Wednesday, December 14, 2005

light topic of the day - the Death Penalty

The recent execution of Tookie Williams has had me thinking about my own thoughts on the death penalty. I am against the practice only because it has proven to be completely ineffective in preventing crime, but I also think some people have forgone their basic human rights through terrible actions. It's certainly not a civilized way of dealing with crime, but it does give a certain amount of revenge. Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but is also a dish you don't want to screw up.

The threat of the death penalty does not enter a young man's mind when he robs a liquor store. "Oh, I better not shoot this innocent Korean shopkkeper because in twenty years, I might get electrocuted by the State." A deranged psychopath doesn't think "I might get the needle if I shoot up this bus of nuns." A depressed mother doesn't think "I might spend the rest of my life in prison if I kill my babies in this lake." The death penalty is only effective in one way - it pretty much 100% eliminates any chance of that person from committing a crime again.

Take a look at Saudi Arabia. They are notorious for chopping off the hands and arms of those who would shoplift. That's a pretty gruesome outcome and it's to be expected in that country. Yet, people STILL shoplift in Saudi Arabia. The known corporal punishment of losing a limb doesn't prevent the crime from still occuring.

Now, this is taken from Wikipedia, so let the stats be debated as to their authenticity. However, they seem close to other primary sources I've seen. Here is a list of countries with death penalties, and how many people they killed in 2004.

Country - Executions - Executions per 100 million residents
1 Kuwait 9 400
2 China 3,400+ 260
3 Iran 159+ 230
4 Singapore 6+ 140
5 Saudi Arabia 33+ 130
6 Vietnam 64+ 77
7 Belarus 5+ 48
8 Yemen 6+ 30
9 USA 59 20
10 Pakistan 15+ 9
11 Egypt 6+ 8
12 Bangladesh 7+ 5

Not exactly a list of happy places to visit, is it?

Given most Western countries' high recidivism rates, especially in America, where upwards of 60% of those released from prison are charged with a felony crime within three years, it appears that jail time and prison in their current forms simply don't work. Politicians talk about getting tough on criminals, and enacting "three strikes" rules...and people STILL committ serious crimes and STILL go to jail. They can get as tough as they want, but it doesn't prevent career criminals from going back to jail.

Therefore, it's logical to assume that there's either something inborn or bred in some people to continually break the law, or that there's something comforting about jail and prison that makes it attractive.

(Or...there's something REALLY bad about outside life... )

In any case, every society and culture in the world's history has had a punishment system for crimes. Death has been a common form of punishment, from Joan of Arc to Jesus to Mussolini to Marie Antoinette to scores of others. Some of their crimes were serious; some were kinda tame by today's standards. I mean, after all, do we REALLY want to start burning witches again, or stoning adulterers?

But once in a while, a crime comes along that's so unimaginable, so horrible, so beyond our ability to comprehend it that the only conclusion is for that person to simply not live. By acting in the most inhuman ways possible, this criminal has essentially given up their basic human rights.

While I would have trouble judging somebody to life or death, there are certain people whom I would have no problem killing, were I in the situation. If I could have swapped spots with Eva Braun, or even as a random person in a Nazi rally, I would have done everything possible to end Hitler's life. Same thing with Pol Pot. Saddam Hussien. Osama Bin Laden comes to mind. Stalin. Ted Bundy. Jeffery Dahlmer. Timothy McVeigh. Mass murderers are a lock. Serial killers are a lock, too. Jack the Ripper, definitely. Fritz Haarman, too. Can somebody like John Christie be allowed to live, too? He killed at least 8 women to have sex with their corpses. He's not going to be rehabbed, period.

There people deserve death, and don't deserve the luxury of a trial. Cold, brutal justice, delivered with the same brutality that they delivered on people. I have no problem with public executions by the public for the public. Think the previously mentioned Benito Mussolini - now THAT's what I'm talkin' about! Public stoning. Straight outta the Old Testament!

But for the more run-of-the-mill criminal, since these are obviously extreme examples, rather than arguing for or against the death penalty, the better argument is "Why do some people DO this?" - what causes somebody to murder one person let alone 5000, is beyond me - and figure out steps to either prevent this illness, mental instability, or minimize it as soon as possible.

And, let's come up with better form of punishments. It's obvious we need a better system of jail and in-prison treatments.

Strange...I'm pro-execution but anti-death penalty.

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