Is it Fair to Leave Capital Punishment Decisions to the States?

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Is it fair to leave capital punishment decisions up to the individual states? The U.S. is one of the few major industrialized nations to permit capital punishment. However, this statement must be made with a caveat: the United States permits capital punishment but leaves it up to the states to decide whether the death penalty is acceptable. Since the death penalty is currently not considered 'cruel and unusual' punishment according to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is within the rights of individual states to make decisions about its application. "The U.S. now houses three sorts of jurisdictions: states without the death penalty by law ('abolitionist states'), states with the death penalty but insignificant numbers of executions ('symbolic states'), and states with both the death penalty in law and in practice states actively carrying out executions ('executing states')" (Steiker & Steiker 2006:1). However, some have argued that such relatively selective enforcement of the death penalty is inherently unjust. For example, there is a notable gap between the ways the death penalty is enforced in the South versus how it is enforced in other regions of the country. In the South, the death penalty seems to serve certain perceived social functions which have made it an institution people strongly support. It is also vigorously used, in contrast to the states in which allow the death penalty but never use it, much like the symbolic hangings of days of old (Steiker & Steiker

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