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Dehumanization Perspective


Discuss about the Nursing for Human Dignity and Capital Punishment.

The act of capital punishment is considered as a complex critical issue that involves different perspectives in terms of human dignity. The focus of the study is to understand different perspectives related to the multidimensional human dignity while practising capital punishment as a global strategy to control crime. The basic right of human dignity is the right to live and capital punishment disrupts this right to life making human dignity as a target. Therefore, human dignity is considered as most sensitive and critical phenomenon in capital punishment (Duwell, 2011). Conley (2013) stated that capital punishment provides an uncertain authority to one human being to take the life of another human being as well as initiating torture, cruel act and punishment that is against the aspect of human dignity. However, in the viewpoint of socialist and republicans, capital punishment or death penalty is also considered as an act protecting the human dignity by punishing the crime harming human dignity. Therefore, this complex understanding related to human dignity aspects in capital punishment makes it an issue of debate (Latzer, 2010).

The essay involves an explanation and analysis on three different perspectives related to an understanding of human dignity in capital punishment issue. Human dignity is a multidimensional phenomenon that involves different statements, viewpoints, aspects, beliefs and traditional bases. The first perspective indicates that human dignity is an inherent factor that can never be taken away from humans, irrespective of dehumanising strategies used in capital punishment to harm the inherited human dignity and these strategies work against the human dignity. The second perspective states that malleability and sympathy towards human dignity should be considered as a part of capital punishment where every individual should get a chance to develop a positive image, considering it a human right. However, the third perspective takes a strict role that goes against the sympathy and empathy indicating that social and moral crimes should result in strict punishments irrespective of offender’s dignity. The study involves a critical explanation on these three multidimensional perspectives explaining human dignity in capital punishment issue.

1. In this dehumanization perspective, it is indicated that dehumanising strategies used in capital punishment deny the human dignity of an offender in the death row. This perspective of dehumanization can be linked with the intersubjective quadrant of human dignity. There are different dehumanizing strategies used in legislation to create an understanding that capital punishment is above all the aspects of human dignity (Latzer, 2010). In the provided reading of Conley (2013) author studied the dehumanizing strategies implemented in Texas capital punishment process. The jurors’ of the legislation system is Texas use language, physical distance, social and emotional distance as dehumanizing strategies to overlook the offender’s human dignity. This physical, emotional and linguistic distance creates denial for sympathy harnessing the human dignity favouring more towards implementation of death penalty rather than understanding the crime.

In the provided case study, use of military-style security transfer for Chan and Myuran by Indonesian government was one such dehumanizing strategy that acted against the human dignity. However, Cook (2003) indicated that dehumanizing strategies minimise the complexity of juror by helping them in keeping their human dignity and sympathy aside while implementing the death penalty. Therefore, this perspective simply works against the human dignity for both the offender and the juror. This perspective of dehumanizing offenders supports capital punishment creating a negative aspect towards human dignity.

Moral Explanation Perspective

2. According to Vasquez et al. (2014) studies, there are various social, moral and ethnic viewpoints that consider punishment as a moral medicine and dehumanization as a process involved in the treatment of offenders. However, in contrast, Cohen & Smith (2010) stated that punishment respecting human dignity is only considered as justice other else; the punishment that dehumanizes is considered as a crime itself.  But, this moral explanation towards capital punishment is always disconnected by society favouring dehumanization. Vasquez et al. (2014) indicated that animalistic and mechanistic norms that develop perceptions for considered offenders as animals or objects also supports dehumanization. Therefore, people consider criminals as a negative element of society resulting in their moral, emotional and social exclusion from society. Cohen & Smith (2010) indicated that the restricted understanding towards crime in traditional concepts and beliefs also favours dehumanization that is now a part of society culture. Even the social and media portrayals of crime predicting a negative image of offender human characteristics harnesses their dignity further supporting dehumanization. The situation of moral disengagement also allows people to judge the negative behavior of criminals that is illegal and against human dignity. However, Vasquez et al. (2014) opine that a more rationalised and sympathetic understanding about the fine line between crime and human dignity will help to overcome these situations favouring dehumanization over rehabilitation.

3. Riley (2010) studied different viewpoint and reaction of people supporting dehumanization or dehumanist that practice inhumanness by use of idiomatic language, verbal abuse, physical abuse (violence) and eye contact refusal. These people would consider cruelty towards offender above human dignity or right to survive. In this situation, the people consider punishing the offender above all other aspects. Johnson (2014) studied that juror in Texas uses legal language to develop an emotional distance from criminal offenders favouring dehumanization in capital punishment. The professionals have to delete their own human dignity or personal perception to favour legal decision-making also known as ‘depersonalizing’ action in legal languages. Further, Cohen & Smith (2010) indicated that actions or reaction of people towards criminal’s favours dehumanization in maximum cases. But, Riley (2010) studied that humanization factors and actions favouring sympathy development can overcome the defects of dehumanization perspective in capital punishment. Some of the successful actions that protect human dignity in norms of society involve education, empathy, dialogues and commonalities interest.

1. This perspective provides a positive framework for the human dignity of offenders involved in capital punishment. The perspective elaborates and emphasises more on provide a chance of rehabilitation to criminals that can help them to restructure their lives and save their dignity favouring subjective quadrant of human dignity. In the provided reading Guse & Hudson (2014) qualitative research described the self-transformation of three South African offenders who practised rehabilitation and reshaped their lives providing a different viewpoint on the human dignity of offenders. The concept of rehabilitation states that crime is not a termination of life or human dignity rather it is a chance to improve once identity, personality and viewpoint towards life (Pope, 1999). Guse & Hudson (2014) explains through the interview session with offenders that wisdom, humanity, transcendence and courage are four major human characteristics that help to reshape once own concise. This perspective completely holds human dignity over capital punishment favouring recidivism avoidance and rationalistic thinking towards human dignity involved in capital punishment.

Dehumanist Perspective

In the provided case study, Chan and Myuran practised rehabilitation and bought a change in their lives that was identified by people and Australian government also. Chan became a Christian minister and Myuran an artist, but still the appeals and request for mercy supporting offenders failed in Indonesian Legislation. This case study indicates that rehabilitation is still a least accepted perspective of human dignity in capital punishment process favouring the complexity of human dignity in this phenomenon.

2. In the present era also society has not completely accepted the perspective of rehabilitation as a part of human dignity in the case of capital punishment. Flanders (2013) indicated that rehabilitation is a new process in practice whereas traditional it was not considered as a part of legal justice process but now public persist a positive standpoint for rehabilitation. Riley (2010) studied that social reintegration is an action or strategy practised by people to reaccept the offender back into society via community-based sanctions involving re-entry support, aftercare, reintegration, resettlement and transitional care provided by people themselves. Further, rehabilitation actions involve relationship development with offenders, restorative justice, and counselling. According to Johnson (2014), there are rehabilitation programs conducted by the government to minimise reoffending in prison. Some of the successful rehabilitation programmes are behaviour programmes for sexual offenders, anger management programmes for violent criminals, substance programs, victim awareness programs and special group programs showing a huge impact on favouring rehabilitation that will directly protect and preserve the human dignity of offenders.

3. Metz (2010) indicated that people holding the perspective of rehabilitation practise sympathy and support towards offenders irrespective of their offence. People carry a sense of responsibility, restoration and support considering the human dignity of offender equal to other human beings. People also try to implement a defensive behaviour favouring offender rehabilitation even in the justice process. In the provided case study, Sukumaran’s art teacher named Balley was one such person who practised rehabilitation to protect the human dignity of Sukumaran and Chan indicating the self-worth developed in her student requesting for peace and harmony towards these offenders. Riley (2010) indicated that people supporting the rehabilitation of offenders try to practice treatment strategies to reshape their human dignity. Even the legislation now is accepting the positive outcome of rehabilitation that involves human dignity as an inherent component of offenders concise.

1. The present perspective states that getting capital punishment itself is a loss of human dignity as per social and moral norms indicating that nothing can justify a crime and capital punishment indicates offender’s loss of dignity. This perspective of favouring capital punishment can be placed in the interobjective quadrant of human dignity. Conquergood (2002) study symbolises capital punishment as a form of society’s justice against the crime that harnesses the norms of society. In this study author tries to picture the public execution as “lethal theatre” where crime dies not the human dignity. Steiker & Steiker (2010) studied that human dignity has nothing to do with the crime ad capital punishment. However, capital punishment symbolises judgement of society towards people who forgets their human dignity and responsibility while performing the crime. Conquergood (2002) indicates that executions of Puritan society in New England are religious theatre acts favouring traditional psychological theories of animalistic and mechanistic. However, it is also specified that executions does not harm the human dignity but tries to safeguard similar as per this reading.

Rehabilitation Perspective

In the provided case study also, the government and law of Indonesia practised this perspective to judge the case of Chan and Myuran. Both of them were sentenced death penalty even after practising rehabilitation. As per Indonesian ambassador, the capital punishment of Chan and Myuran was a death with dignity.

2. Conquergood (2002) indicated that theatricality of executions is another norm that supports capital punishment as a form of human dignity where execution theatres are considered as an area of justice in people perception. As per people believe language and performance of lethal theatres can work wonders in removing crime out of the society. Further, Riley (2010) highlighted that traditional beliefs having a lack of depth on criminal studies favour justice as a part of human dignity and similar in the punishment. Therefore, people persist a belief that capital punishment is justified from all aspects of human survival. Johnson (2014) indicated that attitude of people and developing rationalist thinking approach can only change society towards their understanding of human dignity. Further, Flanders (2013) studied that political affiliation, personal beliefs, emotional opposition, morality and religion along with law and order favour capital punishment. Steiker & Steiker (2010) indicated that deterrence belief supports capital punishment perspective where the aspect of severe punishment to control crime is supported in society. Fear of crime in society is another social attitude that favour capital punishment over sympathy and acceptance of human dignity.

3. People favouring capital punishment can act in the similar violent manner like the dehumanist. These people can provide verbal, physical and emotional harm to offenders. They can perform social isolation and rejection of offenders harming their human dignity and right to live in society (Latzer, 2010).


Human dignity is a critical phenomenon that involves objective, subjective, interobjective and intersubjective components that shape a human perspective. But, this perspective varies from individual to individual and a balance is required to maintain neutrality in understanding for human dignity. Capital punishment is one such subject or issue where human dignity gets complicated due to different perceptions of people and society favouring disparate aspects of human dignity (Potter, 2002). As per learner’s viewpoint out of the above-explained perceptions, the perception of providing rehabilitation favours all the four quadrants of human dignity because crime is a part of our existence as well as human dignity. To control crime there is law and order implemented in society. But, criminals persist human dignity and have a right to live with dignity in society.

The perspective of rehabilitation allows an approach to understanding the complex human nature and minimise the crime in a dignified manner. However, favouring criminals can jeopardise the security of mankind because it is encouraging criminals. But, to overcome this jeopardise there are law and order established in society. Therefore, developing a perception to letting criminals preserve and protect their dignity justifies an understanding towards human dignity.


Duwell, M. (2011). Library of ethics and applied philosophy.

Latzer, B. (2010). Death penalty cases: Leading US Supreme Court cases on capital punishment. Elsevier.

Cohen, G. B., & Smith, R. J. (2010). The Racial Geography of the Federal Death Penalty. Washington Law Review, 85, 425.

Conley, R. (2013). Living with the decision that someone will die: Linguistic distance and empathy in jurors' death penalty decisions. Language in Society, 42(05), 503-526.

Conquergood, L. D. (2002). Lethal theatre: Performance, punishment, and the death penalty. Theatre Journal, 54(3), 339-367.

Cook, K. J. (2003). Christianity and punitive mentalities: A qualitative study. Crime, law and social change, 39(1), 69-89.

Flanders, C. (2013). The Case Against the Case Against the Death Penalty.New Criminal Law Review: In International and Interdisciplinary Journal,16(4), 595-620.

Guse, T., & Hudson, D. (2014). Psychological strengths and posttraumatic growth in the successful reintegration of South African ex-offenders.International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 58(12), 1449-1465.

Johnson, R. (2014). Reflections on the Death Penalty: Human Rights, Human Dignity, and Dehumanization in the Death House. Seattle J. Soc. Just., 13, 583.

MARK, S. (2006). Exploring “closure” and the ultimate penal sanction for survivors of homicide victims. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 19(2), 105.

Metz, T. (2010). Human dignity, capital punishment, and an African moral theory: toward a new philosophy of human rights. Journal of Human Rights,9(1), 81-99.

Pope, S. J. (1999). The moral primacy of basic respect. CrossCurrents, 54-62.

Potter, N. T. (2002). Kant and capital punishment today. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 36(2), 267-282.

Riley, S. (2010). Human dignity: comparative and conceptual debates.International Journal of Law in Context, 6(02), 117-138.

Steiker, C. S., & Steiker, J. M. (2010). Capital Punishment: A Century of Discontinuous Debate. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-),100(3), 643-690.

Vasquez, E. A., Loughnan, S., Gootjesâ€ÂDreesbach, E., & Weger, U. (2014). The animal in you: Animalistic descriptions of a violent crime increase punishment of perpetrator. Aggressive behavior, 40(4), 337-344.

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