Thursday, 3 May 2007

The Death Penalty Doesn’t Work

Whether it means stabbing someone to death in Somalia, or hanging someone in Kuwait, or stoning someone in Iran, or lethal injection in the United States (the only advanced, developed nation in the world to still utilise capital punishment), state approved killing does little to reduce crime; it’s effects and it’s causes.

2006 saw some 1600 executions worldwide but obviously the number is no doubt greater than that, with some countries less forthcoming with stats on the murder of their citizens. Experts in the field of capital punishment believe that the worldwide trend is moving towards abolishing it all together, since 1985 55 nations have done so leaving only 25 remaining.

Louise Arbour, the UN commissioner for Human Rights, has called for a worldwide ban and most continents seems to be following the growing, global distaste for this frankly backwards practice. Europe leads the way, with Africa not far behind, while in the Americas only the United States has executed anyone in the last 3 years. It is only Asia and the Middle East which is seemingly impervious to the arguments against capital punishment with China being the worlds leading killer, officially over 1,000 executed but estimates believe that figure to be closer to 8,000.

After China, the list of highest number of executions in descending order reads: Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the United States. America stands out like a sore thumb amongst that company, indeed, it is the only Western democracy to still put prisoners to death and since 1973, 120 innocent people have been wrongly killed.

With growing uncertainty in the US about lethal injection being a humane way of disposing of criminals and many states moving towards abolition of the death penalty, it may be that we see the last bastion of exectution slowly move into a more progressive means of dealing with serious offenders.


  1. Er, you are being terribly hopeful however I too often feel that the United States are very much a law unto themselves, don't you?

  2. Ariel,
    I agree. The US believes that they can do whatever they want. I don't know how I feel about capital punishment. I thnk something needs to be done with serial killers, rapists, and child molesters, bue I don't think we have any idea how to handle them.

  3. Damn, I didn't know we execute more people than even Saudi Arabia! We are surely barbarians!

  4. The more Americans learn about the death penalty, the less they like it generally.

    Polls show that most Americans would support the abolition of capital punishment in favor of sentences of life in prison without parole. Of course, many in Europe believe take it a step further by saying that more than 30 years in prison itself is inhumane--even for cold-blooded killers.

    It's funny to live in a place that's at once so advanced but so backwards in some regards. And this is coming from a guy who has not one but two American flag stickers on his Jetta.

  5. I agree that the death penalty is largely ineffective at lowering serious crime rates.

    But introduce it for littering & watch your streets get cleaner.

  6. Ariel: the tide is turning, I'm sure of it.

    UWL: life without parole sounds good to me, either that or mental institutions were many criminals need to be as they are ill.

    Matt: nice to have you around.

    OMR: Indeed they would but at what cost?


    This, too, is capital punishment.

  8. I don't have a problem with killing people for heinous crimes, at least not in theory. So life in prison without parole is not too inhumane to me.

    The problem is that courts make mistakes. In the hysteria over the worst crimes, if many had their druthers, you would see public flaying and dismembering of the serial killer types. There always seems to be this big rush to get the execution over with. Why? They are probably worried new evidence might suddenly appear.

    Of course we don't really understand such people well enough. I think that horrible executions of such people would certainly discourage normal people from doing the same crimes, but normal people are not the problem. Some of these people would be quite happy to have a huge platform for their final moments. No need to send a video to NBC before your suicide, instead they will televise your execution and you can state your manifesto then.

    So for that situation, rotting in some prison, forgotten by the public is most likely to discourage copycats.

    Due to the lack of proven deterrence of potential killers, and the fact that mistakes happen, the only death penalty should be death by natural causes in prison.


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