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Posted on June 8th, 2012, by

The problem of the death sentence and execution is very disturbing problem, especially in the modern society. The development of democratic and humanistic principles contributed to the growing number of opponents of the death sentence and executions, even though criminals could commit the most terrible crimes. In fact, this measure is viewed extremely hostile by supporters of ideas of humanism. On the other hand, there is a conservative view on the problem of the death sentence and execution, according to which the punishment should be respective to the crime and, therefore, execution of criminals is acceptable measure to punish them for the most serious, inhuman crimes. In such a situation, it is often quite difficult to define which of the parties is right. This is why it is necessary to refer to specialists who worked on this problem and researched it in details, such as L. Kay. Gillespie, whose book “Inside the Death Chamber: Exploring Executions”ť, analyzes in details the problem of capital punishment and execution of criminals as well as it provides ample information on different views of specialists and public on the problem of death sentence and execution.

Speaking about the book, it is primarily necessary to point out that the author pays a lot of attention to the moral aspect of the problem of death sentence and execution. In actuality, the author attempts to depict the process of the execution from within creating a realistic image of the death chamber   and criminals that are on their way to the execution. L. Kay Gillespie conveys the state of criminals, their feelings and emotions and attempts to understand the extent to which such a measure, such a punishment is effective. In fact, the author poses the question whether the death sentence and execution of a criminal is really an effective measure or probably it should be substitute by a life-term sentences or another kind of punishment, less irrevocable one. At the same time, the author also raises another important problem, namely L. Kay Gillespie attempts to understand what the ultimate goal of the punishment, especially such a severe punishment as the execution, is and the book explores this problems and attempts to find the definite answer whether the death sentence and execution of criminals meet the objectives they are supposed to meet or not.

At the same time, it should be pointed out that the author attempts to trace the evolution of the execution from the past epochs till the present moment that is very important to the understanding of the current situation in the existing legislation and justice system. The author also discusses in details possible methods of the execution and the life of criminals sentenced to death just before the sentence is executed (Gillespie, 133). In such a way, the author provides readers with information not only on the current situation in the justice system in regard to the death sentence and execution, but L. Kay Gillespie also gives an insight into the world of the criminals sentenced to the capital punishment and their actual preparation to the death. Moreover, detailed information on the process of execution is also very important since it provides an opportunity to view the execution from a different angle. Such a perspective depicts the execution not only as a just punishment of a criminal but also as purely technological procedure of taking the life of an individual because of the rule of the court.

In such a way, the author gives a historical retrospection on the problem of the death sentence and execution, remarkably that L. Kay Gisselpie even describes the execution of animals sentenced to death in the past (141) that may be viewed as one of the stages in the development of the tradition of the capital punishment and inevitability of the punishment for all sentenced to death, even if they are animals.

On representing different or, to put it more precisely, opposite views on the capital punishment and execution, the author attempts to remain as objective as possible. Basically, the different views are presented in the form of questions and answers. As the matter of fact, L. Kay Gillespie tends to pose the same questions in order to get the basic information about the capital punishment, its significance, role, goals, effectiveness, and the view on this punishment at large. In such a way, the author manages to clearly distinguish the existing difference in views on the capital punishment since the same questions were answered in quite a different way and the precise question form makes the answers very distinctive fully revealing the contradictions between supporters and opponents of the execution of criminals.

Basically, L. Kay Gillespie attempts to distance from the discussion and does not want to impose the personal opinion on the audience, leaving the answer to the principle question of the book, for or against capital punishment, open and it is up to the reader to decide whether he/she is for or against the capital punishment. The author draws basic arguments of both opposing camps. On the one hand, there are supporters of the capital punishment who argue that the capital punishment is the adequate response of the society on a crime or crimes committed by an individual. They argue that it is very important to preserve this most radical measure to prevent the further growth of crime rates, especially homicides. The supporters of the capital punishment underline that the fear of death and the perspective of being executed may be very effective to dissuade a person from commitment a serious crime or murdering another human being, for instance (). Moreover, it is also the question of justice because since ancient epochs it was a norm, a regular practice when people were executed for homicide or another serious crime affecting dramatically the life of other people.

On the other hand, the opponents of the capital punishment argue that this measure is absolutely inhuman and cannot be applied in the modern society where democratic principles dominate and human life is valued above all. In fact, the capital punishment contradicts to the nature of the modern democratic society (Gillespie, 229). In addition, they underline that presumable effectiveness of the capital punishment in the prevention of crimes, such as homicide, is absolutely irrelevant to the real life since the execution does not really decrease the level of homicide as well as crimes at large, while the abolition of the capital punishment can give positive results in this regard.

In general, the book is well-written and well-structured. What is really good about this book is the fact that the author attempts to avoid imposing the personal opinion on the audience. It seems as if the author intentionally distances from this problem in the argument between opponents and supporters of the capital punishment. The choice of the question-answer form is very effective in this regard because the audience can make judgments independently from the position of the author in relation to the problem of the capital punishment. At the same time, the representation of both positions increases the objectivity of the final decision that the audience can make after the reading the book because, unlike many other works dedicated to this problem, L. Kay Gillespie does not want to focus on only one side of the problem, but instead shows the variety of views on the capital punishment.

On the other hand, it is possible to trace the efforts of the author to lead the audience to the formation of the negative attitude to the capital punishment. In fact, the detailed description of different methods of execution, the description of the state of prisoners creates a very vivid picture of the death of a criminal. In such a way, this detailed description of the execution and various methods of execution overshadow the crime committed by individuals who were executed. In this respect, the retrospection into the history is also very important because it also serves to show the audience that in the past people and even animals were executed because of different causes, which nowadays seem to be absolutely insufficient not only to sentence a person to death but which are not even viewed as a crime. By the way, the reference to animals seems to be very symbolic and it is important not to underestimate its significance because, in such a way, the author shows the extent to which views of humans on justice may vary in the course of time and it also reveals the fact that the capital punishment was actually implemented by quite primitive system of justice. At the same time, there remains a risk that our contemporary system of justice is not much better and that within a few decades our contemporary death sentenced would be viewed as absolutely unjust or irrelevant to the crime. However, it is necessary to underline that the author does not bring in some personal emotions or attitudes to this problem since everything depicted in the book is based on actual facts

This is why it is possible to conclude that the book by L. Kay Gillespie is a valuable source of information on the capital punishment and a nutritious food for thought in the argument pro or contra the capital punishment.

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