paid to my husband.” This is only one of many examples of situations in which families of victims have been greatly reassured with the execution of the murderer of their loved one, because they know that their family member has been given justice, and that no one else’s loved one can meet the same fate.Those who support the abolition of the use of capital punishment argue that there is no proven deterrent effect brought by the use of the death penalty. This is supported by studies such as the one that was recently conducted by the American Society of Criminology (ASC). This study interviewed ASC fellows, presidents- former and current-, and Sutherland Award Winners, which is the highest award offered for those involved in the study of Criminology. Of those interviewed, 78% say death penalty does not equal a lower murder rate, 94% said there was little empirical evidence for the deterrent effect, and 90% said that there was no effect of the death penalty on people committing murder. These are people who have spent their entire lives studying this, and have even won prestigious awards because of their knowledge on the subject, and they feel as though there is no proof at all of the deterrence effect of the death penalty. The Peter D. Hart Research Institute also conducted a similar survey. This poll was sent to randomly chosen police chiefs from across America. It found that they ranked the death penalty last in reducing crime -behind reducing drug crime and having more police on the street, least cost effective for controlling crime, and it also found that the majority of police chiefs across the United States not believe that the death penalty reduces homicide. These police chiefs face criminals and murderers everyday as part of their job, and have to be able to know a lot about them in order to correctly do said job. The fact that these professionals believe that there is no evidence towards deterrence is quite helpful to the argument brought up by those against the death penalty. Also, John Donahue III, a Law Professor at Stanford University, released in an article in 2015 that although 14,000 murders took place in 2014, only 35 executions happened. That’s 1 execution for every 400 murders. Donahue argues this proves that, “Any criminal that didn’t think he would be caught would not be worried by the death penalty (Donahue).” Further evidence of the lack of strong evidence for a deterrence effect caused by the death penalty can be found in the murder rates and execution numbers of various countries, and the lack of correlation between a high execution rate and a low murder rate. Vietnam, for one, executed 429 people from 2013 and 2016, and has a murder rate of 1.26 (Killalea). Iran executed 997 people in 2015, and has a murder rate of 4.97 (List of Countries by Intentional Homicide Rate). Belarus, which is the only European country that still uses the death penalty, has executed 15 people in the past 7 years, and has a murder rate of 3.58 (Death Penalty Database). The United States has executed 277 people in the past 7 years, and has a murder rate of 4.88 (Facts about the Death Penalty). Other than simply pointing out the reasons why the death penalty doesn’t work, the opposers of the death penalty also bring up other options to use instead. One method that has worked incredibly well for Norway, a country that abolished the death penalty with the rest of Europe, is rehabilitation. By definition, rehabilitation is the reintegration into society of a convicted person. This tactic focuses on the humane treatment and wellbeing of the inmate, and also ensures that the criminal is given appropriate opportunities to grow from their failures, and to learn from their mistakes. For example, Halden Prison in Oslo, Norway, has amenities such as flat screen TVs, wifi, laptops, recording studios, and beach yoga for the inmates that wind up there (Sterbenz). It has also been proven that while they do not have strict punishments, they have some of the lowest recidivism rates- at 20% (Jilani) compared to the United States’ 76.6% (Zoukis). Norway’s success with rehabilitation in its prisons proves that capital punishment is not necessary for an effective justice system. Another multisided point brought up commonly by those who oppose the death penalty is that criminals should not simply be defined by their crime. This point is best defended in the situation of minors who may receive the death penalty. For example, the last words of Napoleon Beazley, a minor from the US charged with murder and carjacking was sentenced to be executed before the death penalty for minors was banned in 2005, highlight exactly the point that minors and other criminals should not have their fates determined by one choice they make. Beazley states, “The act I committed to put me here was not just heinous, it was senseless. But the person that committed that act is no longer here — I am.” This plays on the fact that offenders, especially minors, can sometimes act on impulse, and can grow to learn from their mistakes and grow to regret their choices. Also, the prefrontal cortex, or the rational part of the brain, is not fully developed until 25 (Understanding the Teen Brain). This means that even adults that can be legally given the death penalty do not have fully developed logic processors in their brains to help them make choices. They should not be punished for a decision they made when they did not have all of the rational tools in order to make sound decisions. Research and results both show that the legalization and use of capital punishment is not effective, and does not get the same results- deterrent and otherwise- that other options such as rehabilitation. While some aspects of it would work were they executed correctly, there are too many factors on the side of abolishing the death penalty to fully argue the idea that capital punishment is effective.

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