This report is a review of the essay Death and justice by Edward I. Koch. This essay addresses the use of the death penalty as a way of deterring people from engaging in serious criminal offenses such as cold blood murder (Koch 1).
Koch uses statements of some of the condemned murderers to show that killing a person is wrong. It implies that even the murderers understand how painful killing another person is and they still proceed to do it. For instance, the author gives an example of Mr. Willie, a convicted murderer, who testifies that no person deserves to be killed (Koch 1).
Due to his vast experience in the criminal justice system, Koch is fit to write about issues of the death penalty and justice. He currently works in a popular TV courtroom show after serving as a mayor of New York for 12 years. Apart from Death and justice, Koch has also written other literary works such as Mayor (1984) and Politics (1985). Although the issue of the death penalty is quite controversial, it is the most effective deterrence and the fairest justice that can be done to the victims of the most serious offenses.
This book has a total of seven chapters. Chapter 1, “The Death Penalty Is Barbaric,” reinforces the need to create an injustice-free society. Chapter 2, “No Other Major Democracy Uses the Death Penalty,” supports the states that apply the death penalty to enforce justice. Chapter 3, An Innocent Person May Be Executed By Mistake, addresses the risks involved in wrongful executions. Chapter 4, “Capital Punishment Cheapens the Value of Human Life,” asserts that the death penalty promotes the value of life.
Chapter 5, “The Death Penalty Is Applied in a Discriminatory Manner,” refutes possibilities of discrimination in the death penalty. Chapter 6, “Thou Shall Not Kill,” uses the Bible to support the death penalty. Lastly, chapter 7, “The Death Penalty Is State-Sanctioned Murder,” asserts that the death penalty helps to construct a civilized society.
The Death Penalty is Barbaric
The way the law and the criminal justice system work is intricate; this complexity makes it hard to understand the differences that arise in the different crimes and cases. However, the main argument about punishment is that anyone who commits a criminal offense deserves to be penalized. Retribution and deterrence are the main arguments on which punishment is based. Retribution asserts that punishment should be given out in form of vengeance.
Criminals should be given a similar treatment such as the harm they cause their victims and the society. If someone kills another person, he too should be killed as an equal penalty. Unlike what the murderers do, the death penalty is “less inhumane as it is done painlessly” (Koch 5). Deterrence works hand in hand with retribution and it asserts that people who commit criminal offenses should be incapacitated to bar them from engaging in similar offenses.
Keeping someone behind bars does not completely prevent him from committing a crime. The death penalty is the best “punishment for cold-blooded murderers” (Koch 6). In addition, the death penalty and other capital punishments help to “create injustice-free societies” (Koch 6).
Thou shall not Kill
The death penalty is developed from the principles and commandments outlined in the bible. The bible illustrates the rules that should be used to build a society that is free from injustices and other anti-social behaviors. The Bible clearly states that no one person should “terminate the life of another one” (Koch 12).
The holy book allows authorities to apply capital punishments such as “death in order to vindicate justice” (Koch 12). In any case, the criminal justice system of the United States criticizes inhuman punishments, which are different from the “capital punishment that it uses to uphold justice” (Koch 12). A good criminal justice system is one that ensures that criminals are punished according to the offenses they commit.
The Death Penalty Is State-Sanctioned Murder
The death penalty seems to be the most effective deterrence because the dead criminals cannot get a chance to engage in criminal activities again. It is also the fairest justice that can be given to the victims of serious offenses such as cold-blood murders. Koch argues that the death penalty is the “foundation of a civilization” (13).
This is because criminals tend to grow bolder and become repeat offenders if they are subjected to less serious punishments such as incarceration. The death penalty helps to “instill fear in people to desist from serious offenses” (Koch 15). It is evident that societies that tend to “protect guilty lives lose innocent lives in return” (Koch 15).
Although the death penalty is cruel and appears inhumane, it remains the most effective deterrence and the fairest justice that can be given to the victims of serious offenses such as murder. It is evident that the other punishments used by most criminal justice systems are ineffective at preventing criminals from engaging in similar crimes.
If these measures were effective enough, repeat offenders would be a thing of the past. The death penalty terminates the life of the most serious offenders and in that way barring them completely from engaging in unlawful activities.
Koch, Edward I. Death and Justice. New York, NY: New Republic, 1985. Pdf.