Is Death Penalty An Effective Deterrent
Letter of transmittal
To: Sir Azmat Ahmad Ansari
From: Syeda Benazir Burhan
Subject: "Death Penalty"
In response to your request, I have analyzed and researched the
topic "Death Penalty." I'm pleased to present enclosed thesis,
which explains the question in detail that is it unjust for anyone to
make judgments about others, and to decide whether they should
live or die and is the capital punishment playing it's role in
diminishing the crime rate?
This thesis features research and extensive interviews with
lawyers, law enforcement agencies' officials, public opinion polls.
Capital punishment or the death penalty is a legal process whereby
a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime.
The judicial decree that someone be punished in this manner is a
death sentence, while the actual process of killing the person is an
execution. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as
capital crimes or capital offences.
I would like to thank Sir Azmat Ahmad Ansari for assigning me
this topic. It sure has increased my knowlegde and cleared my
perspective in this regard.
Feel free to call, if you want to discuss about the thesis or require
any additional information.
Table of Contents
Letter of Transmittal------------------------------------------- 1
Table of Contents-----------------------------------------------2
The death penalty is a highly controversial subject. No one knows
who’s right or who’s wrong-it’s fifty percent speculation and fifty
percent research. It’s just a lot of thoughts and beliefs from people
who have contributed to the death penalty hype. Who’s right and
who’s wrong? That is the question.
The purpose of this paper is to look at both sides of the arguments
of the death penalty-the pros and cons, and how our criminal
justice system makes legislatures and courts chose to resolve
issues. Interesting issues are brought up like the fear of the death
penalty, bible quotes, how life is sacred, and the execution of the
innocent. You will note too much emphasis is placed on the
convicted murderer and not on the victim. The murderers get out
of prison early and murder again. There are evidence to both sides
of the argument in whether the death penalty is a deterrent or not.
In question of the death penalty, I ask you to weigh both sides of
the argument carefully and make your decision based on the action
that will serve the best humanitarian purpose of criminal law.
What is Capital punishment? Capital punishment is the death
penalty. It is used today and was used in ancient times to punish a
variety of offenses. Even the bible advocates death for murder and
other crimes like kidnapping and witchcraft. When the word death
penalty is used, it makes yelling and screaming from both sides of
extremist. One side may say deterrence, while the other side may
say, but you may execute an innocent man. Today, one of the
most debated issues in the Criminal Justice System is the issue of
capital punishment or the death penalty.
Death penalty has been used in almost every part of the world, but
in the last few decades many countries have abolished it. Usage of
capital punishment is usually broken into the four categories set
out below. Of the 195 independent states that are UN members or
have UN observer status:
90% of the world's countries are not executing, according to
100 (51%) have abolished it.
7 (4%) retain it for crimes committed in exceptional
circumstances (such as in time of war).
48 (25%) permit its use for ordinary crimes, but have not
used it for at least 10 years and are believed to have a policy
or established practice of not carrying out executions, or it is
under a moratorium.
40 (20%) maintain the death penalty in both law and practice.
These countries make up approximately 66% of the world's
population in 2012
There is no question that killing another person is the most heinous
crime that one can commit. I am not sure why, but it seems that our
governments are being hypocritical when they state that capital
punishment is allowable because, after all, the criminal did murder
an innocent victim, and therefore should be killed. This is known
as the "eye-for-an-eye, and tooth-for-a- tooth theory." Of
course, if we used this system all the time, there would be no need
for laws. If someone hits me, I would hit him/her back. How
simple, we can all be primitive again.
A second argument that some people use to support capital
punishment is that the fear of being given the death penalty is
going to stop criminals from murdering. How many criminals
would murder in the first place, even in a state where there is no
capital punishment, if they thought there was a chance of getting
caught? Most murderers feel that they have a fool-proof plan to get
away with murder. Unfortunately, most are right.
Life is sacred. This is an ideal that the majority of people can agree
upon to a certain extent. For this reason taking the life of another
has always been considered the most deplorable of crimes, one
worthy of the harshest available punishment. Thus arises one of the
great moral dilemmas of our time. Should taking the life of one
who has taken the life of others be considered an available
punishment? Is a murderer's life any less sacred than the victim's
is? Can capital punishment, the death penalty, execution, legal
murder, or whatever a society wishes to call it, be morally
justifiable? The underlying question in this issue is if any kind of
killing, regardless of reason, can be accepted. In this paper I will
discuss if the modern American form of capital punishment can be
If we analyze the topic, there are two key concepts that will
1) Is it effective detterent of crime? (Pros)
2) Is it a source of revenge? (Cons)
For The Death Penalty (PROS):
1) Death Penalty Deterrent Effect
If we do not know whether the death penalty will deter others, we
will be confronted with two uncertainties . If we have the death
penalty and achieve no deterrent effect, than, the life of convicted
murderers has been expended in vain (from a deterrent point of
view)—here is a net loss. If we have the death sentence, and deter
future murderers, we spared the lives of future victims-(the
prospective murderers gain, too; they are spared punishment
because they were deterred). In this case, the death penalty is a
gain, unless the convicted murderer is valued more highly than that
of the unknown victim, or victims.
Capital Punishment is not excessive, unnecessary punishment, for
those who knowingly and intentionally commits murder in
premeditation, to take lives of others. Even though capital
punishment is not used so often, it still is a threat to the criminal.
2) Threat of Death Penalty Rate of Homicide Decreases
Frank Carrington (1978) states- is there any way one can tell
whether the death penalty deters murders from killing? There is no
way one can tell whether the death penalty deters murderers from
killing. The argument goes on that proponents of capital
punishments should not have to bear the burden of proving
deterrence by a reasonable doubt. Nor should the abolitionist have
to prove deterrence by a reasonable doubt -neither side would be
able to anyway.
Frank Carrington (1978) claims common sense supports the
inference that if, the threat of the death penalty decreases, the rate
of murders increases than it may be true. But if the threat had
increased, the homicide rate may decrease.
Although some of the studies suggest that the deathpenalty may
not function as a significantly greater deterrent than lesser
penalties, there is no convincing empirical evidence supporting or
refuting this view. We may nevertheless assume safely there are
murders, such as those who act in passion, for whom the threat of
death has little or no deterrent effect. But for many others, the
death penalty undoubtedly, is a significant deterrent. There are
carefully contemplated murders, such as murder for hire, where the
possible penalty of death may well enter, the cold calculus that
precedes the decision to act.
Edgar Hoover, late director of Federal Bureau of
Investigations, asks the following questions: “Have you ever
thought about how many criminals escape punishment, and yet, the
victims never have a chance to do that? Are crime victims in the
United States today the forgotten people of our time? Do they
receive full measure of justice.
A criminal on death row has a chance to prepare his death, make a
will, and make his last statements, etc. while some victims can
never do it. There are many other crimes where people are injured
by stabbing, rape, theft, etc. To some degree at least, the victims
right to freedom and pursuit of happiness is violated.
When the assailant is apprehended and charged, he has the power
of the judicial process who protects his constitutional rights. What
about the victim? The assailant may have compassion from
investigating officers, families and friends. Furthermore, the
criminal may have organized campaigns of propaganda to build
sympathy for him as if he is the one who has been sinned against.
These false claims are publicized, for no reason, hence, protecting
The former Theodore L. Sendak, Attorney General of Indiana
delivered a speech to Law enforcement officials in Northern
Indiana on May 12, 1971 (as cited in Isenberg, 1977):
system of criminal law is to minimize human suffering by works or
order primarily to forestall violence or aggression. In the question
of the death penalty, we must ask ourselves which action will serve
the true humanitarian purpose of criminal law. We should weigh
the death of the convicted murders against the loss of life of his
victims and the possibilityof potential victims to murder.
In arguments of the death penalty, there are two lives to think
about. Too much emphasis is placed on the convicted murderer,
the one being executed, and the victim is all forgotten.
3) Crime Rate Increases:
Millions are being killed and will be killed because our justice
system is not working. Millions have already been killed and will
be killed every year. According to Time Magazine, there are
2,000,000 people beaten in the United States. Some are knifed,
shot, or assaulted (Internet).
Crime growth has been going up in the past because of too much
leniency going hand in hand with the increased rate of people
being victimized. There are many loop holes devised for
offenders, and because of that crime rate has increased drastically.
Between l960 to 1968 crime rate increased 11 times. More and
more people are being murdered, raped, assaulted, kidnapped, and
robbed, etc. (Isenberg, I., 1997).
4) Free Will:
When you commit a felony, it is a matter of free will. No one is
compelled to commit armed robbery, murder, or rape. The average
citizen does not have a mind or intentions to become a killer or
being falsely accused of murder. What he is worried about is being
5) Death Feared:
Most people have a natural fear of death- its a trait man have to
think about what will happen before we act. If we don’t think
about it consciously, we will think about it unconsciously. Thinkif every murderer who killed someone died instantly, the homicide
rate would be very low because no one likes to die. We cannot do
this, but if the Justice system can make it more swift and severe,
we could change the laws to make capital punishment faster and
make appeals a shorter process. The death penalty is important
because it could save the lives of thousands of potential victims
who are at stake.
In a foot note Bedau (1982) cites, “Actually being dead is no
different from not being born, a (non) experience we all had before
being born. But death is not realized. The process of dying which
is a different matter is usually confused with it. In turn, dying is
feared because death is expected, even though death is feared
because it is confused with dying (p. 338)”.
Death is an experience that cannot be experienced and ends all
experience. Because it is unknown as it is certain, death is
universally feared. “The life of a man should be sacred to each
6) Innocent Executed - no Proof
Opponents claim lots of innocent man are wrongly executed.
There has never been any proof of an innocent man being
executed!! A study by Bedau-Radlet claimed there were 22 cases
where the defendant have been wrongly executed. However, this
study is very controversial. Studies like Markman and Cassell find
that the methodology was flawed in l2 cases. There was no
substantial evidence of guilt, and no evidence of innocence.
Moreover, our judicial system takes extra precautions to be sure
the innocent and their rights are protected. Most likely an innocent
person would not be executed (Internet).
7) Death Penalty Saves Lives:
The question is whether or not execution of an innocent person is
strong enough to abolish the death penalty. Remember, the death
penalty saves lives. Repeat murders are eliminated and foreseeable
murders are deterred. You must consider the victim as well as the
8) Death Penalty - Right to Live:
Opponents say the State is like a murder himself. The argument
here is, if execution is murder, than killing someone in war is
murder. On the contrary, is it necessary to protect the rights of a
group of people. Hence, the death penalty is vital to protect a
person’s right to live! Is arresting someone same as kidnapping
someone? In the same, executing someone is not murder, it is
punishment by society for a deserving criminal.
Justice requires punishing the guilty even if only some can be
punished and sparing the innocent, even if all are not spared.
Morally, justice must always be preferred to equality. Justice
cannot ever permit sparing some guilty person, or punishing some
innocent ones, for the sake of equality—because others have been
spared or punished. In practice, penalties could never be applied if
we insisted that they can be inflicted on only a guilty person unless
we are able to make sure that they are equally applied to all other
guilty persons. Anyone familiar with the law enforcement knows
that punishments can be inflicted only on an unavoidable
“shudder” selection of the guilty.
Irwin Isenberg (1977) said, when you kill a man with
premeditation, you do something different than stealing from him.
“I favor the death penalty as a matter of justice and human dignity
even apart from deterrence. The penalty must be appropriate to the
seriousness of the crime.
10) Life is Sacred:
In an interview with Professor van den Haag, a psychoanalyst and
adjunct professor at New York University, was questioned, “Why
do you favor the death penalty?” His answer was that the Federal
prison had a man sentenced to Life who, since he has been in
prison committed three more murders on three separate
occasions .They were prison guards and inmates. There’s no more
punishment he can receive, therefore, in many cases, the death
penalty is the only penalty that can deter. He went on saying “I
hold life sacred, and because I hold it sacred, I feel that anyone
who takes some one’s life should know that thereby he forsakes his
own and does not just suffer an inconvenience about being put into
prison for sometime.
11) An Eye for an Eye:
Some people argue that the capital punishment tends to brutalize
and disregards society. Do you agree? Some people say the that
penalty is legalized murder because it is like “an eye for an eye”.
The difference between punishment and the crime is that one is
legalized and the other is not! People are more brutalized by what
they see on T.V. daily. People are not brutalized by punishments
they are brutalized by our failure to serious punish, the brutal
Could the same effect be achieved by putting the criminal in prison
for life? “Life in prison” means in six months the parole board can
release the man to 12 years in some states. “But even if it were
real life imprisonment, it’s deterrent effect will never be as great as
that of the death penalty. The death penalty is the only actually
irrevocable penalty. Because of that, it is the one that people fear
12) "The death penalty is cheaper than feeding a murderer for
Categorically false; the death penalty is actually far more
expensive to administer than life imprisonment. The State of
California could reduce expenses by $1 billion over the next five
years by abolishing capital punishment and commuting death row
sentences to life imprisonment without parole.
Why is the death penalty so expensive? Because of the lengthy
appeals process—which still sends innocent people to death row
on a fairly regular basis.
Even if we were fine with executing innocent people every now
and then, the Supreme Court wouldn't be—the Court abolished the
death penalty in 1972 due to arbitrary sentencing. Justice Potter
Stewart wrote for the majority:
These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that
being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual ... [T]he Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments cannot tolerate the infliction of a sentence
of death under legal systems that permit this unique penalty to be
so wantonly and so freakishly imposed.
The Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 only after
states reformed their legal statutes to better protect the rights of the
accused. There's no way around it: capital punishment is extremely
expensive, and will remain so for as long as the Supreme Court
takes the Eighth Amendment seriously.
13) "Murderers deserve to die."
They might. They really might. But the government is an imperfect
human institution, not an instrument of divine retribution—and it
lacks the power, the mandate, and the competence to make sure
that good is always proportionally rewarded and evil always
14) Fear of dying:
To execute some of criminals will not make our lives more secure
than before. People are facing a number of crimes such as robbery
and assault on the streets which are putting our lives into more
Since it started to be debated by the lawmakers whether it is
essential or not, capital punishment has ben removed from a large
number of countries' criminal codes in the last few decades. United
Nation takes the main role in Europe. However, some countries
such as Iran, China and a part of United States stil put capital
punishment into practise. There is no benefit of keeping death
penalty as a punishment for people who is harmed.
As dying is one of the most common fears of people, it can be
claimed that death penalty can be considered as an exemplery for
the individuals who cause crimes of violence in the society.
However, I believe that people who have potential to cause such a
big crime of violence that will end up with a death penalty will not
be capable of directing their emotions and behaviours in the right
way to make the right decisions unless they recieve psychotherapy
or any other help. Furthermore, there had not been a considerable
decrease in the amount of crime of violence while death penalty
was put into practise.
One the other hand, it can be argued that governments are doing
these criminals a favor by putting them into jails and providing
food and place to live instead of executing. They also say that the
economy of the nations are effected in the negative way.
Nowadays, most nations' governemtns are complaining about the
crowd of criminals and having difficulties to provide place for
more. However, supporting to execute some criminals in order to
make room for more does not include a rational point of view.
Putting criminals into jails is already an effective way to punish
them. Depending on the 'severity'(not sure this is the right word) of
the crime, they might be sentenced to live there for the rest of their
lives. Not supporting capital punishment does mean to protect the
criminals. Moreover executing them wwill not make our lives
more secure. Our lives will still be secure as long as they are not in
social life untill they are aware what they have done wrong.
Sometimes it not even enough.
15) Tit for tat:
Capital punishment is heavy punishment and should have been
done under very excessive crimes like murder or killing in big
dimensions(massacre),when there is no expectation for saving a
All of us know when a person born he is not a murder and don't
want to kill or violate or rape to any body.but before any judging
about a criminal first we should see what is his backgrounds and
his reactions has roots in what kind of troubles.
Different research shows many criminals had family's trouble in
their life and in many times their parents didn't had a warm relation
they were divorce's children and they have lots of deficits in their
childhoods continuing in life without any aspiration caused they
didn't follow any reasonable aims in their life and have done every
things that compensate their deficits.
Basically death penalty doesn't avoid increasing violence ,when a
person perpetrate a crime,statistically, in many times know about
his retribution of his crime,but the question is, why he or she have
done it again?
16) "Families deserve closure."
Families find closure in many different ways, and many families
never find closure at all. In any case, surviving family members
deserve more closure than the criminal justice system has the
power to provide.
What most people really mean when they say "families deserve
closure" is that families deserve vengeance. Many families do want
vengeance, and this is certainly understandable, but we need—as a
culture—to stop referring to vengeance as "closure."
If we were really worried about closure, we wouldn't just
appropriate the grief of strangers to serve a policy objective—we
would actively provide free long-term mental health care and other
services to the families of murder victims. If we spent as much
money helping survivors as we spend killing offenders, their
material needs would be met for the rest of their lives. You can tell
what our public officials really care about—and what they really
don't care about—by looking at what they're willing to spend
AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY (CONS):
1) Death Penalty Fails to Rehabilitate
What would it accomplish to put someone on death row? The
victim is already dead-you cannot bring him back. When the
opponents feel “fear of death” will prevent one from committing
murder, it is not true because most murders are done on the “heat
of passion” when a person cannot think rationally. Therefore, how
can one even have time to think of fear in the heat of passion
2) ACLU and Murderers Penniless
The American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) is working for a
moratorium on executions and to put an end to state-sanctioned
murder in the United States. They claim it is very disturbing to
anyone who values human life.
In the article of the ACLU Evolution Watch, the American Bar
Association said the quality of the legal representation is
substantial. Ninety-nine percent of criminal defendants end up
penniless by the time their case is up for appeal. They claim they
are treated unfairly. Most murderers who do not have any money,
receive the death penalty. Those who live in counties pro-death
penalty are more likely to receive the death penalty. (Internet).
3)Death Penalty Failed as a Deterrent:
Some criminologist claim they have statistically proven that when
an execution is publicized, more murders occur in the day and
weeks that follow. A good example is in the Linberg kidnapping.
A number of states adopted the death penalty for crime like this,
but figures showed kidnapping increased. Publicity may
encourage crime instead of preventing it.
Death is one penalty which makes error irreversible and the chance
of error is inescapable when based on human judgment . On the
contrary, sometimes defendants insist on execution. They feel it is
an act of kindness to them. The argument here is - Is life
imprisonment a crueler fate?” Is there evidence supporting the
usefulness of the death penalty securing the life of the citizens
(McClellan, G. 1961)?
Does the death penalty give increased protection against being
murdered? This argument for continuation of the death penalty is
most likely a deterrent, but it has failed as a deterrent. There is no
clear evidence because empirical studies done in the 50’s by
Professor Thorsten Sellin, (sociologist) did not give support to
deterrence (McClellan, G., 1961).
4) Does not Discourage Crime:
It is noted that we need extreme penalty as a deterrent to crime.
This could be a strong argument if it could be proved that the death
penalty discourages murderers and kidnappers. There is strong
evidence that the death penalty does not discourage crime at all.
The states that have the death penalty should be free of murder, but
those states have the most murders, and the states that abolished
the death penalty has less. Conviction of the innocent does occur
and death makes a miscarriage of justice irrevocable. Two states
Maine and Rhode Island abolished the death penalty because of
public shame and remorse after they discovered they executed
some innocent men.
5) Fear of Death Does not Reduce Crime:
The fear of the death penalty has never reduced crime. Through
most of history executions were public and brutal. Some criminals
were even crushed to death slowly under heavy weight. Crime was
more common at that time than it is now. Evidence shows
execution does not act as a deterrent to capital punishment.
6) Motives for Death Penalty - Revenge:
According to Grant McClellan (1961), the motives for the death
penalty may be for revenge. Legal vengeance solidifies social
solidarity against law breakers and is the alternative to the private
revenge of those who feel harmed.
7) Executions are carried out at staggering cost to taxpayers:
It costs far more to execute a person than to keep him or her in
prison for life. A 2011 study found that California has spent more
than $4 billion on capital punishment since it was reinstated in
1978 and that death penalty trials are 20 times more expensive than
trials seeking a sentence of life in prison without possibility of
parole. California currently spends $184 million on the death
penalty each year and is on track to spend $1 billion in the next
8) There is no credible evidence that capital punishment deters
Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that
executions deter people from committing crime anymore than long
prison sentences. Moreover, states without the death penalty have
much lower murder rates. The South accounts for 80% of US
executions and has the highest regional murder rate.
9) Innocent people have been convicted and executed:
The wrongful execution of an innocent person is an injustice that
can never be rectified. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty,
140 men and women have been released from Death Row
nationally....some only minutes away from execution. Moreover, in
the past two years evidence has come to light which indicates that
four men may have been wrongfully EXECUTED in recent years
for crimes they did not commit. This error rate is simply appalling,
and completely unacceptable, when we are talking about life and
10) Race plays a role in determining who lives and who dies:
The race of the victim and the race of the defendant in capital cases
are major factors in determining who is sentenced to die in this
country. In 1990 a report from the General Accounting Office
concluded that "in 82 percent of the studies [reviewed], race of the
victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with
capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e. those who
murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than
those who murdered blacks."
11) The death penalty is applied at random:
Politics, quality of legal counsel and the jurisdiction where a crime
is committed are more often the determining factors in a death
penalty case than the facts of the crime itself. The death penalty is
a lethal lottery: of the 22,000 homicides committed every year
approximately 150 people are sentenced to death.
12) Capital punishment goes against almost every religion:
Although isolated passages of religious scripture have been quoted
in support of the death penalty, almost all religious groups in the
United States regard executions as immoral.
13) The USA is keeping company with notorious human rights
The vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America
and South America — more than 139 nations worldwide — have
abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice. The United
States remains in the same company as Iraq, Iran and China as one
of the major advocates and users of capital punishment.
14) Millions currently spent on the death penalty could be used
to assist the families of murder victims:
Many family members who have lost love ones to murder feel that
the death penalty will not heal their wounds nor will it end their
pain; the extended process prior to executions can prolong the
agony experienced by the family. Funds now being used for the
costly process of executions could be used to help families put
their lives back together through counseling, restitution, crime
victim hotlines, and other services addressing their needs.
15) Bad Lawyers are a Persistent Problem in Capital Cases:
Perhaps the most important factor in determining whether a
defendant will receive the death penalty is the quality of the
representation he or she is provided. Almost all defendants in
capital cases cannot afford their own attorneys. In many cases, the
appointed attorneys are overworked, underpaid, or lacking the trial
experience required for death penalty cases. There have even been
instances in which lawyers appointed to a death case were so
inexperienced that they were completely unprepared for the
sentencing phase of the trial. Other appointed attorneys have slept
through parts of the trial, or arrived at the court under the influence
16) Life Without Parole is a Sensible Alternative to the Death
In every state that retains the death penalty, jurors have the option
of sentencing convicted capital murderers to life in prison without
the possibility of parole. The sentence is cheaper to tax-payers and
keeps violent offenders off the streets for good. Unlike the death
penalty, a sentence of Life Without Parole also allows mistakes to
be corrected. There are currently over 3,300 people in California
who have received this alternative sentence, which also has a more
limited appeals process last approximately 3 years. According to
the California Governor's Office, only seven people sentenced to
life without parole have been released since the state provided for
this option in 1977, and this occurred because they were able to
prove their innocence.
Police Views on Crime Prevention:
Law enforcement officers are society's front line in fighting crime.
They see it up close every day, and they have a personal stake in
reducing violence. So, it is natural to ask them: "What, in your
opinion, works in the battle against crime?"
This question was approached from a variety of directions. Police
were first given an open-ended opportunity to state the areas that
would have the biggest impact on reducing violent crime in their
jurisdiction. Sentencing reform, including truth in sentencing,
elimination of parole and stiffer sentences was the most often cited
area of reform (33% of respondents). Other areas of emphasis
included the development of family values and parenting skills
(23%), education (15%), and more police (13%). The death penalty
was mentioned by fewer than 2% of the chiefs and followed
twenty-five other areas of concern.
The police chiefs were also asked to select their primary choices
from a list of possible ways to reduce violent crime. The need to
reduce the prevalence of drug abuse was their first priority. They
also chose longer prison sentences for criminals, fewer technical
legal barriers to the prosecution of criminals, more police officers
on the street, a better economy with more jobs, and reducing the
number of guns over an expanded use of the death penalty as better
ways to lower crime. Capital punishment ranked a distant last, with
only 1% of the chiefs citing it as their primary focus for stopping
violent crime. These results are illustrated in Figure 1 below.
In a similar vein, the poll explored what the police chiefs see as the
main obstacles to their success as they try to protect citizens and
fashion a safer society. Again, drug and alcohol abuse surfaced as
the most frequently mentioned problem facing police forces today.
Fully 87% chose this as a serious problem (i.e., "top two or three
problems" or as a "major problem") which they encounter in their
work. Family problems or child abuse was the second major
obstacle for police, with 77% citing this as a serious problem in
The police chiefs were evenly split between those stating that a
lack of law enforcement resources was a serious problem (49%)
and those who thought it was at most a minor problem (50%).
About 45% of the police chiefs stated that the availability of too
many guns was a serious problem. Interestingly, most of the chiefs
did not see gangs as a major problem in their efforts. Only 7%
reported that gangs were one of their top two or three problems.
Other areas which were cited as major problems included crowded
courts and slow justice. On the other hand, ineffective prosecution
and high unemployment were only rated as minor problems.
Again, the death penalty ranked near the bottom as a serious
concern for law enforcement officers.
Insufficient use of the death penalty was rated as either a minor
problem or no problem at all by 63% of the respondents.
No one is more keenly aware of the fact that preventing crime
costs money than police chiefs. Faced daily with budget decisions
and the rising costs of salaries, training and equipment for a police
force, chiefs must constantly balance emergency responses and
long-term needs. This poll sought to discover not only what police
chiefs ideally want in the fight against crime, but also what are the
most cost-effective methods available to them.
Among strategies used for controlling crime, the death penalty
ranked last in terms of its cost-effectiveness. The related areas of
community policing and expanded training with more equipment
for police, received the highest cost-effective ratings by the police
chiefs among ways to reduce crime. Fifty-six percent of the
respondents rated these areas as cost-effective (i.e., they gave it an
8, 9, or 10 out of a possible 10). Imposing the death penalty more
often was thought to be cost-effective by only 29% of the chiefs.
Neighborhood watch programs ranked almost as high as
community policing in terms of effectiveness for the dollars spent.
The chart below illustrates the relative cost effectiveness which the
police gave to these various measures.
Myths Related to Death Penalty Is Effective
Detterent Towards Crime:
One of the principal reasons that those in law enforcement are not
enamored of the death penalty is that they do not believe it is a
deterrent to crime. Law enforcement officers believe that the most
effective deterrent to crime is swift and sure punishment. When
asked which societal or legal changes would have the greatest
impact on reducing violent crime, police chose strengthening
families and neighborhoods, along with swift and sure punishment
for offenders, as the means that would bring about the most
Police wanted more control over illicit drugs, greater latitude for
judges in criminal cases, greater economic opportunity, and a
reduction in the number of guns in circulation. Expanding the
death penalty, on the other hand, was not thought to have a big
impact on crime reduction.
Over two-thirds of the police chiefs did not believe that the death
penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides. About 67%
said that it was not one of the most important law enforcement
tools. And well over 80% of the respondents believe that murderers
do not think about the range of possible punishments before
committing homicide. The figures below illustrate the lack of
confidence which police chiefs place in the death penalty as a
One of the many problems with the death penalty is that it is
anything but swift and sure. Even under current proposals for
restricting death penalty appeals, the sentence would be carried out
years after it is imposed, on relatively few of all the convicted
murderers, and with a substantial likelihood that the sentence will
be overturned before the execution is carried out. Sentences of life
without parole, in contrast, begin immediately upon sentencing and
are rarely overturned on appeal.
Capital cases are a nightmare for the entire justice system. Police
chiefs recognize that death penalty cases are particularly
burdensome in the early stages. Two-thirds of the police chiefs
polled said that death penalty cases are hard to close and take up a
lot of police time.
Mr. Hassan Shah Rashdi, Retired S.H.O in Karachi worker for 23
years, and he agrees: "I have seen the ugliness of murder up close
and personal. But I have never heard a murder suspect say they
thought about the death penalty as a consequence of their actions
prior to committing their crimes."
Mr. Raja Saeed Sub inspector at D.H.A Police Station, echoed the
same theme from his years of experience: "I am not convinced that
capital punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because
most people do not think about the death penalty before they
commit a violent or capital crime."
Deterrence of Police Killings:
Even when it comes to the killing of a police officer, the death
penalty is not a deterrent. Karachi, by far the leading death penalty
city, for the past 10 years has also been the leading city in the
number of its police officers killed. By comparison, last year
Lahore, with no death penalty, had about one third as many officers
killed as Karachi.
A recent study of the deterrence value of the death penalty
published in the Journal of Social Issues surveyed a 13-year period
of police homicides. The researchers concluded: "We find no
consistent evidence that capital punishment influenced police
killings . . . . Police do not appear to have been afforded an added
measure of protection against homicide by capital punishment."
In a nation with over 200 million firearms, gun control is also a
priority among many law enforcement agencies. About 45% of
police chiefs listed the easy availability of guns as a major problem
in fighting crime, though only 38% thought that reducing the
number of guns would have a big impact on crime. The
International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest such
organization in the world, called for strict control of certain
weapons: "The deadly flow of military assault-type automatic and
semi-automatic weapons onto the streets of America and into the
hands of violent criminals means that all too frequently the
superior firepower belongs to the criminals, not law enforce-ment."
They called for a complete ban: Manufacture and sale of assault
weapons to the general public should be prohibited. Other police
organizations have also supported tighter gun controls.
Many politicians say the death penalty would help us in Karachi by
deterring would-be killers. I believe it would make things worse
because it is another instruction in brutality. . . . Cities that resumed
executions averaged three times as many police officers killed than
have been killed in other part of the country. How can anyone
pretend that capital punishment will make us safer?
While the public is deeply concerned about violent crime, it is
really gun-related crime that has shown the most dramatic
increases. According to the FBI, the violent crime rate has actually
decreased over the past decade, but crimes with handguns have
grown disturbingly. Handgun crimes rose 55 percent.
A comparison of handgun deaths in Pakistan as contrasted with
other countries demonstrates how serious a problem guns are. In
2012, the United States suffered thousands of murders by
handguns. By comparison, there were only 128 such deaths in
Canada, 60 in Japan, only 33 in Great Britain, and just 13 in
Australia. Some experts in European countries attribute their lower
murder rates to stricter gun controls.
Support for the Death Penalty, Theoretically and
A clear majority of the police chiefs in this Poll say that capital
punishment is not an effective law enforcement tool, even though
they support it philosophically. The chiefs were asked which of
three statements came closest to their own point of view:
I support the death penalty and think it works well.
Philosophically, I support the death penalty, but I don't think
it is an effective law enforcement tool in practice.
I oppose the death penalty.
About a third of the respondents approved of the death penalty in
practice. On the other hand, 58% of the police chiefs, while
supporting the death penalty philosophically, did not think it was
an effective law enforcement tool. When combined with the
percentage who opposed capital punishment completely, this result
corresponded well with the two-thirds of police chiefs who
disagreed that the death penalty significantly reduces the number
of homicides and the equal number who say that murderers do not
think about the range of punishments before committing
homicides. (See Figure 5).
Police chiefs recognize that the death penalty has been over-used
by politicians. Eighty-five percent of the chiefs polled believed that
politicians support the death penalty as a symbolic way to show
they are tough on crime. In line with their belief that capital
punishment is not an important law enforcement tool, the majority
of police chiefs believed that time spent on capital punishment in
Congress and in state legislatures distracts from finding real
solutions to the problems of crime.
Similar to the results of recent opinion polls showing the public's
openness to death penalty alternatives. The poll showed that police
chiefs believe in harsh punishment for those who commit murder,
though, not necessarily, the death penalty. When offered the
alternative sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of
parole, combined with mandatory restitution to the victim's family,
support for the death penalty among police chiefs drops to only
50%. And among the majority of police chiefs who do not believe
the death penalty is effective in practice, 52% would prefer the
alternative sentence over capital punishment.
Law Enforcement Organizations' Proposals for
Many organizations in Paksitan and around the world are
committed to law enforcement and to finding solutions to the
problems of crime and violence. In grappling with these issues, a
number of these organizations have produced statements and
studies on what can be done to reduce crime. The proposed
solutions range from a fundamental restructuring of society to
more immediate innovations that citizens can implement in their
own neighborhoods. Rarely is the death penalty even mentioned in
their discussions. Instead, the solutions are changes and programs
that affect a broad range of people and go to the roots of why
violent crime has become so prevalent.
Because the root causes of violence are so deeply entrenched and
so difficult to change, the death penalty presents a tempting "quick
fix" to a complex problem. Nevertheless, many law enforcement
groups have taken crime head-on and have proposed a variety of
In A National Action Plan to Combat Violent Crime, their crime
fighting priorities reflect many of the same concerns which were
voiced by police chiefs all over the country in the poll:
1. Funds for additional police officers, and the implementation of
community policing, with no cut in other programs that address
urban needs and the root causes of crime.
2. Omnibus firearm control measures, including:
Banning the manufacture, sale and possession of all semiautomatic assault weapons and their component parts.
Registration of all newly purchased and transferred firearms
Liability of gun dealers for damages resulting from illegal
3. Expanded drug control efforts, including:
Expansion of treatment programs so that services are
available to all in need
Mandatory minimum sentences for all repeat drug sale
Establishment of additional drug courts
4. Restructuring and strengthening the criminal justice system,
Expansion of number of prosecutors, court services and
Expansion of boot camps and other alternatives to prisons
5. Long term crime reduction strategy:
Community involvement in preventing crime
Focus on young people: addressing family violence, jobs,
preventing school dropouts
Expansion of violence reduction and conflict resolution
6. Partnerships to prevent violent crime:
More coordination of efforts among mayors, police chiefs
and the federal leaders
Improved sharing of intelligence and technologies
Involvement of schools, public health departments, human
service agencies, businesses and neighborhood organizations
in crime prevention
Confronting the entertainment industry on the proliferation of
Methodology of the Poll
A total of 120 daytime telephone interviews were conducted with
randomly designated police chiefs throughout Karachi and some
areas of Lahore. The margin of error is no more than +6
percentage points with a 95% confidence level.
Statement on Law Enforcement and the Death Penalty
A number of individuals who have been leaders in the law
enforcement community have begun speaking out about the overemphasis the death penalty has received from politicians
campaigning for office. These officers and former officers agree
that crime is a critical problem, but they do not see capital
punishment as a likely solution. Regardless of their individual
views on the acceptability of the death penalty, they do not
consider it to be a strong deterrent to crime and believe that other,
more effective crime prevention measures should be given priority.
A statement regarding law enforcement and capital punishment,
along with the endorsers of that statement, is included below as an
indication of the position of a growing number of members of the
law enforcement community:
Law Enforcement Statement on Capital Punishment
As law enforcement officers, our primary concern is the protection
of the public from crime. Punishment of offenders is a crucial
element of this protection, and one which we believe is vitally
important in deterring crime.
Recently, attention has focused on one form of punishment: the
death penalty. As individuals, we differ widely in our belief in
capital punishment. Many of us hold that the death penalty, if fairly
and equitably administered, may have a role in American society.
Others of us have sincere reservations about the use of this
As endorsers of this Statement, however, we share the belief that
other law enforcement priorities are far more important and urgent
than capital punishment. The death penalty absorbs an inordinate
portion of the financial resources and valuable time of the criminal
justice system. Because millions of dollars and countless hours of
court time go toward the execution of a single individual, we
believe that other dimensions of crime prevention are being shortchanged.
In many communities, the public would be better served by
measures such as the hiring of additional police officers, the
implementation of community policing, drug interdiction
programs, early childhood intervention programs, weapons control
programs, speedier trials, or better funded probation and parole
departments, than by an occasional death sentence on an isolated
individual, to be carried out, if at all, only many years later. The
death penalty may fascinate the media and the public, but it is truly
peripheral to our efforts to make this society safer.
Too much attention on one extreme of law enforcement distracts
the public from the more critical task of combating daily crime on
our city's streets. State and federal legislatures spend an exorbitant
amount of time debating the merits of the death penalty. The courts
are burdened with lengthy death penalty trials and years of appeals.
From the perspective of those of us who see crime up close on a
daily basis, there are far higher priorities that deserve the public's
attention and support.
We deeply understand the public's concern with the amount of
random, violent crime prevalent in our society today. The solutions
to this problem are not easy ones, and they require a commitment
of money and resources. The sooner we order our crime prevention
priorities toward solutions with proven records of effectiveness, the
sooner we will be able to make a serious dent in America's crime
Malir Cant PS
Hassan Shah Rashdi
Aman ullah Marwat
Malir City PS
Saleem A. Siddiqui
Jabbar Qaim Khani
Asim Qaim Khani
My research on issues on the death penalty is one of the most
debatable in the criminal justice system. Today, there are many
pros and cons to this death penalty issues. However, if people
weigh the arguments properly, and have empathy for the victims,
they will be more inclined to favor capital punishment. As a
matter of fact, most people in the U.S. today are in favor of it. But
we need more states to enforce the death penalty.
As you may have read in the arguments, the death penalty help to
curtail future murderers, thus, we can save more lives. The
chances of murdering an innocent man is very minute.
In my opinion, I am in favor of the death penalty, because we can
save innocent lives. Life to me is scared as one of the victim's
family member stated. My innocent nephew, who was brutally
murdered by a shot gun to the chest, did not have a choice to make
a last statement or make a will before he died. The people on death
row can watch T.V. and enjoy their lives for another 20 years
before they are executed. They can prepare their death by making
a will and a last statement. But the murder is still unsolved, and
the killer is enjoying his life somewhere. The murderer(s) will
probably murder another person some day.
I heard on the news last month, February 2000, where a 62 yearold grandmother, Betty Beets, was pleading for her life because
she was on death row and was going to be executed. At first, I felt
very sorry for her, but after doing research on her, I learned she had
five husbands. She had already killed the fourth one, and served a
prison sentence for murder, and she got out of prison early. She
murdered the fifth husband-she shot him, and buried him in her
back yard. Betty Beets was imprisoned a second time, and now
was pleading for her life? It has been proven these killers do it
again and again. The rate of recidivism is high for people who
commit murder and crimes. I feel murderers should be executed
the first time because chances are they will come out of prison and
kill another innocent person again. We need stricter laws and swift
There are too many stories like these where people deserve the
death penalty for killing other people. If they are released from
prison, they will kill other innocent lives again.
I believe life is sacred, therefore, one who takes a life should have
his own life taken away, too.
The laws today are too lenient. If there is no death penalty in your
state, and a criminal kills someone, it is because he felt he could
get out in 10 years or less from prison. There is no fear of death for
him. They see other murderers in the state get away with murder,
so they, too, can get away with it. They don’t have to fear the
death penalty. In fact, I read where a husband intentionally moved
to a non death penalty state, so he could murder his wife and get
away with it. Many murders are premeditated. People in the “heat
of passion” should make it a point to evade the argument or the
environment. Remember it could be one of your loved ones. Can
you imagine what it would be like to have your loved one
murdered? There are no words that can explain the loss of your
loved one to murder.