Introduction
The social Policy I am presenting in this research paper is the death penalty (capital punishment). The perspective I chose to use in order to analyze this social policy is the structural functionalism point of view. The structural functionalism theory views society as a system of parts that are interrelated, that work together for the ?efficiency and effectiveness of society?. One of the main assumptions of this point of view is that societies try to maintain equilibrium, with all parts of the system working toward a common goal. Another point of this theory states that societies are bound by organization and cooperation.
The Death Penalty
Historically, it was proposed in the 19th century by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim in order to explain how societies maintain their stability and persists over time. It evolved; due to influences from Bronislaw Malinowski and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown to say that societies were much like organisms, functioning fluidly due to all of its parts working toward a common goal of maintenance (2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc).
?The death penalty is the ultimate weapon in the war on crime-it personifies the violent response of the criminal justice system to crime (Vito,Maahs,Holmes,2007:445) The death penalty has had a long and brutal history. The death penalty has existed and maintained itself for many years. Long before the capital punishment actually became a law, execution-style deaths have occurred for thousands of years, taking on forms such as boiling, burning at the stake, hanging, beheading, and drawing and quartering. ?The death penalty goes as far back as Eighteenth Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon, which codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes... The death penalty was also part of the Fourteenth Century B.C.'s Hittite Code; in the Seventh Century B.C.'s Draconian Code of Athens, which made death the only punishment for all crimes; and in the Fifth Century B.C.'s Roman Law of the Twelve Tablets? (The death penalty information center,2007).
There have also been periods when punishments by death were illegal, such as under William the Conqueror?s rule in England in the 11th century. This ban was short lived, as capital punishment was reinstated in England during the reign of Henry the 8th, in the 16th century. After the death penalty was reinstated in England, the number of crimes if could be applied to grew dramatically, until it reached its peak in the 1700s, with 222 crimes punishable by death. By 1837, England?s capital punishment policy was reevaluated, and the number of crimes punishable by death was greatly reduced (The death penalty information center,2007).
The death penalty is a touchy subject for many Americans. It contradicts the sixth commandment of the Bible, ?thou shall not kill?. Punishment by death has existed and maintained its status for many years. There have been several attempts to try to abolish this, as some view it as a cruel and unusual act. The Abolitionist Movement began in Europe and spread to the United States in the 18th century. This movement influenced many people, including Thomas Jefferson, who tried to reform the death penalty laws in Virginia to limit the types of crimes that could be punished by death. The Abolitionist Movement continues to be important in countries around the world. In Italy, the region of Tuscany outlawed capital punishment in the 1700?s, when it was an independent country. In 2000, November 30th was declared an annual holiday to celebrate the abolition of the death penalty (2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.).
The Abolitionist Movement has played a part in the laws regarding capital punishment in the United States since the birth of the country. From 1907 to 1917, six states completely outlawed the death penalty and three states limited it to the rarely committed crimes of treason and first-degree murder of a law enforcement official (The death penalty information center,2007). Currently, there are 38 states with the death penalty act and 12 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have banned it. The first state to ban the death penalty was Michigan in 1847; it is still banned in Michigan (Bender,Leone,1986). In 1834, Pennsylvania made executions a private affair, where they were no longer carried out in open public areas. Within the United States, prisoners have been put to death on the federal level in various ways, including hanging, electrocution and the gas chamber. The first federal execution