Problems of the Death Penalty Essay

Capital punishment is also referred to as death penalty. It is a legal process where a person is punished by death for a commited crime. Crimes that result in this form of punishment are referred to as capital crimes or capital offences. In the past, capital punishment was practiced by most societies; however, over time, this has been abolished in most countries. Currently, only 58 nations practice it actively, while some have not abolished it per se but nevertheless do not practice it. An example is Kenya where the last execution was made in the early 1980s. The death penalty is a very controversial topic mostly because it is required to punish heinous crimes such as murder, and abolishment would be seen as going soft on such crimes. This paper seeks to discuss some of the challenges / problems of death penalty and its solutions. The author in answering this question will highlight a problem, offer a solution to it and finally draw a conclusion which will basically be the author’s views.

Problems of the Death Penalty

Problem: Variations in Law

Different states have different laws, and laws regarding death penalty vary as well. They vary in terms when the punishment can be meted, what methods should be used and the period within which they should be carried out (Sutton, 2010). It is also absurd that some countries have completely ommitted from their laws the method which should be used in carrying out the penalty. The courts have instead been granted discretion to decide the method to be used, leaving this form of punishment susceptible to abuse.

Solution: Uniformity and Specificity of Laws

It is important for states to have laws that more or less contain similar provisions especially with regards to topics of a controversial nature (Sutton, 2010). For instance, almost all countries in Europe have abolished these laws, based on Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which expressly prohibits capital punishment. This goes to show that countries in this region are reading from the same script – something that other countries should strive to achieve. The laws also need to be more specific especially on the methods to be used – some countries use hanging, lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, and firing squads.

Problem: Fitting the Crime

There has been a huge debate as to whether death penalty is the proper punishment for certain crimes (Feser, 2011). The question is whether this punishment fits the crime. In most cases, convicted murderes are sentenced to death, but many critics have asked why the same punishment is not meted out against drug dealers whose crimes may have led to the death of many. Serial rapists and pedophiles are often not sentenced to death despite the unspeakable damage to women and children.

Solution: Just Deserts

It would be advisable for countries to determine whether the punishments meted out fit the crimes. The principle of proportionality states that the penalties should be proportionate in their severity to the gravity of the crime committed (Belrad, 2008).

Problem: Failure to Exercise

As previously stated, most countries contain provisions for death penalty, however most do not exercise them, thus making these provisions redundant. In most cases, these sentences are translated into life-long ones. It should be noted that there are crimes which are punished by life-long sentences. Does this mean that capital offences are reduced to the level of these offences?

Solution: Exercise the Law to the Letter

This problem can be solved by exercising the law to the letter because failure to do this beats the whole purpose of having laws in the first place. If it is not compulsory for the courts while meting out punishments to adhere to the laws, then why should the civilians care? The law should be enforced to its full letter while also taking into consideration its spirit.

Problem: Controversy

There has been a lot of debate on this form of punishment. These debates have been based on the inherent right to life. Even criminals have an inherent right to life and human beings have a duty to protect life. Most religious leaders have been against this punishment, asking what is the rationale behind this punishment. Executing the criminal gives him / her a zero chance of committing the crime again, but would not life imprisonment achieve the same?

Solution: Review of the Laws

It is of paramount importance for states to review their laws and the rationale behind their existence. For instance, what does death penalty seek to achieve? Can the same goal be attained through a different punishment?


In the author’s opinion, death penalty is a denial of human rights. The right to life is provided under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but death penalty is an express violation of this right. The decision of taking one’s life is not one that can be made lightly, and it would be unfair for laws to shift this burden to court officers.


Belrad, B. (2008). Just desert: Research into criminal justice philosophy. Retrieved from

Feser, E. (2011). Punishment, proportionality, and the death penalty. Retrieved from

Sutton, E. (2010). Problems with the death penalty. Retrieved from