Like everyone else, criminals rationalize their decisions. Before committing a crime, they weigh the potential costs and benefits of their action. If people know that they could be executed for their crimes, they are less likely to commit them. This idea is known as the deterrence theory. Under this framework, harsh punishment prevents criminal activity. For this reason, we should not abolish the death penalty. Although it is rarely applied, the death penalty’s existence deters crime. If people know that their crimes could lead to their lives being taken, they are more likely to abstain from heinous wrongs. In this way, the death penalty saves lives and rids our societies of crime. The death penalty ultimately makes our communities safer, because it forces people to consider the potential consequences of their actions, pitting a natural instinct for self-preservation against their desire to commit a crime.
Although this argument seems logical, it wrongly assumes that criminal activity is premeditated and rational. In most cases, people commit heinous crimes while overwhelmed by strong physical impulses such as rage or sexual desire. Crime is carnal. It leaves no room for rational thought. As a result, reason is often not a part of a criminal's decision-making process. The criminal will not stop to consider the risk of execution, because reason does not motivate crime. Evil impulses motivate crime. Additionally, if a person stops to consider the risk of execution, he or she can easily dismiss this concern with an assurance of avoiding this punishment. They can avoid the death penalty through evading arrest, hiring strong legal representation, or twisting the crime's narrative. For these reasons, the death penalty does not deter crime.
[P1] If people know that they could be executed for their crimes, they are less likely to commit them. [P2] In this way, the death penalty deters crime.