Criminal punishment serves three purposes; reform, changing an offender’s behavior; incapacitation, making the offender unable to perpetrate another crime; and deterrence, imposing a tough penalty that deters the offender from committing the offense. The rules of natural justice dictate that an offender takes full responsibility for his offence, a criminal pays for his crime, and the offended receive full restitution.
Modern day society has put in place various measures that should help deter or stop crime in order for the society to coexist harmoniously. In spite of this measures crime rates in the world are spiraling, a phenomenon that is evident in both the developing and developed world. Many countries have correction facilities set up to deter crime in society yet the crime rates are still high. It is therefore important to ask ourselves whether penalties are effective in deterring crime in society.
In discussing this issue it is important to look at the most controversial penalty, the death penalty. Pro-death penalty enthusiasts insist that the death penalty is a necessary component in the fight against crime. They argue that the death penalty is to deter crime; however this argument is not based on any sound facts. There have been a few cases where the execution of offenders has resulted in the relative reduction of crime. On the contrary the death penalty has not resulted in reduction of crime in some areas.
For instance, when looking at the national homicide rate compared to the number of executions occurring in a given year, one may conclude that executions may reduce crime rates. Homicides were at their peak in 1980 and 1991. In these two years there were relatively few executions, 0 and 14 respectively. In addition, the national homicide rate was at an all time low of 5.5/100,000 people in 2000, a year in which 85 offenders were executed. The year prior to this, 1999, a record number of 98 offenders were executed.
From these statistics it easy to conclude that death penalty may lead to a reduction in crime. However other reasons might have accounted for this decline. For instance this might have been as a result of law enforcers doing a thorough job. It might also be as a result of parents taking a more active role in raising their children or schools developed programs in their curriculum that kept children busy thus deterring them from crime. These are all possible reasons why the homicide rates decreased.
Further, the possibility that an individual who may consider murdering another person would suddenly cease to commit the act because of his/her fear of the death penalty is quite low. Modern day societal problems should be solved from a modern point of view. For example equitable distribution of wealth, may go along way in addressing crime. Poverty reduces one’s conviction and it easy to be influenced into crime as a way of life. Confining people in prison with the hope of reforming them without addressing the major issues in society amounts to evading the truth. There can be no peace without justice and justice should begin with addressing the imbalance in society.