Some one I know on facebook ‘liked’ this
so apparently do over half a million other people.
This depressed me.
When I was a kid at school we had to do a little talk about something that interested us for our GCSE english. In retrospect we were probably meant to discuss collecting stamps or how much we loved our pets. However I chose to talk about all the reasons we should never bring back the death penalty. I remember getting a sidelong look from my dad, and the teacher at school. When I told them what I wanted to talk about. At the time I did not really understand why. It was because I was taking on a contentious subject with the naive expectation that the arguments against were so compelling that there could not be two opinions on the matter.
They looked at me askance because I clearly did not understand that some people might not only disagree but violently disagree (and to be fair if you are an advocate of the death penalty there is a good chance you are not ill disposed to some violence).
Briefly it runs something like this, if the state kills people;
* eventually we’ll get it wrong – for example – Todd Willigham,
well over a hundred inmates of death row have been found innocent later and released
* It does not add up on the most basic two wrongs level. Attempting to teach people that killing is wrong by killing people is counter intuitive
* I do not trust the state to make decisions over who has the right to life or not
* It negates all possibility that people can change
* It does not work as a deterrent
In the USA, more murders take place in states where capital punishment is allowed. In 2010, the murder rate in states where the death penalty has been abolished was 4.01 per cent per 100,000 people. In states where the death penalty is used, the figure was 5.00 per cent. You need to up the fear of getting caught not the fear of the punishment for a deterrent to work. I doubt anyone, before committing a crime, says “I’ll definitely do this if its only 20 years in jail – if it was hanging on the other hand…”
* it tends to be racially and economically biased – a disproportionate amount of convicted killers sent to death row in the US are poor, poorly educated and black
* It costs more – again using the US as a model, it actually tends to costs more than life imprisonment. Thats if you want any checks to try and make sure the state does not kill innocent people
To round off – a couple of pompous quotes -
“We know enough to say that some crimes require severe punishment. We do not know enough to say when anyone should die.” – Camus
“To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, it is not justice” – Desmond Tutu
I dislike quotes to win arguments – just because a famous person said it does not make it true… however these do have a ring to them….
Wanting to look further into the ‘bottom half of the internet’ as Dave Gorman describes the posts you get on daily mail stories etc and with half a mind to post a comment on why bringing back public hanging is a terrible idea I started reading the comments – and I had my faith in human nature at least partially restored. It seems that many people are equally appalled by this knee jerk, simplistic, ill conceived and barbaric nonsense. Lots of comments – many of them far more lucidly argued from people who don’t want to bring back something that marks out a society as not quite civilised yet. And surprisingly a couple of the replies from advocates of public hanging to those comments have even used multisyllabic words
To be honest I don’t think I have come that far from my GCSE english days, I simply don’t get it. Why would you want to the state to kill someone for you? There is an interesting wisdom problem here… I think people that claim they want state sponsored murder as a punishment/deterrent are seeing people and criminal behaviour in a very two dimensional, black and white way. There are baddies and there are goodies and you have to kill the baddies like in the films. However my inability to understand their point of view on this means I am equally failing to see shades of grey here.
Anyway I think I might put a link to this as a comment and see if I can get any ‘bottom half of the internet’ type comments back…… A little crazies baiting might be fun….