Peculiar Institutions: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition by David Garland has been my favorite read this summer. Garland believes that the death penalty is a way for people to release their rage on people who committed horrible crimes through local capital punishments. I have to admit that I have struggled with the idea of capital punishment and my personal stance on the controversial issue, but I have never really come to a conclusion. I found it very interesting that less than 1% of people on death row are executed. According to Garland, one of the main agreements for capital punishment is it provides a sense of relief to the families of the victim (and perhaps a town, as was exemplified with the killings in Gainesville mentioned in the Preface of the book). Garland states on page 287 “The gratifications it (capital punishment) produces becomes sources of energy that drive and sustain the system.” It seems to me that capital punishment is around merely to provide retributions to not only the families, but also the public that hear about many horrible cases on the news.
This topic is very relevant today because this is a controversial topic that is being discussed and being used in today’s society. It is important for students to understand how capital punishment in the past has shaped what capital punishment is today. Is it necessary? Are there other ways to handle horrible cases? These are the questions they will face in their generation as capital punishment takes on new forms.