Crime is as old as the time man has spent on this earth. To ensure orderliness, societies classified crimes according to their severity, with appropriate punishment attached to the various categories.
Crime grouping is significant, as it makes a huge difference in how criminal charges and trials are conducted.
In modern societies, the effect of heinous crimes has led many countries to prescribe capital punishment for crimes such as treason, espionage, attempted murder, murder, kidnapping, rape, robbery and terrorism.
The death penalty has been justified by many, while it has been criticised by others.
Should a teenager who, a few days after being released from a detention camp, tortured, sexually assaulted and beat a 21-year-old student to death without any provocation be allowed to live? The family of such a victim would, obviously, ask for the death penalty for the criminal.
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In fact, such expectation is in line with practices in ancient times when the common response to crime was revenge, whereby the victim or his family exacted what they felt to be an appropriate response to the crime committed against them.
This is so because despite the general commitment of the world’s religions to non-violence, the Old Testament of the Bible has the right expression “an eye for an eye”, although the New Testament exhorts humanity to “turn the other cheek”.
The Quran also emphasises both forgiveness and revenge, such as prescribing the death penalty.
The issue of whether the death penalty should be abolished or not has become a vexed one.
The Daily Graphic notes that criminal acts are an affront to society, but we also acknowledge that crimes result from both biological or internal and environmental or external factors.
Studies on crime have established that a great number of crimes are committed by under-educated, poor, younger males and that more crimes are committed in wealthier, more affluent geographical areas that are physically closest to poorer regions, an indication that there is a strong correlation between economic status, age, education and crime.
This is in addition to the fact that crime has a biological and heredity element that contributes to an individual’s potential to commit it.
We believe that it is in this scenario that the debate on the death penalty should be situated. We acknowledge the presentation of a petition against the death penalty by Amnesty International (AI) Ghana to Parliament yesterday.
Sometimes the question is asked why people who commit very serious crimes such as murder should be allowed to live among humans.
We know how discussions of the death penalty incite moral passion and controversy, but we think that the state can kill an innocent person mistakenly.
Interestingly, while some countries keep the death penalty in their statute books, some citizens of countries that abolished capital punishment for serious crimes favour its reintroduction.
Studies also suggest that there is no evidence of a reduction in serious crimes in societies where the death penalty is practised. So, as the debate on the abolition of the death penalty rages on, the Daily Graphic urges society to rather put in measures that will prevent crime.
After all, punishment is not only for retribution and deterrent purposes but also for reformation to communicate to criminals issues about their wrongdoing and give them the opportunity to apologise and reform.
We back the AI move and entreat the public, through the people’s representatives, to give a thought to the petition.