Sociology and the Death Penalty Essay

Total Length: 714 words ( 2 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 3

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The death penalty should exist as a deterrent but only in a society where the criminal justice system is aligned with social justice—i.e., in a state where there is no deviation from the way the community views justice and from the way the criminal justice system views justice. Criminal justice and social justice must be in accordance, as Bazelon asserts, in order for a system of law to work, to be fair, to be equitable, and to be effective. In a society where social justice is at odds with criminal justice, the death penalty may not be prescribed as a deterrent to murder because the two systems—social justice and criminal justice—are out of alignment. When social justice and criminal justice are in harmony, the death penalty may therefore be appropriately administered as a deterrent for murder. In this harmony, it is acknowledged by society that the criminal justice system, that the framework of law and order in the community, is moral and justifiable and can and should be respected. Out of this respect comes the acknowledgement that the justice system has the capacity and obligation to exercise force in order to support its laws. A system of rule that does not possess the force of its own convictions is a rule that will not last long.

The types of offenses that should be given the death penalty are those that are extremely serious—such as murder or drug trafficking or pedophilia.
Anything that can be considered a serious crime that hurts society or an individual in a traumatic way is something that could be punishable by death. The problem is that the criminal justice system is often too corrupt and self-serving to actually be fair to people in society. That is why there are so many social justice advocates—women like Angela Davis, who opposes the death penalty and the criminal justice system, because she views it as a racist entity that has the aim of oppressing African Americans at its core. For example, she describes the prison-industrial complex as being “accompanied by an ideological campaign to persuade us once again…that race is a marker of criminality” (38). Because of this injustice at the heart of the criminal justice system, society is out of alignment in terms of morals, values and principles, with the criminal justice system. The principle of an eye for an eye has no moral force….....

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Works Cited

Bazelon, D. L. “The morality of the criminal law.” Southern California Law Review, 49 (1975), 385-405.

Davis, Angela. The Meaning of Freedom. San Francisco, CA: City Light Books, 2012.

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