Singapore always carries out death sentences where the appeal has been turned down, so its population knows precisely what will happen to them if they are convicted of murder or drug trafficking - is this concept deeply embedded into the sub-consciousness of most of its people, acting as an effective deterrent?
In 1995, Singapore hanged an unusually large number of 7 murderers with 4 in 1996, 3 in 1997 and only one in 1998 rising to 6 in 1999 (3 for the same murder). Singapore takes an equally hard line on all other forms of crime with stiff on the spot fines for trivial offences such as dropping litter and chewing gum in the street, caning for males between 18 and 50 for a wide variety of offences, and rigorous imprisonment for all serious crimes.
Task 12. Study the statements below presenting randomly arranged people’s various views on capital punishment. How would you categorize them? Which of them would you cite in the favour of or against the death penalty? Fill in and use the diagram below to help you answer these questions.
1. Society has always used punishment to discourage would-be criminals from unlawful action. Since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder, and that is the death penalty. If murderers are sentenced to death and executed, potential murderers will think twice before killing for fear of losing their own life.
2. Early opponents of capital punishment also argued that inflicting death was not necessary to control crime and properly punish wrongdoers. Instead, alternative punishment—such as imprisonment—could effectively isolate criminals from the community, deter other potential offenders from committing offenses, and express the community’s condemnation of those who break its laws.
There may be a brutalising effect upon society by carrying out executions - this was apparent centuries ago when people turned out to enjoy the spectacle of public hanging. They still do today where executions are carried out in public.
4. A second reason, that is often overlooked, is the hell the innocent family and friends of criminals must also go through in the time leading up to and during the execution and which will often cause them serious trauma for years afterwards. It is often very difficult for people to come to terms with the fact that their loved one could be guilty of a serious crime and no doubt even more difficult to come to terms with their death in this form.
5. Almost all defendants facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. Hence, they are dependent on the quality of the lawyers assigned by the state, many of whom lack experience in capital cases or are so underpaid that they fail to investigate the case properly. A poorly represented defendant is much more likely to be convicted and given a death sentence.
6. Besides, many of the claims of innocence by those who have been released from death row are actually based on legal technicalities. Just because someone's conviction is overturned years later and the prosecutor decides not to retry him, does not mean he is actually innocent.
7. Capital punishment permanently removes the worst criminals from society and should prove much safer for the rest of us than long term or permanent incarceration. It is self evident that dead criminals cannot commit any further crimes, either within prison or after escaping or being released from it.
8. Even if the death penalty punishes some while sparing others, it does not follow that everyone should be spared. The guilty should still be punished appropriately, even if some do escape proper punishment unfairly. The death penalty should apply to killers of black people as well as to killers of whites. High paid, skillful lawyers should not be able to get some defendants off on technicalities. The existence of some systemic problems is no reason to abandon the whole death penalty system.
9. Execution is a very real punishment rather than some form of "rehabilitative" treatment, the criminal is made to suffer in proportion to the offence. Although whether there is a place in a modern society for the old fashioned principal of “an eye for an eye”, is a matter of personal opinion. Retribution is seen by many as an acceptable reason for the death penalty.
10. For the most cruel and heinous crimes, the ones for which the death penalty is applied, offenders deserve the worst punishment, and that is the death penalty. Any lesser punishment would undermine the value society places on protecting lives.
11. Hypothetical claims of innocence are usually just delaying tactics to put off the execution as long as possible. The execution of an innocent individual today is almost impossible.
12. It is arbitrary when someone in one county or state receives the death penalty, but someone who commits a comparable crime in another county or state is given a life sentence. Until race and other arbitrary factors, like economics and geography, can be eliminated as a determinant of who lives and who dies, the death penalty must not be used.
13. Prosecutors have enormous discretion about when to seek the death penalty and when to settle for a plea bargain. Often those who can only afford a minimal defense are selected for the death penalty.
14. Many victims' families denounce the use of the death penalty. Using an execution to try to right the wrong of their loss is an affront to them and only causes more pain. Vengeance is a strong and natural emotion. But it has no place in our justice system."
15. Anti-capital punishment campaigners in the U.S. cite the higher cost of executing someone over life in prison, but this, whilst true for America, has to do with the endless appeals and delays in carrying out death sentences that are allowed under the U.S. legal system where the average time spent on death row is over 12 years. In Britain in the 20th century, the average time in the condemned cell was from 3 to 8 weeks and only one appeal was permitted.
16. Retribution has its basis in religious values, which have historically maintained that it is proper to take an "eye for an eye" and a life for a life.
17. Retribution is another word for revenge. Although our first instinct may be to inflict immediate pain on someone who wrongs us, the standards of a mature society demand a more measured response.
18. The death penalty alone imposes an irrevocable sentence. Once an inmate is executed, nothing can be done to make amends if a mistake has been made. There is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death.
19. The death penalty is not a deterrent because most people who commit murders either do not expect to be caught or do not carefully weigh the differences between a possible execution and life in prison before they act. Frequently, murders are committed in moments of passion or anger, or by criminals who are substance abusers and acted impulsively.
20. The emotional impulse for revenge is not a sufficient justification for invoking a system of capital punishment. Our laws and criminal justice system should lead us to higher principles that demonstrate a complete respect for life, even the life of a murderer. Encouraging our basest motives of revenge extends the chain of violence.
21. The possibility exists that innocent men and women may be put to death. We have an imperfect justice system where poor defendants are given minimal legal attention by often lesser qualified individuals. Police misconduct, suppressed evidence, coerced confessions, inept legal representation, mistaken identification, false testimony, and juror prejudice can lead to wrongful convictions. Institutional discrimination based on race, class, or social status can also be a factor. Poor defendants are particularly disadvantaged, critics claim, because they cannot afford their own legal representation and may be assigned court-appointed lawyers who are inexperienced, overworked, or underpaid.
22. There is no proof that any innocent person has actually been executed since increased safeguards and appeals were added to our death penalty system in the 1970s. Even if such executions have occurred, they are very rare. Imprisoning innocent people is also wrong, but we cannot empty the prisons because of that minimal risk. If improvements are needed in the system of representation, or in the use of scientific evidence such as DNA testing, then those reforms should be instituted. However, the need for reform is not a reason to abolish the death penalty.
23. There is no such thing as a humane method of putting a person to death irrespective of what the state may claim (see later). Every form of execution causes the prisoner suffering, some methods perhaps cause less than others, but be in no doubt that being executed is a terrifying and gruesome ordeal for the criminal. What is also often overlooked is the mental suffering that the criminal suffers in the time leading up to the execution.
24. We as a society have to move away from the "eye for an eye" revenge mentality if civilization is to advance. The "eye for an eye" mentality will never solve anything. A revenge philosophy inevitably leads to an endless cycle of violence. It is important to send a message to society that striking back at your enemy purely for revenge will always make matters worse.
25. When someone takes a life, the balance of justice is disturbed. Unless that balance is restored, society succumbs to a rule of violence. Only the taking of the murderer's life restores the balance and allows society to show convincingly that murder is an intolerable crime which will be punished in kind.
26. With respect to race, studies have repeatedly shown that a death sentence is far more likely where a white person is murdered than where a black person is murdered. The death penalty is racially divisive because it appears to count white lives as more valuable than black lives. Such racial disparity has existed over the history of the death penalty and appear to be largely intractable.
Task 13. Dwell on the following statement and write an essay (150-200 words).
“Capital punishment creates but doesn’t solve the problem.”
“We are often deterred from crime by the disgrace of others.” (Horace (BC 65-8), Latin lyric poet)