Purdue SOC 41900 - Reflective Essay (6 pages)

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Reflective Essay



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Reflective Essay

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6
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Purdue University
Course:
Soc 41900 - Sociology of Law
Sociology of Law Documents
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SOC41900 Death Penalty s Application in American Life Capital punishment in the United States is a highly debated topic in today s political and social environment Various organizations and groups show support for and protest against the application of the death penalty And depending on what the political climate is the acceptance of the death penalty can change dramatically although the United States has historically shown stronger support for the death penalty Sociologically the death penalty is an extremely important topic to discuss considering how often it can be applied and how many states both support and oppose the death penalty in the application of their laws Public opinion gathered through polls and interviews constantly changes depending on the events occurring at the time the questions that are asked and the crime that the interviewer is referring to For example Gallup Inc an organization that has run polls concerning the death penalty since 1937 has reported a significant fluctuation between support for and opposition of the death penalty Overall only once in 1966 did the public opinion numbers swing in favor of those who oppose the death penalty Gallup com There are both benefits and detriments concerning the death penalty In order for any punishment to be generally accepted by the members of any society the legal system itself must be seen as fair This concept is known as procedural justice which dictates that a judicial system and the application of its sentences and punishments must be fair and impartial Maiese 2003 One of the cornerstones of the American judicial system due process is directly derived from the belief that a trial should be fair for the prosecution and the defense Additionally one amendment concerning the protection against cruel and unusual SOC41900 Death Penalty s Application in American Life punishments should dictate that capital punishment should be given when the defendant is clearly guilty and given appropriately However analyses of American capital cases where the death penalty has been applied has shown that fairness is not always seen One major debate topic in American political discourse is the mass incarceration and punishment of African Americans Overall a significant portion of incarcerated individuals nationwide are black However despite being only 13 of the United States population African Americans made up 42 of death row inmates Furthermore in murders involving a murderer and victim of different races black criminals murdering white victims were more likely While white victims account for approximately onehalf of all murder victims 80 of all Capital cases involve white victims Furthermore 12 people have been executed where the defendant was white and the murder victim black compared with 178 black defendants executed for murders with white victims ACLU Additionally the death penalty is unable to be effective at providing a certain punishment to everyone that may fall under the criteria needed for it This is because the application of capital punishment can vary from state to state depending on which states have the death penalty which states use it more conservatively and which states have the death penalty completely outlawed Given the potential for the death penalty to not be fairly applied the concept of procedural justice can both apply and not apply to cases involving capital crimes While the death penalty has the potential of being applied fairly oftentimes the case can either be subject to undue bias or can be subject to the laws of states that have the death penalty or states that do not SOC41900 Death Penalty s Application in American Life Supporters of the death penalty often cite the concept of general deterrence as a benefit to instituting this punishment In implementing a serious consequence for heinous crimes future potential criminals will be deterred from either committing similarly heinous crimes and committing lesser crimes or will be deterred from committing any crime whatsoever Additionally because those who are subjected to capital punishment are permanently deterred from committing crimes due to their death supporters can claim that the death penalty brings a level of specific deterrence to remove the possibility that that criminal will commit a crime in the future For this reason the application of the death penalty in capital cases can be considered to fall under a retributive justice system In this type of system people are expected to be treated the same way that they treat others Maiese 2003 In this case murderers should be treated to the same fate that their victims suffered death Supporters of the death penalty view it as fair due to the use of an equal punishment for the crime committed similar to Hammurabi s eye for an eye system of justice However the data regarding how the death penalty is applied and to whom can vary significantly depending on the state and the period of time Despite the seemingly possible benefit of deterrence research has shown that the application of capital punishment has no effect on general deterrence against potential criminals in society A study was conducted in 1983 to test the hypothesis that the abolition of capital punishment will increase homicide rates The study concluded that capital punishment had no deterrent effect Archer et al 1983 Similarly Professor Daniel Nagin a criminologist and statistician at Carnegie Mellon University argues that deterrence is not a consequence of SOC41900 Death Penalty s Application in American Life the death penalty According to Nagin Neither the effects multiple regression models nor the proposed instruments are credible in overcoming challenges to identifying a causal link between the death penalty and homicide rates Nagin 2012 71 The death penalty in my opinion is an extremely valuable tool for prosecutors and the state It can provide justice to those who have been significantly wronged through the loss of life of a loved one Although capital punishment itself was shown to not impact deterrence against potential criminals I believe that the death penalty can be grouped together into other similar life altering sentences which all deter potential criminals It can also be used as an incentive for the accused to accept a plea bargain or reveal information about an accomplice or a crime While the application of the death penalty can benefit society as a whole it should be applied fairly to all those who commit a certain crime or


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