Writing a Capital Punishment Debate Essay

Table of contents

Also known as the death penalty, capital punishment is a government-sanctioned killing of a person who has committed a crime for which the punishment is death. These crimes are called “capital” acts and include such offenses as murder, mass murder, aggravated rape, treason, terrorism, spying, aircraft hijacking, actions to overthrow the government, and others, depending upon the country. 

Within the definition is the understanding that capital punishment only occurs following some type of judicial process in which the individual is given the death penalty. In the U.S., for example, it is the result of a court trial with the penalty imposed either by a jury or a judge.

Capital punishment only occurs following some type of judicial process in which the individual is given the death penalty

As for some capital punishment facts, here are a few stats:

  • The death penalty is approved by about 55% of the adult U.S. population.
  • Capital punishment in the U.S. is currently authorized in 29 states. Alternative punishments in other states are a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
  • Lethal injection is the primary method of execution today, although a number of states do have alternatives when the drugs are not available or are considered to be unconstitutional because of the “cruel and unusual” nature of some of them. Alternatives may also be requested by the convict, including electrocution, gas, hanging, and firing squad.
  • Among Western democracies, America is the only country that still has the death penalty.

Sample Capital Punishment Debate Essay

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The Debate. Capital Punishment Pros and Cons

The capital punishment pros and cons have long been established and here are the most common ones that are used in arguing each side of this issue.


  1. It is a violation of human rights. No human has the right to take the life of another, except in extreme circumstances (war perhaps). The right to life, even if it is in prison, is basic.
  2. Social biases. The death penalty is given to the poor and minority groups more often than it is to white middle- and upper-class individuals. 
  3. Mistakes. Every year, convicted individuals are found to be innocent of their crimes and released. And, there have certainly been instances of the innocent being wrongly executed. The judicial system is not perfect.
  4. Convicted people who receive the death penalty are actually getting off a bit easier than those who must remain in prison, with the opportunity to think about their crimes and even to develop remorse and repentance. 
  5. Chance to reverse themselves. By receiving a life sentence without parole, the convict still has a chance to redeem themselves and do good while he is in prison. 


  1. A “eye for an eye…” is in the Old Testament of the Bible. Giving a person the same punishment as they did to others is just retribution.
  2. It acts as a deterrent. People who know they might face the death penalty if caught are less likely to commit that crime. Everyone, even criminals, has a strong instinct to survive.
  3. Get to the root of evil and cut it out. Those who commit capital crimes must be put to death to get rid of their evilness once and for all. They cannot “infect” anyone else ever again.
  4. It is less expensive. It costs a lot of taxpayer money to keep someone in prison, and those tax dollars could be better spent elsewhere.
  5. Those serving time for less terrible crimes and prison staff are all safer if those convicted of capital crimes are executed.

Writing a Capital Punishment Debate Essay

Obviously, your essay will be of the argumentative type. This means you must take a stand and defend it with facts. At the same time, you must look at the other side’s arguments and do your best to refute them.

Your essay will involve research. For example, is capital punishment really a deterrent? Countries that have long abolished the death penalty have lower crime rates than those in the U.S. You need facts and figures, or your argument is worthless.

This essay could require more than the basic 3 body paragraphs. You may want to choose your three best arguments to present, and then choose the three best arguments that the opposing side presents, and refute them. This might require as much as 6 paragraphs unless you can present your side and the related opposition in one paragraph. 

Your introduction must contain your thesis statement – the position you are taking. The body paragraphs that follow will provide your points and refute the opposing side’s points. 

Examples of a Capital Punishment Debate Essay

Plenty of examples of argumentative essays on the capital punishment debate are out there on the web. You can access these and see the arguments others have made, both in support of your position and in rebuttal of the other side. You may get some new or unique ideas – just be certain your essay is a unique, original piece of writing.

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