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Capital Punishment: A Look at Canada

While many supporter of capital punishment argue that it is a necessary form of retribution, this discussion will argue that it is a brutal and degrading act. Many other opponents of capital punishment including Robert Baird and Stuart Rosenbaum dispute the proper interpretation of statistical analysis of its deterrent effect, on the other hand, the view capital punishment as a human rights issue involving the proper limits of governmental powers.

This discussion will argue against its use on four fronts: brutality; dignity; effectiveness; and human rights. This discussion will begin by giving a brief history of capital punishment, its use around the world and summarize with its ineffectiveness.

Solution Preview

Capital punishment is the legal infliction of death as a penalty for violating criminal law. Criminal law is the branch of law that defines crime, establishes punishment, and regulates the investigation and prosecution of people accused of committing crimes. Throughout history the controversial death penalty for various forms of crimes has existed in execution practices as stoning, drowning, crucifixion, burning, impaling and beheading taking the centre stage.

More recently capital punishment is accomplished by lethal injection or gas, electrocution, shooting or hanging. Only corporal punishment is second to the death penalty which still remains the most controversial penal practice in the modern world. Although corporal punishment has been generally eliminated in modern times, the death sentence remains popular especially in the developing countries. The trend in most developing countries has been to stop executing prisoners and substitute it with imprisonment for crimes.

While many supporter of capital punishment argue that it is a necessary form of retribution, this discussion will argue that it is a brutal and degrading act. Many other opponents of capital punishment including Robert Baird and Stuart Rosenbaum dispute the proper interpretation of statistical analysis of its deterrent effect, on the other hand, the view capital punishment as a human rights issue involving the proper limits of governmental powers.

This discussion will argue against its use on four fronts: brutality; dignity; effectiveness; and human rights. This discussion will begin by giving a brief history of capital punishment, its use around the world and summarize with its ineffectiveness.

Today, because of extensive government legislation authorizing immoral practices like abortion, it is a thorny issue to find any lawful authority that is justifiable with regards to the implementation of the Death Penalty. Opponents of this argument state that some ethical inadequacies of a government do not disqualify every facet of its authority, and if that were that to be so, anarchy would prevail.

Capital Punishment is not a watertight system in actual practice because imperfect human beings are involved in the procedure of finding the guilty party, and as such, they are vulnerable to human error. A conference at University Law School in Chicago brought to the surface that since 1976 (when capital punishment was reinstated in the USA) 75 people have been found guilty of capital crimes, sentenced to the death penalty, and later were found innocent - roughly one seventh of prisoners who have been executed. The counter argument to this fallacy is that we would have to abolish all laws to avoid completely the punishment of innocent people.

In their book "Punishment and the Death Penalty: the Current Debate", Baird and Robensaum (1995) argue:
"A more basic issue concerns why we think punishment is appropriate
at all. In some ways this question is more difficult to answer because the
practice of punishment is so "close" to us, so taken for granted in our societies, that we rarely think to question its legitimacy. Nevertheless, we must ask, what justifies the institution of punishment? What purposes do we have in inflicting injury or deprivation on those we punish? An extreme version
of this question arises in connection with our practice of capital punishment:
what justifies our institutionalized killing of those guilty of murder or other
offenses? Why do, or should, we seek the death of some criminals? This
question is much more pressing as a result of the crime bill now sought
by the Clinton administration, which mandates the death penalty for a much
wider range of offenses than ever before. How might we define institutionalized punishment, the justification of which is being debated here?"

Widespread academician agreement holds that legal retribution involves five characteristics. Firstly, that the punishment must engross unpleasant consequences for the offender: for example, imprisonment, fine, or death. Secondly, that the retribution must follow from the violation of a law: a rule of behavior prescribed by a properly constituted governing authority. Thirdly, the one punished must have been found blameworthy of violating the law. Fourthly, the affliction must be administered by someone other than the guilty party, and fifthly, the one administrating the punishment must be a properly designated authority. Is it reasonable for an authorized representative of society to cause suffering on those found guilty of violating the law?

The widespread forms of retribution in ancient communities like Rome and Greece included: capital punishment which took many forms: stoning, throwing offenders off a cliff, crucifixion, burning in public, burying alive, hanging, dragging, the guillotine, electrocution, gas chamber. Other forms of capital punishment included: physical mutilation like cutting the hand, or mutilating off a tongue or ear, or branding; corporal punishment like thrashing, torture etc; taking away of personal property; exile; and forced hard labor like working in the mines, in the galley of a boat or forced to participation in gladiatorial combat

In England, similar capital punishment techniques were in effect and the punishment often carried out in public to deter other likely offenders. For severe crimes, capital punishment took form like exile, transportation and physical mutilation. By 1800, capital punishment including the death penalty was available for as many as 200 felonies. Benefit of clergy was applied as a way to avoid capital punishment. This is because the clergy in the days were only answerable under ecclesiastical law. As a result common law courts could not impose capital punishment. As benefit of clergy extended, Parliament endorsed statutes quoting that many serious crimes were not be subject to the opinion of the clergy. For minor crimes various forms of public shaming like the pillory and branding were used.

In the 1600s, and more so in the 1700s, transportation to new colonies which also involved forced labor in a penal colony became a popular form of punishment and was especially seen as an substitute to the Death Penalty. Forced labor in ship galleys and workhouses was another form of punishment for minor offenders.

In England anyone convicted of a crime also lost all property rights and the right to inherit property. In the late 1700s transportation to the new colonies became a less popular alternative especially to those inhabiting the new colonies at what point the penitentiaries arose as an alternative to capital punishment. Penitentiaries were designed for holding Death Penalty offenders and long-term imprisonment.

The first penitentiary system in Canada was administered in Kingston, Ontario in 1835 and like other consequent penitentiaries, adopted the congregate (Notes on history of capital punishment, 2001:2). Retribution for crimes in Canada at the beginning of the 19th century was comparable to England. Capital punishment, transportation, corporal punishment, banishment, pillory and branding were in ...

Solution Summary

Capital punishment is the legal infliction of death as a penalty for violating criminal law. Criminal law is the branch of law that defines crime, establishes punishment, and regulates the investigation and prosecution of people accused of committing crimes. Throughout history the controversial death penalty for various forms of crimes has existed in execution practices as stoning, drowning, crucifixion, burning, impaling and beheading taking the centre stage.

More recently capital punishment is accomplished by lethal injection or gas, electrocution, shooting or hanging. Only corporal punishment is second to the death penalty which still remains the most controversial penal practice in the modern world. Although corporal punishment has been generally eliminated in modern times, the death sentence remains popular especially in the developing countries. The trend in most developing countries has been to stop executing prisoners and substitute it with imprisonment for crimes.

While many supporter of capital punishment argue that it is a necessary form of retribution, this discussion will argue that it is a brutal and degrading act. Many other opponents of capital punishment including Robert Baird and Stuart Rosenbaum dispute the proper interpretation of statistical analysis of its deterrent effect, on the other hand, the view capital punishment as a human rights issue involving the proper limits of governmental powers.

This discussion will argue against its use on four fronts: brutality; dignity; effectiveness; and human rights. This discussion will begin by giving a brief history of capital punishment, its use around the world and summarize with its ineffectiveness.

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