A punishment is given to correct the person and to prevent the society from crimes. Providing justice to the society is the responsibility of the state. Punishing the convict was in practice since humans started to live in a society, it is essential for the well being of the society. Justification for all punishments is based on three components retribution, deterrence and incapacitation. The effectiveness of the punishment depends on what change it brings to the person and what message it gives to the society. It is rhetorical to compare the death penalty and an imprisonment for life time, because one is taking life and the other is related to the issue whether the person deserve the freedom. In both cases the convict finds his/her way out of the prison only after death, one in a comparatively short period and other take some more time.
When we consider the capital punishment on the basis of the three components it is very clear that it does not satisfy the justification. Retribution is the act of punishing or taking vengeance, but in reality does the death penalty can be retribution? It may be an emotional comfort to the family of the victim but, on the other hand, death penalty creates same emotional disturbance to the friends and family of the convict. Deterrence is the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from committing a crime and incapacitation also has similar meaning. Deterrence has two effects, first one is creating fear in the person committed a crime and the second is its social effect. In capital punishment the first effect will be of no use as the person dies after the punishment and statistical analysis by Death Penalty Information Center in different states and countries indicates the states/countries without the death penalty have had constantly lower murder rates (www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence), shows the second one is also not effective.
U.N General Assembly in December 1948, recognized each person’s right to live, Article 5 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “No one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” the death penalty violates this proclamation. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice, when killing by a person is illegal how can killing by a state or government be legal. In both cases the result is death of an individual and one is justified by law and the other is condemned by the same law. Impact on the family by the death of a person is the same, whether it is done by the government or a person. By doing so the government is making one more family mourn, making one more orphan, and making one more widow. It is the most barbarian concept of crime and punishment.
On the other hand, keeping a person in jail for the life time is denying his/her personal freedom to enjoy the life and freedom for whole life. It certainly keeps criminals of the street. But, as decades pass and prisoners grow more mature and less violent, does the cost of keeping them locked up justify benefits in public safety?. Cost of keeping America’s lifer is estimated to be $3 billion per year (To More Inmates Life Means Dying Behind Bars, New York Times, October 2, 2005) and as the prisoner grows older the medical and other expenses add to this. “Committing crime, particularly violent crime is an activity of the young” said Richard Kern the director of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission showing the individuals grow mature to adapt to the social life as they grow older. T.J Flanagan says “Over time lifers gain emotional maturity, shows significant increase in verbal intelligence and shows significant reduction in hostility during the course of their prison life” (Flanagan, T.J. 1981. Dealing with Long Term Confinement: Adaptive Strategies and Perspectives among Long Term Prisoners. Criminal Justice and Behaviour. Page 201-220).
Capital punishment is irreversible and in certain point of time if the convict proved to be innocent there is no way to revoke it. Almost all studies shows the convict attains an emotional maturity and finds the purpose of life during his/her course of stay in prison. This maturity can be assessed easily and government should consider the release of such prisoners. Human life is so precious find the value of it, punishment should be given but that should not be an execution or complete denial of his/her freedom of enjoying this beautiful world.