The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to state-sponsored executions. However, several countries continue to have the death penalty as a sanction for violating some laws. In no less than 400 words discuss whether or not the death penalty should be banned globally.
State-Sponsored Executions and Neuroscience
A number of botched executions in the last 16 months have reopened a national debate about the relevance of capital punishment in the twenty-first century, which has been polarized by the passage of a Utah bill reintroducing the firing squad. As of March 2015, the United States was the sole Western power and one of only 36 (18%) nations in the world that executed its own citizens. Some common arguments against state-sponsored execution include, but are not limited to, cases of wrongful execution; distributive injustice, in which racial minorities are disproportionately executed; diminished mental capacity, which may limit the perpetrator’s moral discernment and decision-making abilities; and a lack of evidence of its deterrent effect on other criminals. Death penalty supporters, on the other hand, frequently speak from two conventional perspectives about punishment: (1) a consequentialist perspective – that capital punishment will protect society against that particular convict’s future crimes, and/or (2) a retributivist perspective – that people deserve punishment in proportion to the evilness of their past misdeeds. It should be noted that retributivists also require proof of criminal intent, also known as mens rea. While both sides of the debate about capital punishment make valid points, and other, perhaps more compassionate approaches to punishment exist, I’ll focus here on the two perspectives most supportive of capital punishment, which neuroscience may be able to inform.