CMRJ500 Forum 5: Capital Punishment

Currently, the American criminal justice system is experiencing a number of challenges. First, there is a problem with differentiating whether a death penalty is an effective deterrent to murder. Despite a number of states prohibiting this form of punishment, the American citizens continue to debate this topic. Another issue that the American criminal justice system faces is a criticism of not being color-blind, which results in sentencing disparity. As such, the current paper analyzes whether the capital punishment is effective in deterring felonies, as well as proves that there is a racial bias in sentencing.

First, the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to murder in America. In a recent study that Radelet and Lacock (2009) conducted, top American criminologists expressed their opinion about the capital punishment and crime deterrence. The findings indicated that 88% of the criminologists did not believe that this form of punishment reduced murder or crime rates, in general (Radelet & Lacock, 2009). According to 91% of the respondents in the study, the death penalty was political as most politicians supported it to appear committed to fighting crime (Radelet & Lacock, 2009). Furthermore, 75% of the study’s participants said that the penalty prevented the legislative arm of government from developing better solutions to murder and other felonies (Radelet & Lacock, 2009). Finally, 91.6% of the respondents stated that increasing the frequency and speed of executing the culprits were issues that did not affect the rate of crime (Radelet & Lacock, 2009).

Despite the existence of a strong evidence against th deterrent effect of executions, most Americans support the death penalty on the premise that it is the only fair punishment for specific serious crimes. However, there is no evidence to support that the rates of murders across states have fallen through the executions (Ehrenfreund, 2014). In fact, Ehrenfreund (2014) explains that most states in America have either abolished capital punishment or reduced the number of executions over the past fifteen years (Ehrenfreund, 2014). Although many states have abolished capital punishment in their constitutions, there has been a steady decrease in the rates of felonies. Therefore, the states do not need capital punishment to deter such serious crimes. It also indicates that the states have turned to better alternatives than the death penalty.

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As such, the relationship between this mode of punishment and deterrence is blurred. In fact, Ehrenfreund (2014) explains that prior to violating the law the main concern for criminals is the possibility of their arrest and not the type of punishment they will receive. Consequently, increasing the effectiveness of policing is a better mechanism for deterring crime instead of using capital punishment.

Whereas research undermines the effectiveness of executions in reducing murder rates, the American criminal justice system receives criticism of not being color-blind in terms of sentencing. It faces a situation where criminals receive different treatment based on their race, ranging from motor vehicle searches to sentencing (Roman, 2014). In particular, the American judges sentence the criminals involved in shooting cases with racial bias. Roman (2014) expllains that in cases where the shooter is white but the victim is black, the shooting is more likely to be justified. On the other hand, the justification of the shooting reduces when the Blacks shoot the Whites. Thus, the racial disparity is the most severe between the Blacks and Whites. According to Roman (2014), it is more difficult to find the black perpetrators to have used excessive force in a justifiable manner compared to the Whites.

Zimmerman is a good case study that shows color-blindness in sentencing. In Zimmerman, the percentage of justification is less than 3% in homicides where the parties are strangers and the shooter is black (Roman, 2014). However, in the same setting, the rate of justification increases to 29-36% when the shooter is white and the victim is black (Roman, 2014). These disparities prove that the sentencing of criminals in America is not color-blind as justification is higher in cases where the perpetrators are Whites than where they are Blacks.

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In conclusion, capital punishment does not deter murder crimes effectively. Although Americans support it for being a fair way of punishing the criminals, the existing empirical evidence shows that it does not deter crime. Most states have abolished the death penalty and the rate of crime has fallen significantly. Regarding sentencing in the American criminal justice system, one can conclude that it is not color-blind because racial disparities exist in the rulings that the judges make. The cases where the Whites commit shootings receive a higher justification compared to those where Blacks are the perpetrators. Therefore, racism still affects sentencing.

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