Before committing a crime, criminals weigh the potential costs and benefits of their actions. If people know that they could lose their lives for 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. 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. In this way, the death penalty saves lives.
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, the criminal will not stop to consider the risk of execution, because carnal impulses leave no room for such consideration. For this reason, the death penalty does not preserve innocent lives.
[P1] If people know that taking someone's life could lead to their execution, they will be less likely to commit murder. [P2] In this way, the death penalty prevents murder.