Death penalty and the ethical doctrine of utilitarianism

Death Penalty
Death penalty is a form of capital punishment where convicted criminals are executed after being found guilty of a crime. This act is normally perceived as a deterrent for potential criminals. Death penalty is one of the controversial issues, in most criminal punishment debates. Its proponents perceive it as the best method for punishing criminals while its opponents argue that it denies criminals their human rights. This debate has triggered many societies to question the validity of the death penalty in solving criminal acts. This paper illustrates the significance of differentiating between justifying a moral issue and justifying certain actions that fall under it. The ethical doctrine of utilitarianism is applied to assess the arguments about the justification of the death penalty or capital offence. Utilitarian defense of the death penalty focuses on deterrent of self, deterrent of others and general social benefits.
The significance of the death penalty has been a disturbing moral question with respect to its validity in deterring future criminal activities. The disturbing question is that people have different opinions as to whether or not the death penalty is justifiable (Pollock 332). In this case, there are two justifications of capital punishment. The retributive perspective asserts that capital punishment is justified on the basis that violation of law deserves punishment. It is morally right that criminals deserve punishment worth their wrong doings. Therefore, a society where criminals receive punishment worth their guilt is better than a society where criminals do not account for their wrongdoings (Pollock 332).
According to the ethical doctrines of utilitarianism, bygones are bygones, and only the future consequences of a moral issue are the considerable factors to present decisions. Therefore, capital punishment is only justifiable with references to its future consequences of keeping it as one of the ethical doctrines of maintaining social order (Pollock 337). Therefore, the past consequences of the death penalty are not worth considering in determining its future consequences. Capital punishment is justifiable only when it can be approved to address the future interest of a society. One of the reasons of carrying out death penalty is to scare other criminals from indulging in the same crime. Utilitarian can assert that inflicting pain is justified since it brings about much happiness and less pain, in the future (Pollock 334). Therefore, capital punishment is a justified means of deterring crime if the real offenders are executed, and the same offenses are not committed, in the future. However, its significance becomes invalid in a case where a series of criminal activities takes place, but not even one of the offenders is caught. This can sometimes lead to the framing and killing of an innocent man. In this situation, the ideal instance of utilitarian or capital punishment becomes insignificant since the culprits themselves are left to commit same crimes, in the future (Pollock 337).
According to these arguments, capital punishment or utilitarian becomes unjustifiable in relation to deterring other criminals from committing the same offense and creating peace in the society. This is because capital punishment can sometimes cost a life of an innocent man while the real culprit is left to commit further crime. Additionally, further crimes will still create insecurity, in the society. In this case, utilitarianism becomes unjustifiable. However, death penalty becomes justifiable in the deterrence of offenders. Hanging real criminals means that they will not exist to commit further crimes. In this case, utilitarianism becomes justifiable since future crimes by these offenders are prevented.
Works Cited
Pollock J. M. Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice. New York: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print