The death penalty is a government sanctioned practice where a person is put to death for a crime. Capital crime such as murder, rape, treason, terrorism, espionage, genocide and in some cases drug trafficking and dealing can get you the death penalty. Fifty-six countries around the world still retain capital punishment whereas 106 countries have abolished it and many other countries rarely use it. Capital punishment is very controversial around the world and different governments have different views on it.
Here, I will be looking at four completely different countries to gain further insight on their views toward and practices in dealing with capital punishment. The countries that are going to be in review are The United States of America, Norway, Singapore, and China. All of these countries operate under different Governmental regimes and have completely different cultures.
The first country that I will examine is America, country of citizenship for many of our SAS students. The death penalty in America was established in 1608. The first recorded execution was Captain George Kendall, he was executed for being a spy in Spain. Death Penalty Information Center states “The “Espy File” is a database of executions in the United States and the earlier colonies from 1608 to 2002. This list of 15,269 executions was compiled by M. Watt Espy and John Ortiz Smykla.” According to BBC News there are currently 2,193,798 people that are incarcerated with a 107.6% jail occupancy level. As of July 1st 2019, there were 2,656 people on death row. The death penalty used to be used primarily for rape cases, however in the modern era, it is only used for homicide cases. according to the Death Penalty Information Center. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, “the Court commented that the death penalty could no longer be applied for any crime against an individual where no death occurred”. This has made the American judicial system much more legitimate. It is now known that the death penalty is not just an convenient measure to lower prison populations. The decision for the death penalty is not an easy one, Jurors must be “death qualified” according to files.deathpenaltyinfo.org. The process for selection is a tedious one and this ensures that the death penalty is given without bias or discordance.
In 1979 capital punishment was abolished in Norway and in 2014 this abolishment was enshrined in the constitution. On top on this Norway has a maximum incarceration sentence of 30 years. Although there is a maximum sentence, incarceration can be extended if the criminal is still seen as a threat to society. According to The Local Hans Petter Graver said “The main principle behind the Norwegian system is not for people to spend their life in prison but for them to be reintegrated into society,”. Norway believes in rehabilitation rather than capital punishment. This sort of philosophy is why Norway is ranked third in terms of the happiest countries in the world. Norway has a democratic government and the country as a whole is very eager to participate in all sorts of political happenings. NBC news interviewed a young woman named Aven and she said “There’s something about our culture that says it’s very important to vote, Norway has such a good system, so no one feels left out and no one feels misunderstood. Everybody knows their voice will be heard.” While Norway still does have a fair share of crime, it is nothing compared to the United States. America has 36 times more crime than Norway with 11.88 million crimes. With higher crime rates and a much larger population, it is understandable as to why America uses the death penalty. If America shared the same philosophy as Norway, crime rates may go down and that may cause the abolition of capital punishment in America.
In Singapore there is zero tolerance for crime. The fear of receiving caning or worse—death—haunts those who reside in Singapore. The result is a uniquely low crime rate. According to Nation Master America’s crime levels are 4 times that of Singapore. America had 121 times more prisoners than Singapore, however when it comes to the death penalty, Singapore has 3 times more executions per million than America. The Singaporean government is a very strict one, but there is no denying that Singapore is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world for non-criminals.
Singaporelegaladvice.com says “According to Amnesty International, more than 400 prisoners have been hung in Singapore since 1991, with the highest number of executions being 76 in 1994.” Executions are carried out through the process of hanging inmates on Friday at dawn. On a positive note, execution numbers have dropped significantly since then as have crime rates. Singapore is such a safe country because of the strict rules and regulations each citizen needs to follow. Laws are laid out in black and white and it is widely known among the residents that if someone fails to follow the law either corporal or capital punishment will be instated.
According to ABC News “More people are executed in China each year than in the rest of the world combined, and it is believed some of them are being wrongly convicted because of fundamental flaws in the justice system.” China is a very authoritarian government and they often restrict access to information that makes their government look bad. This could include corruption scandals that prove flaws and biases in the justice system occur. Something that China unbatingly continues that no other mentioned country does, is sentence people to death who have not harmed others physically. The Guardian says “China maintains the death penalty for a host of non-violent offences, such as drug trafficking and economic crimes.” This explains why the execution rate is so high, China is executing people for crimes that are not worthy of such a penalty. They have views very different to the rest of the world and those views are costing thousands of lives a year. While there are of course instances where the death penalty is required, China would be seen as a more legitimate government by other countries if they limited the executions to crimes that have harmed another life.
Different cultures, religions, and experiences shape the way a government works and it is safe to say that around the globe governments operate in very different ways. There is no right or wrong way to implement the death penalty because there is always going to be controversy around the topic. It is however very interesting to see how different countries enforce their laws and what the consequences are. Norway is considered one of the happiest countries in the world while Singapore is considered one of the safest. America is considered one of the most free countries while China is considered the most restricted. All four of these countries are polar opposites, they have different views and beliefs yet their citizens show no retaliation. These four countries are fairly fixed on how they manage capital punishment for better or worse and it does not look like anything is going to change in the foreseeable future.