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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98909 Find in a Library
Title: Is the Death Penalty Irrevocable?
Journal: Social Theory and Practice  Volume:10  Issue:2  Dated:(summer 1984)  Pages:143-156
Author(s): M Davis
Date Published: 1984
Page Count: 13
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Although opponents of the death penalty have argued that it should be abolished because it is irrevocable (does not permit reversal of error) and prison is revocable, an analysis of the effects of these two types of sentences indicates the differences are not as sharp as death penalty abolitionists have portrayed.
Abstract: Opponents of the death penalty reason that an irrevocable penalty does not permit correction of error and that the death penalty is irrevocable. Imprisonment, on the other hand, is viewed as not irrevocable. There is a sense, however, in which the death penalty is revocable. Until sentenced offenders are executed, the sentence can be changed or the conviction reversed. Also, even after offenders have been executed, their legal status can be changed from guilt to innocence, and compensation for wrongful death can be awarded to their estate. The portrayal of imprisonment as revocable is flawed as well. The life a person would have had without the interjection of imprisonment cannot be created after imprisonment regardless of the length of time in prison. The consequences of the imprisonment cannot be completely reversed, and the quality of life after imprisonment will be significantly different from what it was before imprisonment, even though financial compensation for wrongful imprisonment may be obtained. The primary difference between capital punishment and imprisonment is not irrevocability versus revocability but rather the duration of time during which error can be discovered and the sentence canceled. Also, the extent of compensation for error after the death penalty has been implemented is less than it would be for error in a prison sentence. The argument, therefore, should be rewritten to state that fallible beings should not, all else equal, use a penalty that makes correction of error less probable than the use of alternative penalties. Four notes are provided.
Index Term(s): Abolishment of capital punishment; Capital punishment; Comparative analysis; Incarceration
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