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Capital Punishment in the American Colonies Essay

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American colonies were introduced to the practice of capital punishment, through European colonization. The offenses punishable by the death penalty in each colony varied from stealing, to denying the existence of God. Ceasre Beccaria’s 1776 essay, titled On Crimes and Punishment acted as the chief catalyst behind the abolition movement against the death penalty. In his essay, Beccaria asserted that the death penalty deprives men of life, true deterrence resulted from imprisoning criminals and using this as an example to show the value of freedom and laws, and that the death penalty be used only in cases of treason. Beccaris’s rationalism induced Thomas Jefferson to attempt the first reform effort in the United States of America. Jefferson proposed a bill to Virginia under which capital punishment was only applicable to murder and treason. Although the bill was defeated by a single vote, Jefferson’s hope for reform still persists through modern day reformists. Currently, the debate over capital punishment rages on with fervor on both ends. Those in favor of capital punishment find it necessary in deterring future murders, the right way of punishing murders, bringing closure to victims, and for making society feel safer. Although their argument seems sound, after scrutiny it can be asserted that it is in fact irrational. The death penalty is an improper way of punishing criminal as it is barbaric, immoral in taking life, and flawed.
Although the flaws of death penalty are lucid, they are often times over looked by society. Innocuous people have been ruled to death based upon mistaken eyewitness testimonies, mistaken identity, and false confessions through coercion. Former Governor of Illinois George Ryan was a staunch proponent o...


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...at will make the criminal repent for their actions. However these victims do not realize that the death penalty is inflicted in less than 1 percent of all murder cases (Bedau and Cassell 153). Furthermore, the victims assume that the criminal believes in hell and heaven and thus will repent. On the contrary, the criminal might find the death penalty a short cut from rotting in jail, or if they are a Satanist, they might find the death penalty a fast ticket to paradise, hell. True punishment for the criminal no matter their beliefs or the victims, is locking them in a confinement room till death. In doing, so the criminal will mentally break down and regret their actions. Moreover, this would exemplify Beccaria’s point that true deterrence is derived from imprisoning criminals and using their condition as an example to show future murders the value of laws and freedom.


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