The question of how to punish murderers has been debated for centuries; most prominently whether or not it is justifiable to inflict the death penalty upon someone who has taken the life of an innocent victim. To some, there is no doubt that a murderer should be killed – it is the basic premises of an eye for an eye or a life for a life. People who believe this feel that someone who has taken a life should forfeit their own. Others believe that there is never any justification for putting someone to death, and that the death penalty is just as wrong as the actual murder.
One of the biggest questions surrounding this issue is whether or not capital punishment deters other criminals from committing murder. People who are in support of or opposed to the death penalty have provided what they claim as definitive proof to support their point of view. However, with their conflicting surveys, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether or not it is an effective deterrent. Even the religious community does not agree about the punishment for murder. Some point out that capital punishment was established within the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, while others insist that since one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill:” no form of murder is ever allowable. Other religious documents such as the Torah discuss this topic, but they are always subject to individual interpretation.
The primary alternative to the death penalty for murderers is imprisonment. Even this is controversial because many people feel that keeping a prisoner alive and behind bars for the rest of their existence is a waste of tax payer’s money. This also leads to the question of whether or not people who are incarcerated in penitentiaries can become rehabilitated, and reenter the free world as responsible and beneficial members of society.
Many countries that once fully supported the death penalty have now banned the practice. While it is still legal in most parts of the United States, it is rarely practiced. This leaves imprisonment as the most common form of punishment for most murderers. How much time they spend behind bars is largely dependent on the circumstances surrounding the killing. A first degree murder is planned in advance and done in a cold, calculated manner. Therefore, it warrants the longest sentence, quite often life without parole. Second degree murder is not premeditated, and is often referred to as a crime of passion or one that happens in “the heat of a moment”. Since this crime shows no malice of forethought, it generally receives a lesser penalty. Third degree murder is accidental. The criminal does have an intention of harming their victim, but not killing them and that fact is kept in mind during the sentencing.
The subject of how best to punish murderers will always be controversial. The one thing that most people can agree on is that any person who takes the life of an innocent victim must be made to pay their debt to society.