Running head: DEATH PENALTY 1
The many debates that surround the death penalty and its legalization tend to center on a number of issues such as ethical, religious, utilitarian, political, as well as legal aspects. An important issue for discussion is whether killing an individual as a way of punishment is ethically and morally right (Braswell, McCarthy & McCarthy, 2011). It is often argued that threatening to put an individual to death using the death penalty is a good teaching technique to would-be murderers that “killing is wrong,” and that this technique would deter people from committing such crimes.
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The most common method that is applied is incarceration. The idea is to strip a person, or wrong doer, of his or her liberty rights by denying the person his or her rights to freedom of movement and expression. According to John Locke’s argument in Rosenstand (2013), every person has God given rights to life, good health, property and liberty. Locke further states that people retain these rights throughout their lives (Rosenstand, 2013). However, the rights should be denied if an individual violates the rights of other people. If an individual violates the rights of other people, then it is justified to forfeit his or her rights, including the God given right to life. Therefore, the society is entitled to kill an individual who violates or threatens to violate the right to life of other people.
The rights forfeiture concept, however, fails to explain why a society should kill a person as a way of punishing him. First, it has been argued that Locke’s idea of natural rights does not have real meaning or substance (Rosenstand, 2013). According to this argument, the notion of rights forfeiture is void and meaningless (Mathewes, 2012). Therefore, there are no justifiable grounds to use the rights forfeiture concept to support and legalize death penalty. Secondly, nobody should give up his or her life in order to enter a society. For instance, a person can agree to the risk being incarcerated in order to become a part of a particular society (Mathewes, 2012). However, it is unreasonable for an individual to risk being executed in order to benefit the society. Therefore, the concept of rights forfeiture should only apply to the limitation or removal of an individual’s rights to liberty but not the right to life.
The concept of “an eye for an eye” has commonly been used to justify and legalize death penalty (Steffen, 2010). The retributive concept holds that a person should be punished in the same way he or she committed a crime. If an individual kills another person, he has denied the person his or her rights to life. Therefore, the criminal should also be killed in order to pay for his sins and provide justice to his victim.
However, the consequences of the concept of retribution are incongruous. For instance, when the concept is applied in other forms of crime, it attracts a number of problems. Consider, for instance, a case in which an individual steals a piece of bread. In order to provide justice to the victim, the thief is expected to pay a loaf of bread to the victim. Although this sounds good, it is worth noting that it has some problems when applied to some other forms of crime. For example, if a builder builds a house for his client and the building collapses and kills the client, then the builder should be killed. However, if the building collapses and kills the client’s wife, then the builder’s wife ought to die. This is actually irrational because killing the builder’s wife will have a...