The Ultimate Punishment Part 6: Irrational Capital Punishment & Conclusion

In this series debunking the reasons to support the death penalty, we’ve looked at:

 

nooseWe know that the death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent, it costs significantly more than life in prison, it is not humane, doesn’t bring closure and there is evidence that even some of the most hardened killers have been rehabilitated enough that their lives behind bars add value to the world. In my previous series about wrongful convictions, we also learned that innocent men and women have likely been executed for crimes they did not commit.

What we haven’t covered is the notion of vengeance. In 2015, it feels wrong, barbaric and backwards to have to cover it, but just a few days ago, someone on Twitter asserted that it’s the best reason to support the death penalty. Even in spite of all its other shortcomings.

I can understand supporting the death penalty if you mistakenly thought it was cheaper, or if you truly believed it would bring comfort and solace to a murder victim’s family. I could understand you supporting the death penalty because you firmly believe it deters enough people from killing to justify taking a life. I could understand all of these reasons, though I would disagree with you. The one reason I cannot understand, is vengeance.

If your sole reason for supporting the death penalty is to satiate your own anger, then you have no right to call yourself a rational person.

Is it rational to value an emotional response over the facts? Is it rational to victimize a second innocent family? Is it rational to force hardworking men and women into a position where they must take a life? A position that will likely result in post traumatic stress? Is it rational to spend so much money on this emotional response that the funding for victim’s services, education, police, fire, ambulance and health care is depleted? Is it rational to lead a murder victim’s family to believe this solution will make them feel better, when in reality, it does no such thing?

The answer is no. It’s not rational. It’s emotional, and while I can hardly blame the family or loved ones of a murder victim for responding emotionally, the law should not. The law should always be based on rational, evidence-based reasoning. This is why secularists exist. This is why the separation of church and state is such a valuable idea. We want our laws to reflect reality. We want our laws to prevent more people from becoming the victims of crime, and if the law can’t do that, at the very least, it should not be creating more victims unnecessarily. I think that is the very least we should be expecting from the law.

As a quick aside, someone really ought to tell the Governor of Indiana that.

My biggest problem with supporters of the death penalty and most of the law that exists today, is that they’re reactive, when they should be proactive. Instead of waiting for someone to get killed and then reacting, we should proactively be working towards serious measures that will prevent murder from taking place in the first place. Measures such as a more effective and valued mental health system. There should be more power and jurisdiction given to child protective services and domestic violence prevention. Children who are observed acting like bullies or being bullied themselves at school should be given access to programs that will engage their mind in a positive way, and to counselors who don’t just go through the motions to fulfill their job description. More money should be spent on education and teachers should be trained in conflict resolution, and how to actually engage young minds rather than just lecture them from the front of the room. More after school programs suited to the demographic of kids in inner cities should be implemented. Prison sentences for nonviolent, victimless drug crimes should be completely eliminated as sending a teenager or young adult to prison will only work to harden them. Post-secondary education should be free and easily accessed by all, like many European countries. Veterans returning from war should be fully supported on the state’s dime, and given plenty of access to mental health services, rehabilitation programs and medical assistance. Signs of an unhealthy mind should be taught to everyone, who then have the opportunity to seek real and effective help for their family and loved-ones who may be at risk of offending, before they actually hurt anyone. Finally, people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill with an affliction known to cause violence, should not have sole custody of children until they seek help and stick with it. People with a history of violent offences should not have custody of children. Parents involved in repeated domestic abuse reports should not have custody of children. Addicts should not have custody of children until they are sober.

Whenever I suggest these things, someone inevitably pipes up with, “but, Godless Mom, people can still slip through the system unnoticed and end up killing. It won’t stop all killers!”, and that’s correct. These measures won’t stop all killers. However, they will stop some, if not a majority, and that’s a helluva lot better than waiting around for murder to happen so we can react.

Besides, these are just my ideas. I am sure there are plenty more preventative measures we can take that I have not thought of.

Now that you’ve read my entire series on the death penalty, do you still support it? Can you tell me why or why not in the comments? Have you thought of ways to prevent violent crime? Did any of you change your opinion in the course of reading these two series? Let me know!

In closing, I am going to list for you a series of documentaries that you should watch. If you have found my posts on this topic interesting, whether you are for or against the death penalty, these documentaries will interest you.

Into the Abyss, an objective look at the death penalty in Texas. This is one of the best films you will ever see in your life:

After Innocence follows men exonerated from death row as they try to get back to normal life:

At The Death House Door, a documentary about the chaplain on death row in Huntsville, Texas. This film will give you a better understanding of the effect the death penalty has on correctional staff. It will also shake you to your core. The trailer is below, but you can watch the full documentary by clicking here.:

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  • Kyle

    I’m not really sure whether I should comment or not, having just finished reading this series. But I guess I am anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered something that I continuously responded to with ‘no’ or ‘I disagree’ while reading and then kept reading anyway. From my perspective, while you brought some statistics to the table in order to support some of your points, it seems like you missed the point of the death penalty entirely and only addressed ideas in support of it that I had never even thought of. I’ve never thought of the death penalty as a deterrent (I might even say it is the opposite), never considered the cost, and never considered closure for the victims. I asked myself whether the death penalty was MORAL or not. While the issue of vengeance does come up, it isn’t in the form that you describe; rather, I question what the purpose of forcing someone to carry out a life sentence is supposed to be. The purpose of punishment is so that a person can reform and go back into society at large, doing better the next time around. Punishment is not supposed to be something unending, like for example, the Christian idea of Hell; such a form of ‘punishment’ serves only to slake the vengeful urges of those who hate the one accused and sentenced. Caging someone against their will for more than a decade is something that should never happen anywhere. Anyway, the purpose of the death penalty is to ensure that those who have been ruled to not have the capacity to EVER reform, should be taken out of humanity’s world so they can no longer do any damage and do not have to suffer the vengeance inflicted upon them by a lifetime sentence. It’s a win-win situation for both the sentenced and the world at large. As for whether killing someone is humane or not, I don’t see how, for instance, a veterinarian putting down a pet or livestock with an incurable ailment, is any different from a member of a the medical profession taking part in the execution of a human being with the ‘incurable ailment’ of say, tendency toward serial murdering people; the question of being ‘humane’ or not seems to be beside the point at any rate. I’d be happy to hear any response you might have to these points and I mean no disrespect by so fully disagreeing with you.

    • Chlsea_1905

      This is the same way I feel. It has never been a issue of a deterrent, closure for families, or about the money. I do agree that all these topics are reasons people cite for, or against, the death penalty. However it is not what shapes my opinion. For every example of Tookie there are countless examples of the opposite happening, inmates continuing to kill people even in prison. I strongly believe that a life equals a life; plain and simple. I’m not saying that system isn’t flawed. I’m just saying 1 – 1 = 0
      not 1 – x = y. Can you solve for y? No, it has an infinite amount of answers because no one knows what the variables are. You can’t predict what an individual will end up doing. We shouldn’t diminish murder because someone has changed their life around and is now helping people. That kind of thinking is more emotional than; a life for a life. Religion has done a lot of good deeds and helped people reform their lives. This doesn’t mean it gets a free pass from me. When it comes to deliberate and premeditated murder, a right doesn’t correct a wrong. A thousand rights don’t correct a wrong. I did enjoy the posts though. Very insightful and though provoking.

  • Durinn McFurren

    I didn’t support it in the first place. Justice should do one of three things: rehabilitate, recompense, or prevent further crime. The death penalty does none of those things.