Summary: the Changing Nature of Death Penalty Debates.
In this paper, the authors examine how the death penalty argument has changed in the last 25 years in the United States. They examine six specific issues: deterrence, incapacitation, caprice and bias, cost innocence and retribution; and how public opinion has change regarding these issues. They argue that social science research is changing the way Americans view the death penalty and suggest that Americans are moving toward an eventual abolition of the death penalty. The authors describe the history of the death penalty statues in the United States and how “In a monumental 1972 decision by the US Supreme Court, all but a few death penalty statutes in the United States were declared unconstitutional” (Radelet & Borg, 2000,
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Today, the argument is not whether this happens or not, but weather the benefits of the death penalty outweighs the possibility of this error. The authors describe retribution as “the most important contemporary pro-death penalty argument” (Radelet & Borg, 2000, page 7). According to this view, those who committed really bad crimes, like homicide, should be executed just because they deserve it; life without parole is just not enough. Those who believe in the death penalty have long used this argument to support the death penalty. Opponents to the capital punishment argue that the death penalty offers much less to the families of the victims that what it appears. The authors discuss how research has found that life in prison, and life on death row in particular, can be even worse than execution. They argue that it is impossible to calculate how much of any given punishment a criminal deserves and therefore, this decision becomes “more a moral problem and less a criminological issue” (Radelet & Borg, 2000, page 8). The authors discuss the rapid worldwide movement towards abolition of the capital punishment. In the United States, history shows a gradual rejection of the death penalty. The authors assert how the traditionally death penalty debate has change in the last 25 years in the United States and suggest that careful social scientific research has influence this change. Overview of