Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A Lethal Dose

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that executions of minors is unconstitutional. If you were 15 when you committed a crime, you were cool, but 16-18 -- you're SOL. So let me get this straight, prior to this ruling, you couldn't drink, smoke, vote, or enlist in the army, but you could be put to death? And now, I'm supposed to applaud now that we've upped the age by three years? Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to hear that the death penalty will not be imposed upon minors; but it's not the reason that you think. I'm not thinking about the poor teens who 'just didn't know better' now being spared cruel and unusual punishment that should be reserved for the 'real baddies'. I'm fervently anti-death penalty, and I don't think we should stop at 18. Capital punishment shouldn't be imposed upon anyone. I don't care what crime you've committed, we're opening a whole other can of worms when we decide that suitable retribution is yet another loss of life. Pro-capital punishment people argue several things. The most basic is victims' rights and 'eye for an eye' arguments. Well, excuse me but are we living in the Bible? Since when has an 'eye for an eye' really worked to prevent more crime, and since when should the State take it upon themselves to satisfy anyone's bloodlust (I mean, hello? Isn't the fact that half of us have to commit to a war that we don't want to be in?) How can we punish a person for killing another person by breaking the very law that we said that the guy broke? Aren't we essentially condoning the very same act that we are trying to condemn? And victims have many rights -- to feel safe from the person who hurt them, to press charges and seek punishment for what they lost. But at the risk of sounding naive or like a peacenik, I would have to draw the line at someone claiming that their rights as a victim allows them to do some gladiator-style thumbs-down execution of another person's life. Also, one must question the actual purpose of the penal system. What good does the penal system do if it labels criminals as 'evil' and does nothing but isolate them from the rest of the society? (Think the Beach or something, where the yuppies drag the undesirables out of their happy little commune and leave them in the woods to die). I argue that the penal system needs to do less spanking and more educating... give criminals a means of changing if they so desire. What we end up having is a two-tiered society in which once you fall off the precipice of 'lawfulness' you can never make it back -- after all, if society treats you as a second-class citizen forevermore, what possible incentive would you have to rehabilitate? Since we don't jail every criminal for the smallest infraction (as I'm sure everyone would argue we shouldn't. Imagine getting life in jail for jaywalking...), we end up with a rotating door of imprisonment; those who emerge from jails are given no skills or opportunities to turn their life around, are treated like the criminals they were, and lo and behold, they go right back to a life of crime. Sure, some might argue that criminals always have a choice to change. But can you really change if you can't get steady employment once you've paid your debt to society, are forever eyed with distrust and are the first terminated if something goes wrong at your job, whether you were responsible or not, and are offered no education, and have many of your basic rights taken from you, like your right to vote? And then there are those who would argue that the death penalty is simply cheaper/easier/more pragmatic than a system with an emphasis on rehabilitation. Okay, ignoring the scariness of executing people simply because it's 'cheaper' (like, why not just do it China's way... shooting a prisoner in the head then billing the family for the price of the bullet?), prisoners on death row I believe actually cost more to maintain than prisoners in gen. pop. -- primarily because of the need for isolation, special guards, and how long the entire process can take (appeals, the long queue of executions that must be performed, etc etc). That time could be better spent leaving the prisoner in gen. pop and giving him the opportunity to change and (lest I sound too Biblical) repent. So bringing the point home, I'm glad that the subject of the death penalty is being stirred up by this Supreme Court ruling, but I feel it's only one step. People need to stop thinking about the 'innocent kiddies' and start questioning why the State feels the need to execute anyone in the first place.


Blogger Mike Haddad said...

This is an old entry I know, but I stumbled across your blog and really enjoy a lot of what you've said. As a result I've been reading through most of your archives as a way to avoid actual studying.

I thought I would add this point: the last I had checked, capital punishment actually cost the system more than life in prison due to the legal fees. I don't know if that still holds today, but it did a few years ago when I was studying it.

9/26/2006 01:37:00 AM  

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