Public Opinion And Deterrence


Public Opinion And Deterrence Essay, Research Paper

I would characterize the public opinion on the death penalty as being an uninformed opinion. More people are in favor of the death penalty, now then back a few decades ago. People are not well informed on the statistics of the death penalty, like the number of prisoners, or the racial discrimination etc. I think that if more people were informed that some opinions would be changed.

It has been shown that men over women, whites over blacks, and Republicans over Democrats, conservatives over liberals are in favor of the death penalty (Bedau 90). These statistics have been found all through the whole period that the data was collected. It doesn’t really seem as though people have formed exact opinions of why they support or oppose the death penalty, it’s more of just choosing a side and sticking by it. Most people’s attitudes toward capital punishment are basically emotional (95). Some people feel that killing is wrong so they oppose the death penalty. On the other hand people will feel that the only way justice will be served is to punish by death, so retribution seemed to be a big reason why they would support the death penalty, cause people more so someone would seek revenge for a loved one. People’s opinions are also based on the costs of imprisonment, or what crimes they think should be punishable by death.

I don’t think everyone really wants people to die though. Polls have shown that when people were faced with the question of either the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole, that support for the death penalty dropped substantially (117). So it would seem that people really don’t want an execution they just don’t want the criminal to one day have a chance to roam free, or some might be scared that they will do it again if they have a chance to get out. But as long as the prisoner is contained and the people feel safe then the death penalty does not seem to be such a big necessity.

Some difficulties in trying to determine what the public’s view is on the death penalty are that the questions asked on polls are different. Also they way the questions are phrased are asked differently on different polls and also during different time periods. People aren’t very well informed so instead of really forming an opinion there just choosing a side. These make it difficult to determine the view because there are so many flaws in the way it’s administered and the public is ignorant to many facts dealing with the death penalty.

I do not think that the Supreme Court should continue to rely on the public opinion as a way of determining “the evolving standards of decency.” My reason for this is because the people are like children and the Supreme Court our parents. People look up to the Supreme Court for guidance, answers, and justice. The courts should be the one to set the better example. We don’t believe murder is right so the courts should enforce death as a punishment because it’s hypocritical. If the court abolished the death penalty over time, as the generations changed people would think it was the right thing to do because the highest court felt so and they are suppose to help guide us in the right direction towards justice.

Conclusions that I have drawn from this material are that people generally don’t really favor the death penalty if there are other alternatives such as life imprisonment without parole. The public just wants to feel safe from harm and no that these people who have killed cant hurt them or loved ones also.

Deterrence is the inhibition of criminal behavior especially by punishment. So it’s believed that if you punish some one it will prevent others from following criminal behavior. The deterrence thereby is that to be effective in preventing crime, criminal sanctions must be severe enough to outweigh the pleasures to be derived from crime, administered with great certainty, administered promptly so there is a clear cause-and-effete connection between the criminal and the punishment of would be offenders and the public is made aware (137). I don’t believe that capital punishment is a deterrent. Many studies have shown that homicide rates do not fall consistently with execution increases (140). Lots of studies have been done that has shown time and time again that no matter if the state is a death penalty state or not deterrence does not have an adverse affect on homicide rates.

I think that prisoners who have their sentenced reduced are just as much a threat to society as the ones who didn’t have their sentence reduced depending on the type of crime. One reason is that there are discriminatory factors in why someone would have there sentence reduced over another, someone who killed a white person might not have there sentence reduced over someone who killed a black person, but that doesn’t make them any less of a threat to society.

There is not enough evidence to show whether the death penalty is a deterrence e for inmates killing fellow prisoners.

Physical Incapacitation does not necessarily deter any crime by a person, because it is not known if had their person not been incapacitated he would recidivate. I believe that life in prison without parole would serve the same purpose because if your in prison for life they cannot commit further crimes in the outside world, or if there contained in one room and don’t have contact with anyone they aren’t a harm to anyone else.

If I had the opportunity to tell the president something about deterrence, I would make them aware of the studies proving that deterrence has no effect. I would tell them to take a stand, and say what they know is right not just what everyone wants to hear. Or at least if they insist on capital punishment to make changes so that it actually does what it was meant to do or don’t have it at all.

Conclusions I have drawn from these materials is that deterrence is useless and changes need to be made, that its time to stop hiding from the truth and do something about it.


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