The death penalty is the ultimate punishment in many countries, reserved for crimes deemed to be the most heinous by that society. It is believed to act as an effective deterrent as well as offering some form of retribution to the victims and their families. However, comparisons of crime rates between countries with capital punishment and those without it shows that it is not nearly as effective as once thought.
To maintain order in society, laws are put in place with punishments that reflect the enormity of each crime. Serious crimes such as murder (whether premeditated or otherwise), rape or treason are typically considered the worst possible crimes to commit, for which some countries reserve the death penalty. They believe that making a perpetrator pay the ultimate price will serve as a deterrent to others, as well as eliminating the possibility of a future repeat offense by the same person. Most people don’t see themselves as capable of committing such crimes, so they can only imagine themselves or their loved ones as potential victims. This mindset, rather than an accurate measure of the deterrent effect to would-be criminals, causes many to support capital punishment.
When studying the effectiveness of capital punishment by comparing countries that have it against those that don’t, we find that there is no correlation between crime rates and the severity of the punishment. Rather, quite the opposite can be true. For example, many states in America still reserve the death penalty. The country also has the highest number of people in prison. Yet, it has one of the highest murder rates in the world. In contrast, Scandinavian countries have some of the lowest rates of violent crimes, yet they have no capital punishment and often re-educate offenders through rehabilitation programs and incarcerate them only as a last resort. This shows that the death penalty may not be as effective as it is believed to be. Moreover, a certain percentage of people found guilty of such crimes are proven innocent only after they have been put to death. Obviously, this form of punishment does not allow any errors made by the legal system to be rectified.