The polls suggest that Jamaicans wish to resume the hanging of convicted murderers notwithstanding the possibility that innocent persons may be subject to the capital punishment. It is acknowledged that frustration may be a natural response to the violent anarchy that is contemporary Jamaica. However, the debate regarding the resumption of capital punishment is based on the government’s inability to competently deal with crime and violence, rather than the notion that capital punishment is a reasonable, justified and effective means of addressing violent crime.

The six (6) objectives of the criminal justice system include:

  1. Retribution, which entails the notion that the severity of punishment for the commission of a crime should be reasonable and proportional to the severity of the infraction;
  2. Deterrence, which involves the idea that punishment is a necessary consequence of a crime to deter the individual offender from committing future crimes, as well as the future crimes of others by making examples of specific criminals;
  3. Denunciation, which refers to punishment as a symbolic expression of society’s disapproval of criminal acts;
  4. Incapacitation, which refers to punishment in the form of imprisonment as a means of preventing criminal activity and protecting society;
  5. Rehabilitation, which is the restoration and re-socialization of criminals through therapy and education; and
  6. Reparation, which refers to the compensation of the crime by the criminal.

Capital punishment either fails to achieve these established goals or unreasonable impairs on civil rights in an attempt to achieve them. Firstly, capital punishment is more based on revenge than retribution, which may seem natural on an individual basis, but is the weakest conceivable foundation of a criminal justice system in a democracy. State-imposed death of citizens cannot be reasonable considering that violent crime has been effectively addressed in other countries without it. There is evidence to suggest that the right to life is often arbitrarily and disproportionately infringed upon with regards to economically-disadvantaged individuals.

Secondly, capital punishment does not allow the opportunity to deter future offences of the offender, while the deterrence of others is questionable because the literature has shown that the certainty and celerity, rather than the severity of punishment that discourage criminal activity. In fact, there is no correlation regarding the implementation of the death penalty and a decrease in the murder rate. Moreover, a prison sentence without release or parole serves as a deterrent, without infringing on the rights of citizens.

Thirdly, capital punishment should be rejected as an unacceptable means of obtaining justice because it is not necessary to address crime. As such, capital punishment unjustifiable impairs on one’s constitutional right to life. Therefore, the other less drastic means of denunciation and incapacitation should be given focus. The lack of creativity, research, competence or even resources of a government cannot justify capital punishment.

Fourthly, rehabilitation is the only certain way to permanently protect society from a specific offender, which is clearly denied, along with reparation. This is the priority of developed nations, which should be adopted by the less developed world.

Capital punishment is barbaric. Its implementation necessarily causes psychological and physical suffering. The inevitable and irreversible miscarriages of justice through the execution of wrongfully convicted persons are too high a price, especially in context of established police corruption to convict citizens. It undermines current trends of norms and principles of international human rights. It also provides little benefit for the nation. The practice appeals only to the primordial emotion of revenge, which certainly does not outweigh the aforementioned deleterious effects. There must be a more enlightened approach than killing people who kill people to show that killing is wrong.

Antonn Brown,
Hatfield, Manchester

Categories: Letters

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