Fear of death deters people from committing crimes, proponents say. They also believe that if attached to certain crimes, the penalty of death exerts a positive moral influence by placing a stigma on certain crimes like manslaughter, resulting in attitudes of disgust and horror to such acts. Furthermore, retentionists insist that the deterrent influence of the death penalty reaches across state lines into jurisdictions that have abolished it, and so all benefit by its continued use. Perhaps this is the intended goal of the Violent Crime Control And Law Enforcement Act of 1994. It "establishes constitutional procedures for the imposition of the death penalty for federal crimes. It applies to federal statutes that previously carried the death penalty and creates many new capital offenses. As a result of the Act, the death penalty may now be imposed for nearly sixty federal crimes. New capital offenses include the murder of a federal prisoner serving a life sentence, and drive by shootings in the course of certain drug offenses" (Internet 3/8/95). Those in support of capital punishment think achieving model citizens and a better society happen through fear and intimidation. .
The first argument that I shall contend with is that capital punishment does not deter crime. Opponents of capital punishment say the death penalty is not necessary. Other countries that no longer have the death penalty have not experienced an increase in the number of murders. The idea is that the death penalty does not deter crime. Countries such as Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, and Belgium have not carried out executions since the early part of the century, yet these countries have not experienced a rise in crimr rates (Block, 1983). However, deterrence is not the question when you are looking at the retributive value of capital punishment. In short, deterrence can only work if the threat of punishment is combined with the conviction that the forbidden acts are not only illegal and therefore punishable but immoral.