Can life without parole replace death penalty? Or can life without parole be considered a better alternative to death penalty or vice versa? The death penalty and life without parole are grievous forms of punishment of the punitive law. Both got supporting facts, consequences, differences etc. But different people including jurists & general public have different opinion on the subject matter. People prefer one of the aforesaid forms of punishment to another. However, in order to prefer one to another one has to go through a thorough analysis of these two forms of punishment, the objective that this two forms of punishment are seeking to achieve, the supporting facts in each case, the differences between the two, comparison of the two forms of punitive alternative in juxtaposition etc.
1. Development of capital punishment & life without Parole
Capital punishment or death sentence developed in United States “as society searched for more humane ways for killing its condemned” & as a substitute of the brutal ways that the society used throughout history to punish the offenders of society (Hess and Orthman 534). It evolved gradually with the “first electrocution in 1890, the invention of the gas chamber in 1923, the use of a firing squad and the adoption of lethal injections in 1977” (Hess and Orthman 534). Till 2005 “38 states and the federal government had laws authorizing capital punishment” whereas the minimum age for capital punishment set by 18 states & the federal government following the court’s ruling in Ropper v. Simmons(2005) was 18 (Hess and Orthman 534). Life imprisonment without parole developed in U.S. as a means to portray that the punitive statutory law was strict. As of 1996, 12 states with capital punishment had no life without Parole option, 20 six states of U.S. had life without parole and death sentence, and eight states with life without parole sentences did not have any death sentence (Harries and Cheatwood 109).
2. Historical account of the Implementation of LWP & CP in the different states of America
The following table will give us a concise history of the implementation of the two forms of punishment till 1996 in U.S.
Table 1 Life without Parole (LWP) and capital punishment (CP) 1996, of United States (Adapted):
States LWP CP State LWP CP
Alabama Yes Yes Montana Yes Yes
Alaska No No Nebraska Yes Yes
Arizona No Yes Nevada Yes Yes
Arkansas Yes Yes New Hampshire Yes Yes
California Yes Yes New Jersey Yes Yes
Colorado No Yes New Mexico No Yes
Connecticut Yes Yes New York No Yes
States LWP CP State LWP CP
Delaware Yes Yes N. Carolina No Yes
Florida Yes Yes North Dakota No No
Georgia Yes Yes Ohio No Yes
Hawaii Yes No Oklahoma Yes Yes
Idaho Yes Yes Oregon Yes Yes
Illinois Yes Yes Pennsylvania Yes Yes
Indiana No Yes Rhode Island Yes No
Iowa Yes No S. Carolina Yes Yes
Kansus No Yes South Dakota Yes Yes
Kentucky No Yes Tennessee No Yes
Lousiana Yes Yes Texas No Yes
Maine Yes No Utah Yes Yes
Source: Keith D. Harries, and Deral Cheatwood, The geography of execution: the capital
In the table 1, it can be seen that 34 states out of 38 states accept capital punishment as a means of punishment to its offenders that is 89% (Approx.) of the total no of states. Whereas, in case of life imprisonment without Parole 25 states out of 38 states accept it as a means of punishment, thus amounting to 67% (Approx.) of the total no. of states. Hence, it can be noted that capital punishment had greater acceptance as a means of punishment in comparison to life imprisonment without parole.
3. Differentiation between capital punishment & life imprisonment without parole, as a means of punishment
In case of capital punishment the prisoner is permanently incapacitated from doing any harm to the society, whereas life imprisonment without Parole does not prevent the offenders from harming the inmates of the prison & its staffs. If a prisoner is alive, he has the alternative for future exoneration & rehabilitation. He can think that he may have an opportunity for release or grant of pardon by legislation of some new laws. Death penalty does not give the opportunity to the prisoner for future exoneration & future rehabilitation. If an innocent person is punished & imprisoned for life without parole, he may have the opportunity of compensation whereas death totally takes away such possibilities from the person. If the financial aspect in both cases are studied from the perspective of the public expenditure it will be seen that the expenditure is far more greater for funding death penalty suits rather than LWP, due to numerous appeals, legal procedure etc. The time which is spent in average by an inmate in the death row is eleven years. On the contrary, if the amounts spend behind an inmate, imprisoned for life would be studied; it will be comparatively less (“Death penalty vs. life”).
4. Arguments in support of death penalty (Pros)
The death penalty has some arguments in support of itself. Firstly, the most obvious argument in support of death penalty is that it acts like a deterrent for further crime in the society. The fear of death in the hearts of the people is awe-inspiring & legislators of different countries have adopted it into their system as a means of deterrence. In a research, through adoption of a new kind of analysis technique, Issac Ehrlich found out that seven lives were spared for every inmate who was executed due to the fact that others were deterred from committing murder and his disciples also found out the same results when they followed studies (“Arguments for & against” 1). Furthermore, as stated in the “The ultimate Punishment: A defense”, the penalty can be inappropriate, unwise, & those punished can be pitiable yet in a sense, the infliction of legal punishment on a guilty person cannot be unjust (qtd. in “Arguments for & against” 2).
Secondly, death penalty is a crime against the society & the equilibrium of justice is disturbed as soon as a person is murdered. Hence, for stabilizing or bringing the disequilibrium into balance, justice demands death of the person who is guilty of murder. Though the status of the victim & his family, which they had before the murder, cannot be restored, yet the punishment of the offender gives justice to the family & brings an end to the problems of the victims family, ensuring that the offender does commit such heinous actions again (“Arguments for & against” 5) .
Thirdly, the thought that death sentence can cause the execution of innocent people is incorrect as there is no proof in this regard that an innocent offender was punished with death.
If such executions have occurred they are very rare & just because “someone’s conviction is overturned years later” & the prosecutor not trying him again, “does not mean