Death penalty, also called capital punishment, is when a government or state executes (kills) someone, usually but not always because they have committed a serious crime. A crime that can be punished with the death penalty is called a capital crime or a capital offense.
About one third of the countries in the world have laws that allow the death penalty. The United States, the People's Republic of China, Japan and Iran are examples of countries that have a death penalty. Canada, Australia, Mexico and all members of Council of Europe are examples of countries that have abolished the death penalty.
Most of the countries that have a death penalty use it on murderers, and for other serious crimes such as terrorism. Other countries especially ones with Authoritarian or Totalitarian governments, however, also use it for smaller crimes like theft, drugs, or for saying bad things about the government.
Death penalty Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.