Jeffrey Reiman's Arguments Against Capital Punishment

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The topic of capital punishment presents a test of values. The arguments in support of and opposition to the death penalty are complex. In the end, this is a question of an individual’s values and morals. The topic requires careful thought to reach a reasoned position. Both sides of the argument are defensible. Support for capital punishment requires valuing retribution over rehabilitation. Those who favor capital punishment value highly the closure it provides to the families of the victims, and they believe that it deters would be murderers from killing. Retribution, closure and deterrence are the main reasons in favor of the death penalty. Opponents of capital punishment generally believe that it is hypocritical and immoral for the state…show more content…
Reiman opposes capital punishment for several reasons. Reiman rejects the retribution rationale because retribution dehumanizes the person doing the punishing. As an alternative, Reiman advocates for humane punishment that is equal in severity, and that does not reduce deterrence. He stresses the importance of equal severity because a lack of equality will send the wrong message to society. Reiman believes strongly that: “[t]he available research by no means clearly indicates that the death penalty reduces the incidence of homicide more than life imprisonment does.” He supports this position for four reasons. First, he says that someone who is worried about punishment is just as likely to be deterred by prison as by execution. Second, he points out that more criminals are killed by policeman while committing the crime than being executed, so a smaller chance of delayed death does not deter the criminal. Third, Reiman contends that abolishing the death penalty demonstrates a greater respect for life, and this will deter people from murdering. Finally, he brings van den Haag’s argument that execution deters more murderers than a life sentence. His response is that if this is true, it must also be true that more people fear death by torture than execution so we should implement death by torture to save more lives. Reiman believes this is wrong. Reiman’s solution is that life in prison without a chance for parole would be an equal alternative to capital
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