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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 135757 Find in a Library
Title: Why Capital Punishment?
Journal: Albany Law Review  Volume:54  Issue:3/4  Dated:(1990)  Pages:501-514
Author(s): E van den Haag
Date Published: 1990
Page Count: 14
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article argues for the death penalty based on its retributive and deterrence values.
Abstract: Retribution requires that the sanction for heinous crimes that violate a society's moral order reflect the seriousness of that violation. Death for the intentional infliction of death is appropriately administered by the state to show its ultimate commitment to a moral order that values life. This apparent contradiction is resolved under the concept of responsible choice; i.e., the State deems that a person who chooses to kill another person gives up the right to life. Although empirical studies on the deterrent value of capital punishment are inconclusive, common experience is sufficient to convince us that behavior is largely determined by incentives and disincentives. Persons who believe that the intentional killing of another holds a high probability for bringing their own deaths will often choose not to kill. Life imprisonment is not an acceptable alternative to capital punishment; and it is dangerous for inmates and staff in prisons, since the "lifer" knows that killing another person or persons in prison cannot add greater severity to the sentence. Capital punishment is only likely to have its intended effect, however, if the courts will allow capital sentences to be implemented consistently and promptly. 47 footnotes
Main Term(s): Capital punishment
Index Term(s): Deterrence; Just deserts theory
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