Saturday 16 January 2010

Death Penalty

I used to know things for sure but these days I'm not so......certain.

20 years ago I would have defended the death penalty as an apt and just punishment for those who commit unspeakable acts against mankind. These acts are so heinous there seemed little point in allowing them to continue to live in any conditions. Even the worse conditions would not be punishment enough and the world would be a much better place after their eradication.

10 years later I began to doubt the fallibility of the criminal justice system and the people working within it. The threat of killing just one innocent person wrongly convicted was enough to put an end to my unequivocal support.

The advance of the sophistication around the evidence provided by DNA has caused my support to swing once again. DNA can and does provide irrefutable proof of an individual's guilt/innocence. 

But does an eye for an eye really serve as a deterrent?  I doubt a criminal stops before he kills and thinks he might just get the death penalty so maybe he'll just shoot his victim in the foot.  No, they aim to kill or don't even give it a second thought. 

Is the death penalty really a just punishment?  Ending the suffering of incarceration could be seen as an easy option; better not to have to live a life in prison than to spend the entire rest of their life deprived of their freedom.

By taking someone else's life have we as a society not become just as heinous as the murderer?  We condemn executions in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanisatan.  So, am I to presume it's ok if we do it but not our enemies?  Hypocrisy.

Killing a murdered doesn't bring the victim back to life.  And I'm not sure how much comfort it can bring to the family of those left behind.  What I do know is that it creates a whole new family who has to deal with a loss.

The cost of keeping someone on death row is extravagant.  These people have all of Maslow's basic hierarchy of needs met which they may not have when they were outside their imprisonment.  Many prisons can be seen as an easier life than the criminals had on the outside which is one of the reasons cited for such incredibly high recidivism rates.  Prison can seem like as fun as a boarding school. 

But it isn't.  And all prisoners should be afforded the basics.  Many people cannot afford cable or satellite television.  Neither should the prisons.  Access to computers with internet access should be withdrawn immediately.  Prison should be hard.

The last execution in the UK was the hanging of Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans for the murder of John Alan West in 1964.  The statute for allowing execution as a penalty was stricken from the books in 1998.  There are 389 people on Florida's death row alone.

Wikipedia has an excellent objective entry for capital punishment.  The trouble is, it isn't helping me make up my mind. 

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