Christianity

Christians argue both for and against the death penalty using secular arguments, but like other religious people they often make an additional case based on the tenets of their faith.

Evidence in favour of the death penalty is shown in the Bible. 

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed. Genesis 9:6

The death penalty is consistent throughout the Old Testament and suggests that God created the death penalty.

The New Testament includes the most famous religious execution in history – that of Jesus on the cross. But paradoxically, although the tone of the whole of the New Testament is one of forgiveness, it seems to take the right of the state to execute offenders for granted.

Whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt back to you. Matthew 7:2

Evidence against the death penalty in the Bible.

‘Only God should create and destroy life’

This argument is used to oppose abortion and euthanasia as well.

Many Christians believe that God commanded “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 21:13), and that this is a clear instruction with no exceptions.

(Content sourced from BBC: Ethics)

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Buddhism

Buddhism exists in so many forms, under many organisations, so there is no unified Buddhist policy on capital punishment.

However, in terms of doctrine the death penalty is clearly inconsistent with Buddhist teachings. Buddhists place great emphasis on non-violence and compassion for all life.

The First Precept requires individuals to abstain from injuring or killing any living creature.

The Buddha did not explicitly speak about capital punishment, but his teachings show no sympathy for physical punishment, no matter how bad the crime.

An action, even if it brings benefit to oneself, cannot be considered a good action if it causes physical and mental pain to another being. The Buddha

Buddhism believes fundamentally in the cycle of birth and re-birth (Samsara) and teaches that if capital punishment is administered it will have compromising effects on the souls of both offender and the punisher in future incarnations.

As far as punishment in this world is concerned, Buddhism has strong views:

  • inhumane treatment of an offender does not solve their misdeeds or those of humanity in general – the best approach to an offender is reformatory rather than punitive
  • punishment should only be to the extent to which the offender needs to make amends, and his rehabilitation into society should be of paramount importance
  • punishing an offender with excessive cruelty will injure not just the offender’s mind, but also the mind of the person doing the punishing
  • it is impossible to administer severe punishment with composure and compassion
  • if the crime is particularly serious, the person may be banished from the community or country

Despite these teachings several countries with substantial Buddhist populations retain the death penalty, and some of them, for example Thailand, continue to use it.

(Content sourced from BBC: Ethics)

Methods of Execution

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Infographic source: Time.com

Lethal Injection (Most common method)

Number of Executions since 1976: 1262

States that use this method: 33 states, US military and US Government

Electrocution

Number of Executions since 1976: 158

States that use this method: 8 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, [Oklahoma], South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia (all have lethal injection as primary method).

Gas Chamber

Number of Executions since 1976: 11

States that use this method: 5 states – Arizona, California, Missouri, [Wyoming], [Oklahoma] (all have lethal injection as primary method).

Hanging

Number of Executions since 1976: 3

States that use this method: 3 states – Delaware, New Hampshire, Washington (all have lethal injection as primary method).

Firing Squad

Number of Executions since 1976: 3

States that use this method: 2 – [Oklahoma], Utah  (all have lethal injection as primary method).

Information sourced from Death Penalty Information 

Legal Terms and Definitions

Death Row – prison cells for inmates awaiting execution.
Capital Punishment – the practice of executing someone as punishment for a specific crime after a proper legal trial.
recidivism – a fundamental concept in criminal justice, referring to a person’s relapse in criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.