The Death Penalty: To Be or Not to Be...


For the past several months Americans have regularly listed crime and
violence as the number - one problem facing the nation, far surpassing worries
over the economy or health care.
Despite the many government and community initiatives launched during
recent years to reduce crime, most Americans see no improvement. In a 1993
survey asking respondents if they felt crime was increasing or decreasing in
their areas, only 5 % felt that it was decreasing, a full 93 % felt that crime
was either increasing or staying the same. And it is not just statistics: I
consider myself along with those 93 %. Because while Guiliani administration is
talking about crime rates in the New York City going down, all I see and hear
in the media are reports about horrible crimes committed by New Yorkers.
As George Pettinico states in his article " Crime and punishment:
America changes it\'s mind ": The media\'s extensive coverage of crime, especially
the most brutal and horrific cases have heightened the public\'s fear and anger
over this issue to a near frenzy. When asked in January of this year, " How
often do you see reports of violent crime on television ? " 68 % replied "
almost every day ".
Although the media have played an important role in raising the public\'s
awareness of lawlessness, crime in America is far from a media - created
phenomenon. Government statistics support the image of a nation which has
overwhelmingly lost the war against crime. For instance, in 1960 there were 161
reported violent crimes per 100,000 people By 1992, the figure had jumped to 758
per 100,000 -- a rise of over 350 %.
More and more people today are starting to think that something is
terribly wrong when a modern, civilized nation must confront statistics like
these. The American public is demanding an end to this violence, and surveys
show that they believe swift and harsh punishment is the most appropriate and
effective means to these ends.
The death penalty, or as it is sometimes being called " capital
punishment " is the hardest punishment that could be received when a person is
convicted of a capital offense. Until recently it did not exist in New York
State but after new governor, George Pataki was elected he managed to bring it
back. Since September 1, 1994 the death penalty law was in effect. And even
though, as far as I know, there is no strong statistical evidence that the death
penalty lowers the murder rate, many people were very happy with that decision.
What they probably though was " some people would not commit a murder, rape
or another violent crime if they would know that they could get on a death row
for that ".
However, my personal opinion is that death penalty has to be justified
on its own goodness, rather than by some pragmatic result it brings about. The
governor and legislature of New York State evidently agree with this contention,
for they enacted a death penalty law in the face of falling rates for murder and
other serious crimes.
Currently there are two opinions about the death penalty law. First
opinion is that the existence of such a law helps keeping the crime rates down.
The opposite one is about a fact that killing people should not be done by
anybody, including state and federal law enforcement system. Let us take a
closer look on both of those opinions.
Bringing the death penalty law back to life was a part of Gov. George
Pataki\'s election program. As we have seen learned from the media and from the
results of numerous surveys, a quite large number of people who supported George
Pataki, were doing that mainly because of this part of his program.
But does having a death penalty law actually help keeping the crime
rates down? The answer is in the statistics: it turns out that the violent crime
rates in New York State did not go down for the past year since the death
penalty law was in effect. Another thing that would surprise those who support
death penalty is it\'s price. The fact is: each death penalty case costs about
2.3 million dollars. That is three times more than a price for keeping a person
in a prison for the rest of his life. Here is what Mr. C.Hoppe states in his
article " Executions Cost Texas Millions ": For the states which employ the
death