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What is the aim of the capital punishment?
Until medieval times, the death penalty was a frequently imposed criminal sanction. During the sixteenth century there was a shift in practice in Europe from the death penalty and corporal punishment to imprisonment, which has since become the major sanction for criminal acts. Although capital punishment is currently being fought by a number of organized groups and is abolished or at least restricted in many countries, it is still part of the crime control system of the majority of the world.
International efforts to abolish capital punishment have not been very successful. The chances of bringing about changes are much worse at the international level than at the regional level, where unanimity is easier to achieve.
The more society has felt obliged to provide justification for the death penalty, the more studies have tried to prove or disapprove the deterrent effect of capital punishment. The deterrence theory envisions potential criminals weighing the potential punishment before committing crimes. But murders are more often than not committed out of conflict situations that involve emotions rather than rational calculations. Moreover, the risk of execution is difficult to take into account because potential murderers are more likely to dissociate themselves with the people executed because they regard them as unsuccessful and socially inferior. Current research indicates that the death penalty has no consistent, demonstrable deterrent effect. There is even evidence that executions have the opposite, brutalizing effect, meaning that homicide rates increase slightly several weeks after an execution.
Public opinion is currently calling for the re-establishment or the extension of capital punishment because of rising crime rates, growing violence and ineffectiveness of other forms of punishment. Although state legislatures and politicians must do everything they can to fight crime and achieve more public safety, they must not respond to such emotional demands directly.