The Death Penalty Should be Abolished
Hello all! This debate is on the abolishment of the death penalty. This is one of my favorite debate topics, so I hope for a great challenge!
Round 1: acceptance
Round 2: ALL arguments presented
Round 3: rebuttal (no new arguments)
Round 4: rebuttal pt. 2 (no new arguments)
Round 5: conclusion/closing statements (no new arguments)
Please note that this debate will be carried out in a formal manner, with extensive arguments that are expected to be well-written and respectable.
I will argue on the pro side, claiming that the death penalty should, or ought to be abolished. I await acceptance of this debate.
Hello all. In this debate, I will present several key arguments in opposition to the institution of capital punishment, or the death penalty. I will specifically refer to the situation in the United States.
I believe the death penalty is a stain on American society. It shows that we are not as morally or fiscally concerned as we should be. I will attempt to show this with these three arguments.
I. The Death Penalty is Unjust
The job of our government should be to eliminate injustice to promote prestige and a morally concerned society. However, with the existence of the death penalty, the government is failing to live up to this role. My argument to prove that the death penalty is unjust is as follows:
revenge: the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands. (Google)
just: based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair. (Google)
1) The death penalty is based on revenge (as defined above).
2) Revenge is immoral.
3) Therefore, the death penalty is immoral. (From 1, 2)
4) The death penalty is unjust. (From 3)
On Premise 1
The death penalty is based on revenge, as it is inflicting death upon criminals that inflict pain and suffering on others, instituted by the federal/state governments (I am referring specifically to the situation in the US in this debate).
On Premise 2
Revenge is widely considered to be immoral. The premise of revenge is to inflict near, identical, or even excessively more pain than the criminal caused the victim, and that is just escalating the amount of immoral action (think Gandhi's eye-for-an-eye principle).
On Premise 3
The death penalty, because it is based on an immoral principle (revenge), is an immoral practice.
On Premise 4
As 'just' includes the condition of moral fairness and righteousness, the death penalty can be concluded to be unjust.
II. The Death Penalty is Expensive
The process of capital trial, containment on death row and eventual execution is more expensive than keeping the criminal in prison for life, as proven in numerous surveys.  This is clearly unfair for taxpayers, who end up paying a lot more than they would otherwise (if criminals that would be indicted of capital punishment would instead be sentenced to life in prison, the cheaper and more moral answer).
III. The Death Penalty Does Not Deter Crime
Countless studies have shown that the existence of capital punishment as a penalty for serious crime does not add on to the deterrence effect of prolonged time in prison. Another study has shown that there is no correlation between the death penalty's institution and the murder of police officers.
In fact, in states without the death penalty, there are lower rates of crime. Therefore, it is clear that the death penalty does not deter crime or add any sort of effectiveness to the fight against crime. 
For all these reasons, it is clear that the death penalty should be abolished. First, it is clearly an immoral principle and should be treated as such; it is wrong for our government to institute a principle against basic morals. Second, the institution of capital punishment, capital trial and containment on death row awaiting execution costs substantially more than life in prison. Third, the death penalty is not shown to deter crime, or have any effect on the murder of police officers or the crime rate, in fact, states that have abolished the death penalty have lower rates of crime.
It is resolved that the death penalty ought to be abolished.
I affirm that both of these sources are credible, and are publications of veritable studies and data compiled by professionals.
Despite such legislative progress, women are fully dependent on the guards for basic necessities and privileges, and in many states, guards have access to inmates" personal history files which can empower them to threaten prisoners" children if the women retaliate. Female inmates who retaliate also face the loss of good time for early parole in addition to prolonged periods of disciplinary segregation, and detrimental write-ups, which further deters acts of resistance. The fear incited by such threats as well as the concern that no one will believe them or that no one really cares can successfully silence women. Experience of sexual abuse in prison can greatly impede women"s capacity to reintegrate into society upon release." http://www.google.com... this shows that prison itself is inhumane, so since Pro argues the death penalty is revenge that causes pain, should we abolish prisons too wince prisoners also go through great psychological and many times physical pain for a much longer period than one who just gets the needle? It's extremely difficult to find a punishment that is characterized by tenderness and compassion, and yet this is what Pro wants murders to get - humane punishment. Is there such a thing?
On Premise 2
Pro says "The premise of revenge is to inflict near, identical, or even excessively more pain than the criminal caused the victim, and that is just escalating the amount of immoral action (think Gandhi's eye-for-an-eye principle)." Human means "characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed."http://www.google.com...... Locking a person away from society, from friends and family, without hope of getting married, or having kids, is not humane. That kind of mental torment is WORSE than being dead, where you feel nothing at all. Yes, Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," but truth isn't decided by what Gandhi says. If Ghandi had said "murder is OK" would that make it right? If you want Ghadi to be authoritative in this debate, then can I bring in Moses as well, who said "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"? (Exodus 21:24) Truth isn't decided by quoting your favorite religious figure, is it? Ghandi once said "that the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race" over the Indians (The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Government of India (CWMG), Vol. I, p. 105) So he himself shared the racism of his time, and it only his own bitter experiences at the hands of whites that changed his mind. What becomes of his authority if he changes his mind again?
On premise 4, let me ask, should not the penalty be proportionate to the crime? Even if you are that one murder won't do it, its not hard to imagine that some crimes would. Ten murders? 100 murders? Genocide? At some point, the death penalty becomes a balanced punishment against the crime. So even if you rule out capitol punishment in some cases, you can't rule it out in all of them. To claim that no crime whatever could ever justify capitol punishment would deny the very principle of punishment fitting the crime. It would mean that Hitler couldn't be punished anymore than the bank robber who serves life in prison.
II. The Death Penalty is Expensive
Yes, and there are ways to make it less expensive. You can"t argue that something is morally wrong just because it is expensive. Why should a murderer get to live off my tax dollars, eat and drink, and someday come out and live, when my child he killed has no such opportunity?
III. The Death Penalty Does Not Deter Crime
What if it doesn"t? The existence of prisons in many countries still has not reduced their crime rate, so is that a reason to get rid of prisons? No punishment can stop crime. So get rid of punishments?
In this response, I will attempt to extract my opponent's main points and refute them.
R1: Fundamental Differences
There is a fundamental difference between keeping someone for life in prison for murdering a single or multiple person(s), rather than being killed for killing. For example, here is the American Society of Criminology on capital punishment: "Retribution, which argues that the state has the right to impose a level of pain and punishment equal to or greater than the pain suffered by the victim, is clearly a major justification for the use of the death penalty." It is evident that the death penalty is based on retribution (revenge), and by my argument, is immoral.
By this definition of retribution/revenge, life in prison does not apply as a retributive punishment (I will address my opponent's claims that 'because of sexual assault, it is worse than death' in R2), and is therefore an adequately moral response to such a crime.
R2: Independence of Issues
I completely agree that sexual assault is a major issue in prisons, and that the state should work to fix this. However, using this issue to argue against capital punishment is invalid, as it is a separate issue which must be addressed independent of our government's policy on capital punishment.
Of course there are major dilemmas within prisons today that the government must address, to ensure the safety and well-being of all inmates. But to use the problems within prison to argue that prison is worse than death is irrational, as these problems can be solved without a change in our policy on capital punishment. These claims on prison safety simply do not apply.
R3: On Humane Punishment
In my arguments, I never ask for humane punishment. I ask for punishment that is not principled revenge; there is a key difference that my opponent fails to recognize.
Of course it is challenging to find tender and compassionate punishment, in fact, I would argue that solely punishing someone cannot be a warmhearted action. Tenderness and punishment simply do not go hand-in-hand, and I realize that.
My opponent argues that all punishment is revenge anyway, but he is very incorrect. The act of revenge is identical or excessive in response to the original action; life in prison is clearly not on the same level as capital punishment, as I have claimed in R1.
R4: Utilization of Eye-for-an-Eye Principle
My opponent spends a lot of his time capitalizing on the invalidity of my usage of Gandhi's principles. I ask him to recognize that I did not say that Gandhi's principles were true or are universally accepted; I put forth the eye-for-an-eye principle as an example for my claim that the death penalty is based on revenge, and is therefore an immoral form of punishment.
R5: Conflation of Balanced Punishment and Retribution
You assume in your response that a balanced form of punishment is right, however, you have presented no argument to support your claim. However, if I am to assume that this claim is supported, I would like to clarify that the idea of punishment fitting the crime is subject to change. A fitting punishment is not necessarily the retributive one, which my opponent also fails to recognize; for example, if someone is mentally unstable and commits bestiality, a fitting punishment (depending on the place, but perhaps time in a mental health institution) is not retributive, as this is not an identical (or excessive) response to the crime which was committed.
R6: No Morality in Argument 2
My second argument does not have anything to do with morals. I do not argue that the death penalty is immoral because it is expensive, I argue that it should be abolished because of the extra, unnecessary expense. This is a utilization of the straw-man fallacy.
R7: Questioning of Deterrence
My opponent makes no attempt to rebut my claims, and only asks questions, which I will now answer.
My argument is that it is pointless to have capital punishment when studies show that it adds no deterrence effect to the punishment of life in prison. Of course no punishment that we know of can completely stop crime, which I fully acknowledge. However, punishment is an element of a fair society; people who commit wrongs should not be treated as if they did nothing wrong. It is a fundamental concept, not a purely legal one.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk... Statistics show that most criminals released from jail are repeat offenders. http://www.crimeinamerica.net...
Pro argues that capitol punishment is revenge because it gives back an equal or great level of pain to the killer. First of all, this isn't true. If a murder stabs someone 32 times, does the state stab him 32 times in return? If he burns someone to death does the government light him on fire? In fact, the guillotine, long-drop hanging and lethal injection or vastly less painful than the creative ways sadistic serial killers find to torment their victims in their last moments, and these do not last long at all. So if revenge must be equal to or greater than the previous pain inflicted, then capitol punishment couldn't be revenge. Secondly, "Retribution should be distinguished from vengeance. Unlike revenge, retribution is directed only at wrongs, has inherent limits, is not personal, involves no pleasure at the suffering of others, and employs procedural standards. In ethics and law, the aphorism "Let the punishment fit the crime" is a principle that means that the severity of penalty for a misdeed or wrongdoing should be reasonable and proportionate to the severity of the infraction." https://en.wikipedia.org... Retribution is not limited to penalties that produce equal or more physical pain as Pro assumes, therefore, even putting someone in prison or imposing a fine can be rightly called retribution.
"Revenge, a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance." https://en.wikipedia.org... So, isn't prison and fines also a harmful action against a person in response to their crime? Seems to me that even Pro's alternatives to the death penalty can be classified as revenge, so his point here is mute! Just think of all the times people you know have gotten revenge. It wasn't always exactly and eye for an eye, was it?
Pro also claims that the rape of women in prison can't be used to show life in prison is worse than death because its an issue that can be solved, and yet, he uses the fact that the death penalty is painful to prove that its revenge, even though this too can be solved. We can have painless deaths. Deaths that only last a second or two. Long drop hanging and the guillotine are very quick and almost painless. We can use drugs that numb the person to the pain. So yes, it can be solved, but we can't ignore the current state of affairs. Life in prison is a horrible life, a life of humiliation, where you have to bathe in a bathroom full of people, your privacy is gone, your name is taken away and replaced with a number, even the food tastes like crap, and the comforts of life are taken away. Being locked up in a room with hardened criminals isn't exactly the safest place to be either. Many would rather be dead and out of misery than to face this.
Pro further claims that "The act of revenge is identical or excessive in response to the original action; life in prison is clearly not on the same level as capital punishment." So, if a bully at school kicked a school boy onto the floor, kicks him all about his body, spits on him, urinates on him, calls him names, tears up his books, and rips his school clothes, then the boy stumbles up, and give him one hard slap in the face, are you saying that slap cannot be revenge just because it didn't equal what the bully did to him? What if a husband cheats on his wife ten times but she only cheats once, is it not retribution just because he did worse? So if ISIS successfully detonates a nuclear bomb on US soil and wipes out a whole city, killing millions, and American soldiers hit one of their bases and kill just a few, is this not revenge just because its on a smaller scale? The idea that revenge has to be on the same level is clearly false. You burn my house down so I slash your tires. That's revenge, but its not on the same level. It still is revenge cause it has all the classic feelings and motives, lack of procedure, etc, but to suggest that it must be the same level of pain to be revenge is just silly.
Why is the punishment for shoplifting different from the punishment for illegal possession of drugs? Isn't it because the courts try to find punishments proportionate to the crimes committed? Its not even EVERY murder that DESERVES capitol punishment, but SOME do!
Question on this eye for an eye thing: what exactly is wrong with wanting a murderer who is has killed many, and intends to kill more, to be gone from the earth? Please tell me what is wrong with not wanting to keep a threat to society alive in this case? Please tell me why he doesn't deserve to die!
Now Pro says that a fitting punishment is not always a retributive one, and cites a mentally unstable person engaging in bestiality. But this is a bad example because such a person should not be punished at all. The psychiatric hospital is not used as a punishment for this person, but a means of helping them to hopefully return to their sound mind. This person is clearly sick, and certainly no court should give someone life in prison or a death sentence for committing a crime while not in their right mind. Mental illness is a sickness just like the cold is a sickness. We don't get punished for being sick.
Punishment, period, is ALWAYS retribution for a crime, either by demanding a person pay a heavy fine, or spend time in prison, or death. In my country, ZR drivers are fined heavily when they violate traffic regulations, and too many violations can result in having their license revoked.
Pro argues, the death penalty is expense, so abolish it. The guillotine isn't expensive, neither is long drop hanging, and surely we can gas them to death while they sleep. So the same way Pro claimed the problem of women being raped in prison can be fixed, the price of the death penalty can also be fixed. Executions do not have to cost that much. We could hang them and re-use the rope. No cost! Or we could use firing squads and ask for volunteer firing squad members who would provide their own guns and ammunition. Again, no cost. There are many imaginative ways the cost of killing someone can come down. Criminals themselves don't seem to spend too many millions to get their victims killed, do they?
Pro finally argues "My argument is that it is pointless to have capital punishment when studies show that it adds no deterrence effect to the punishment of life in prison." And life in prison adds no deterrence effect to the punishment of capitol punishment. For that matter, imposing a fine adds no deterrence effect to a few months in prison, and vice versa. So this argument is senseless. No punishment, it seems, is the major factor in reducing crime in a country.
Keeping a cold-blooded killer alive, even in prison, poses a danger to prison guards and other inmates. Capitol punishment removes that danger, while preventing him from killing again.
I also object to Pro's claims of retribution in the sense, that most murders are not executed by capitol punishment, and to use the handful that have been given the death penalty to insinuate that there is a consistent program of retribution on the government's part would be wrong. I have also argued that life imprisonment without possibility of parole causes much more suffering to the offender than a painless death after a short period of imprisonment.
Although my opponent has failed to answer to all of my arguments made in R3, I will attempt to rebut all of his most recent points.
R1: New Argument(s)
May it be recognized that the argument of repeated offence once released is an illegal contention to make, as it has not been put forth in R2. This argument is void.
R2: Killing the Killer
"Pro argues that capitol punishment is revenge because it gives back an equal or great level of pain to the killer. First of all, this isn't true. If a murder stabs someone 32 times, does the state stab him 32 times in return? If he burns someone to death does the government light him on fire?"
I have clarified this many times throughout the debate: capital punishment is revenge because it is killing someone because he/she killed other people. It is simple, and it fits the definition I have given.
R3: Equation of Intent
This argument for the ethics of retribution is also a relatively undeveloped argument in R2, however, I will respond.
Retribution and revenge, regardless of content, has the same intent. The intent of a retributive response is to make up for the original wrongdoing (such as murder). Capital punishment is therefore a retributive response in a murder case. Revenge also has the same intent: to make up for the wrongdoing.
I equate the two due to intent, not content, as my opponent tries to bring up to debunk this equation.
"So, if a bully at school kicked a school boy onto the floor, kicks him all about his body, spits on him, urinates on him, calls him names, tears up his books, and rips his school clothes, then the boy stumbles up, and give him one hard slap in the face, are you saying that slap cannot be revenge just because it didn't equal what the bully did to him?"
Again, the issue of content vs. intent comes up. Of course it is revenge, because its intent is to compensate for the pain originally administered to the victim. It is the same with capital punishment, which is exactly why I am advocating its annulment.
R4: Repeated Conflation
"So, isn't prison and fines also a harmful action against a person in response to their crime? Seems to me that even Pro's alternatives to the death penalty can be classified as revenge, so his point here is mute! Just think of all the times people you know have gotten revenge. It wasn't always exactly and eye for an eye, was it?"
Please see his original statement in round 2: "The premise of revenge is to inflict NEAR, IDENTICAL, or even EXCESSIVELY MORE PAIN than the criminal caused the victim, and that is just escalating the amount of immoral action (think Gandhi's eye-for-an-eye principle)." So he did make a claim that revenge or retribution aims at returning the CONTENT of the murder, namely, the same or more PAIN that the criminal caused the victim. I didn't misunderstand these words. I simply refuted them. Revenge and retribution do not normally return the same or more pain. He also said: "here is the American Society of Criminology on capital punishment: "Retribution, which argues that the state has the right to impose a level of PAIN and punishment EQUAL TO OR GREATER THAN the pain suffered by the victim, is clearly a major justification for the use of the death penalty."
This argument failed because the current methods to killing used by the government does not equal most of the tortures criminals find to execute their victims, and capitol punishment can be carried out quite painlessly and quickly. Because it failed, he dodged to claim he only meant intent, not content. However, not even this works, because the death penalty is also administered in cases where the criminal did not actually kill anyone, but only tortured or attempted to killed. This shows that the intent is not to have the same result as the crime committed.
Pro claims prison sentences and fines are BALANCED punishments, but capital punishment is not? What does BALANCE mean? Balance refers to an equalizing of the scales. Its just another way of saying the punishment fit the crime, or in other words, the crime DESERVED this punishment. So what punishment does a serial killer and rapist deserve after 20 or more victims without remorse, and is found to be within his sound mind when he committed these acts till present? What does he deserve when its premeditated? Its hard to see how at least SOME folks won't deserve death. What would Hitler derserve? Or Jim Jones, had he lived? At least some crimes deserve capital punishment, that was my argument from the beginning. In this sense, its a balanced punishment.
Pro still calls admission to a mental hospital a punishment. It isn't a punishment. Its simply a way of helping the person who is simply a victim of illness and in need of treatment. They are not criminally responsible for their actions, so this can't be an example of balanced PUNISHMENT because its not a punishment. This is no different from a person with cancer being admitted to a hospital.
Now, why abandon a just punishment because its expensive when research can be done into reducing the costs? Why does it cost so much? Simply change policy. Building prisons and keeping persons there is expensive period, but does that mean we should abandon prisons? No. This is no good reason. All Pro is saying, is that life in prison is cheaper, so why not avoid the expense. Well, why not keep the cheapest soap and abolish the rest? We can get along very ok without sending men to the moon or satellites to mars and Venus. We only need to monitor our own planet, its weather and its sun. Why bother with the added expense of NASA's diverse space program? Pro's argument can be extended to many other things? $400 shoes work just as good once you care them as $800 shoes, so lets abolish $800 shoes? I reject the notion that a punishment needs to be cheap to be worth keeping. I reject the notion that a punishment needs to have any deterrence effect. Neither prison or capital punishment can stop crime, so why compare them? This debate isn't about which is better, its about if capital punishment should be abolished. This is a separate issue from if life in prison should be kept at all. So Pro is off base for comparing the two.
Con has essentially dropped all of my arguments in R3, and has attempted to refute only the points of retribution vs. revenge, costs and the sentencing to be held within mental health institutions.
In his R4 statement, Con capitalizes on the point of retribution vs revenge. Con bases his argument on the definitions I have put forth to claim that the content of both a retributive punishment and a punishment based on revenge are different. Con claims that retribution is a just response, and is logically and morally supported. However, the same concepts I have presented can be formulated into this summarizing argument:
1) The intent of revenge is to inflict pain in response to an originally inflicted pain.
2) The intent of retribution is to inflict punishment in response (and in clear proportion) to a crime (in judicial terms).
3) Revenge, as a concept, is a type of retribution.
4) The death penalty is a form of revenge, and therefore also a form of retribution.
5) Revenge is immoral.
6) The death penalty is immoral.
My opponent directs all of his arguments at the idea of the differences between retribution and revenge. I agree that there are some key differences, even some my opponent has failed to mention. However, revenge, as a concept, is evidently a type of retribution. I have been inferring this all along, the idea of revenge is to make up for an original pain, and in a judicial setting, this is essentially the same for retribution, however, he fails to refute the clear relation and similarity between the two. Of course, they are not completely the same. I never said these similarities were absolute. However, as a concept, revenge is a type of retribution.
My opponent, in his first rebuttal, tries to refute the claim that the death penalty is a form of revenge. He becomes obsessed with the idea that retribution and revenge are not exactly the same thing, therefore, there is a clear moral distinction. Instead of making this distinction, which effectively concedes my point on the immorality of the death penalty, my opponent strikes down my claims on the similarities, without recognizing that I am not claiming that these similarities mean the two concepts are exactly the same. I would not use the term retribution in substitution for the term revenge, as I am aware that they share differences.
Balanced punishment and retribution are also not the same thing. Balanced punishment takes into account the moral implications of the punishment, as well as the possible expenses that detract from the justice system's ability to institute the punishment. In all, balanced punishment and retribution are not the same thing: would my opponent argue that time in prison for a rapist would not be a balanced punishment? It is not inflicting the type of suffering the rapist inflicted upon his victims, nor is it exactly proportional to the seriousness of the crime, yet it is a perfectly appropriate, balanced response to such a criminal act, as our judicial system recognizes.
As I have distinguished between balanced punishment and retribution (and within retribution, revenge), it is clear that the death penalty does not apply to the realm of balanced punishment. Even more of a reason to abolish it, in line with my previous claims.
On mental institutions, it is important to recognize that criminals who have mental disorders (like some pedophiles) are still held in mental institutions which are specifically designed for treating them, hand in hand with instituting a balanced punishment. In specific cases where this is appropriate (these cases are common), this is an undeniable truth.
On costs, my opponent says that this does not mean we should not abolish it. But this fails to recognize the pointlessness of having a more expensive punishment that has no more of an effect (in terms of deterrence) as life in prison does. It is irrational to pay more for a punishment that does not improve upon the deterrence effect. My opponent equates this argument to wanting to ban $800 shoes because they do just as much as less expensive shoes. On the contrary, there are benefits to buying more expensive shoes (like the pride of owning expensive shoes) that are not shared by cheaper options. Even if this distinction did not exist, it is still an unfair comparison to make when equating shoe shopping to public policy.
In all, it is undeniable that all my opponent's points stand refutes, while most of mine lay untouched by my opponent. It is resolved that the death penalty should be abolished.
Pro continued to argue that because retribution is SIMILAR to revenge in ONE aspect, this makes them both wrong...I don't see the logic. I gave the dictionary definition for revenge, which was: "Retributive justice is a theory of justice that considers punishment, if proportionate, to be the best response to crime. When an offender breaks the law, justice requires that they forfeit something in return. Retribution should be distinguished from vengeance. Unlike revenge, retribution is directed only at wrongs, has inherent limits, is not personal, involves no pleasure at the suffering of others, and employs procedural standards.
In ethics and law, the aphorism "Let the punishment fit the crime" is a principle that means that the severity of penalty for a misdeed or wrongdoing should be reasonable and proportionate to the severity of the infraction."https://www.google.com... This is a more full quote. I will let the voters read and see for themselves if capital punishment is revenge because it is like revenge in a SINGLE point, or if it isn't revenge because it DIFFERS from revenge in MANY other points.
Pro never even gave an argument to show that revenge is actually wrong, he only assumed it was, so I had no argument to respond to.
Finally, he argued that it makes no sense to keep capital punishment because its more expensive and has no deterrence effect, and I have tried to show him it was not supposed to have a deterrence effect so it has not failed its purpose in any way. I also showed him that prison also has no deterrence effect, yet he doesn't consider that a waste of time. I also showed him that the costs of capital punishment can be reduced.
Pro still has not answered my question about if a person who rapes and kills or commits certain atrocities is not WORTHY of capital punishment. He hasn't told us if Hitler DESERVES the death penalty. I guess he can't answer that. But go on about how I didn't reply to his round 3 arguments?
Please vote Con.