Sample Criminal Justice Paper on The Death Penalty as a Deterrent to Crime

The Death Penalty as a Deterrent to Crime

The death penalty has existed in the United States since the colonial period. Currently, it is a legal form of punishment for capital offenses, including murder and mass murder, in several states countrywide. The death penalty is a controversial subject as some support its existence, claiming that it serves as a deterrent to violent crimes. On the flip side, various groups and individuals posit that executions violate the right to life and have a minimal deterring impact against crime. The United States currently experiences multiple judicial bias and discrimination instances, leading to flawed verdicts and wrongful convictions. Thus, alternatives such as life imprisonment without parole and the use of a social credit system would be more effective than the death penalty in deterring violent crimes.

Despite the death penalty’s severe negative implications on human life, various arguments indicate its significance in society. The punishment only applies to crimes with immense impacts on other people’s lives, including murder, war crimes, terrorism, and aggravated rape cases, among other severe offenses (Sethuraju et al., 2016). The individuals who commit the crimes provide a basis for the jury to consider them a danger to society. Thus, executing the offenders eliminates the perpetrators from communities, limiting the possibilities of such crimes’ reoccurrence.

The death penalty’s effect as a deterrent applies by eliminating violent offenders from society. Incarcerations of violent murderers, terrorists, and gang leaders may facilitate the persistence and increase of capital offenses since the perpetrators may influence other individuals to engage in similar acts (Billings & Schnepel, 2020). For instance, former drug baron, Joaquin Guzman, better known by his alias, El Chapo, escaped maximum security incarceration facilities several times by bribing the guards. The individual engaged in various acts of murder, drug trafficking, and money laundering, making him a menace to society. The high possibility of such offenders corrupting other members of society illustrates the death penalty’s significance.

Everyone has a right to life under the United States law. However, individuals committing violent crimes against other people, such as murder and terrorism, lose the law’s protection (Sethuraju et al., 2016). The courts may sentence such offenders to death since they give up their right to life by committing capital offenses. In most instances, the death sentence applies when the committed crime warrants punishment of such severity (Sethuraju et al., 2016). Thus, arguments supporting the death penalty base their views on the balance between the offenses’ gravity and the resulting sentence.

On the flip side, the death penalty in the US violates the basic right to human life under the fourteenth amendment of the constitution. The methods utilized for the punishment are discriminatory and arbitrary. Death row conditions in the US are also considered cruel, inhumane, and torturous, against equal protection of the law (Breyer & Bessler, 2016). In addition, the death penalty is regarded as an abuse of power by the government, which perpetuates unnecessary violence. Death by lethal injection or electrocution painful, unlike an alternative like life without parole.

Mistakes in the judicial system cause innocent people to be wrongfully convicted. Currently, in the US, the rate of wrongful convictions is between 2% to 10% of the prison population (Grisham, 2018). Also, since 1953, about 156 people have been freed from the death penalty in 26 states because of their innocence (Grisham, 2018). The courts may find it challenging to determine how many innocent people have been convicted. Therefore, the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime due to the criminal justice flaws, where numerous criminals go unpunished while innocent people are wrongfully convicted.

Also, no proven data indicates that the death penalty reduces the crime rate in the country. Murder and violent crimes are the primary reasons for the death penalty in the US. However, studies indicate that most crimes of this nature are not premeditated and occur in the heat of the moment. The crimes are also committed by mentally ill patients or without logical thoughts. In addition, people who commit crimes knowingly are searching for methods to escape convictions, and even the severest convictions do not discourage them (Keys & Maratea, 2016). Therefore, capital punishment is a futile threat that fails to address increasing crime rates.

With regards to the death penalty’s limitations, a few alternatives may serve more effectively. For instance, a life sentence without parole may offer room for wrongfully convicted individuals’ appeals (Sethuraju et al., 2016). A social credit system would also be a more effective deterrent as it rewards good behavior and discourages lawbreaking. It also provides a chance for further investigations, which may be useful for wrongfully convicted individuals.

The death penalty is a controversial subject as some support its existence, whereas others are against it. Its proponents view it as a means to address the increasing crime rates in the United States. However, multiple studies disprove the view of the punishment as a deterrent to crime, indicating its limitations, including wrongful convictions and its minimal effect on crime rates reduction. The United States experiences various flaws in the criminal justice system, including faulty investigations and judicial bias, leading to wrongful convictions. Thus, alternatives such as life sentences without parole and a social credit system would address the increasing crime rates more effectively than the death penalty.




Billings, S. B., & Schnepel, K. T. (2020). Hanging Out with the Usual Suspects: Neighborhood Peer Effects and Recidivism. Journal of Human Resources, 56(2), 0819-10353R2.

Breyer, S. G., & Bessler, J. D. (2016). Against the death penalty. Brookings Institution Press.

Grisham, J. (2018, March 11). John Grisham: Eight reasons for America’s shameful number of wrongful convictions. Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles Times.

Keys, D. P., & Maratea, R. J. (2016). Race and the death penalty : the legacy of McCleskey v. Kemp. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Sethuraju, R., Sole, J., & Oliver, B. E. (2016). Understanding Death Penalty Support and Opposition Among Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Students. SAGE Open, 6(1), 215824401562495.