The Arguments Surrounding Capital Punishment

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Theory of Retribution The arguments surrounding capital punishment have focused primarily on its ability to provide general deterrence. Instead of focusing on a purely utilitarian aspect of capital punishment, it may be useful to analyze the death penalty through a morality perspective. The idea of retribution often carries a negative connotation because of its equivocation with the concept of revenge. While they may externally seem similar, they are far from analogous when analyzing the underlying motivations driving the two ideological perspectives. In order to enjoy the benefits that a legal system makes possible, each man must be prepared to make an important sacrifice -namely, the sacrifice of obeying the law even when he does not desire to do so. Each man calls on others to do this, and it is only just or fair that he bears a comparable burden when his turn comes. Now if the system is to remain just, it is important to guarantee that those who disobey will not thereby gain an unfair advantage over those who obey voluntarily. Criminal punishment thus attempts to maintain the proper balance between benefit and obedience by insuring that there is no profit in criminal wrongdoing. (Gerstein, 1974) When individuals choose to obey the law, they are in essence entering into a social contract with American society. If individuals agree to follow the law, society then agrees to provide them with the necessary protections afforded through the law and our society’s sense of
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