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Module 8: Capital Punishment




In the last module we were introduced to the three justifications for punishment in general. The three justifications for punishment are:

  1. Retribution
  2. Rehabilitation
  3. Deterrence

When it comes to capital punishment, both retribution and deterrence are directly relevant to issues of capital punishment (as it is hard to imagine how killing someone rehabilitates them).  Capital punishment is justified one of two ways:


Retribution — Classic retribution statements include: An eye for an eye, a life for a life, punish to give back to the offender their just deserts of what they did to others, punish so that the punishment fits the crime, take a life and forfeit yours. 

Deterrence — Classic deterrence statements include: Punishing to send a message, punishing to make an example of, punishing to make others think twice before doing the same crime (supported by Mill and utilitarians).

Can you think of any other reasons for the death penalty other than these two (or revenge)? Before we analyze the arguments further, let's look at the history of the death penalty.