Different societies and groups possess a variety of traditions and norms that influence various aspects of their lives. While some traditions are acceptable to all members of a community, other traditions arouse diverse views due to their nature and perceived effects on the people who participate in them. In this regard, some traditions undergo erosion while others remain strongly integrated in the society due to their wide acceptance. Although most traditions have ancient history, the invention of some traditions occurs purposely in response to certain aspects in the society of concern. This may be due to personal, political, commercial or social motivation. Traditions may also arise due to highly publicized events that gradually gain attention among individuals and societies.
The story, “The Lottery”, mirrors the society’s system of capital punishment in which most of the supposed offenders are innocent people. The consideration that Tessie Hutchinson meets predicament solely because she lived in a village whose traditions composed of a yearly stoning practice of one of its inhabitants highlights injustices systems within the society (Jackson 219). The author highlights a misadvised justice structure that has less consideration for justice and ethics at the expense of portraying the notion that is meeting the stipulated expectations. The case of Tessie depicts a system that does not have a defined framework upon which it executes its functions. The obscurity in the scope of functioning of the lottery leaves many loopholes that individuals manipulate and use to serve their own purpose and that of the society.
The traditions concerning punishments for heinous crimes are considerably old practices. Punishment by death dates back to the eighteen-century B.C., as described in the Code of Hammurabi, a legal document from the ancient Babylon (Guernsey 9). This code stipulated twenty-five crimes that attracted punishment by death. Some of the crimes included adultery and abetting illegal acts such as the escaping of slaves. Furthermore, the Hebrew bible stipulated rules concerning appropriate responses to criminal acts. This document described the need to respond in measures which are equal to the committed crime by promoting the “eye for an eye” rule. The methods used to execute death sentences varied among different societies. They included crucifying, drowning, stoning or beating to death and impalement of the offenders.
To date, doubts on the justifiability and ethicalness of the death penalty continue to arouse debates among individuals and different domains of knowledge. Scholars such as Beccaria wrote an argument against the death penalty asserting that it was a barbaric act. Beccaria hypothesized that threats emanating from the set down rules on capital punishment were unlikely to discourage criminals from committing offenses in the future (Guernsey 10). Although, both the proponents and opponents of the death penalty agree that there is the need to punish errant behaviors, award justice to victims of crime and promote a secure society, they possess diverse opinions concerning the most appropriate ways to punish offenders.
The proponents of the death penalty argue that it is a highly effective means to discourage heinous acts in the society. In this regard, the assertion is that once criminals realize that their acts could lead to their own death, they will avoid engaging in criminal acts. Furthermore, the supporters of the death penalty believe that it provides appropriate levels of justice to the victim of the crime. Research illustrates that the execution of a death penalty deters an estimated 18 murders from occurring. Various surveys in England, since the abolishment of the death penalty, highlight a substantial increase in the murder rate largely attributed to previously convicted killers. A research on the trends of rape in South Africa indicates that rapists largely target the youth and young children due to the notion that these two groups are less likely to have HIV/AIDS infection. Sources from various respondents indicate that the small number of cases of rape attacks on grown up women is largely due to the fear by offender concerning contracting HIV/AIDS infection. This clearly demonstrates that the realization of the fatal outcomes associated with certain acts could deter criminal acts.
On the other hand, opponents of the death penalty argue that it is an ineffective and highly flawed approach for crime deterrence with gender and racial bias. Statistics on executions in America since the 1930s indicate that a significant portion of the people who are legally executed constituted of blacks, although data on crimes indicated that they had committed less than half of the offenses (Kudlac 23). In addition, various studies indicate higher instances of the death penalty among the poor and members of minority groups in comparison to affluent offenders convicted similar crimes. Opponents of the death penalty believe that there are better ways to promote a safer society. They suggest the adoption of life imprisonment as a substitute to the death penalty due to two major reasons. Firstly, life imprisonment will extract criminals from the society and thus guarantee public safety. Secondly, it will provide an opportunity for any new evidence that may prove the innocence of a convicted person. The death penalty does not accommodate the second consideration since the execution is irreversible. It does not provide an opportunity for the offender to rehabilitate and adopt appropriate behavior. Statistics indicate that a review of cases of about 13 inmates on death row led to the withdrawal of the death penalty imposed on them. Thus, the execution of such individuals could have resulted in the loss of 13 innocent lives. Another argument by the opponents of the death penalty concerns the disregard for the human rights of convicted offenders. They argue that the premeditated killing of a person by the state or any other entity violates the provisions on the right to life as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Throughout history, the society has had individuals who engage in acts that cause suffering to others, and sometimes the loss of life. Although some criminal acts possess some form of justification such as in the case of self-defense, some people coldly plot and execute criminal acts. Measures against criminal acts should apply relative to the degree of the committed crime. The argument concerning human rights overlooks the fact that the offender in question violated the rights of his or her victims. Effects relating to crimes such as murder are irreversible. They leave indelible marks on the family members and cause years of constant suffering after their commission. Justice should be neutral in such a manner that no side enjoys any form of leniency. However, the drafting of various provisions and laws should not leave any loopholes that allow those responsible for executing justice to manipulate systems to meet personal opinions and objectives such as was the case with the “lottery”. A non-biased justice system should respond in equal measures to crimes and ensure justice for both the criminal and the offender. However, before serving any form of sentencing on the offender, there should be substantial evidence regarding a case to avoid punishing an innocent person. In addition, the execution of the death penalty should adopt humane procedures that do not cause unwarranted torture on the offender.
Approaches that the one used on the winners of the lottery are inappropriate, especially concerning the level of publicity of the execution. The execution of the death penalty should be a private procedure using more humane and effective ways such as lethal injection. However, it should be a warranted exercise devoid of form of bias.