Saturday, November 26, 2005

An upcoming milestone

Some time next week, we as a nation will kill our 1,000th prisoner since bringing the death penalty back in 1976.

In the last 28 years, the U.S. has executed on average one person every 10 days.
That's a lot of dead people for our collective karma. And for what? Vengeance? Killing these people didn't bring anyone back from the dead, it cost the taxpayer more than it would have if we had just left them to rot in jail for the rest of their lives, and there's no clear evidence that it serves as a deterrent to others who might kill.

I know there are people out there who support the death penalty and don't want to discuss the possibility that it's a mistake, and a lot more people who just don't care one way or another -- they're trying to figure out who's going to get off the island or become America's next psuedo pop star -- but for the small number of people who might take this milestone as a opportunity to reflect on our use of the death penalty: do you think our justice system is perfect? If not, then how can we be sure we're not killing innocent people? What if we stopped killing people until we can get the kinks out of the system? We don't have to let these people go or anything -- just keep them locked up and thinking about the horrible things we think they did while we figure out a few things. That's all. What harm would that do? Thanks for listening (my apologies if I'm preaching to the choir).


joe public said...

I appreciate your perspective. Part of my next Pulse column deals with this very topic. I don't go for the "milestone" thing usually, but sometimes a round number (and adding a column) does make one stop and think.

I think the deterrence argument is weak at best; the taxpayer cost differential is the angle I want to use most; and yes, keep dangerous criminals locked up (how about, to make room, we free all the nonviolent drug offenders?). The parole system is abused and more people end up hurt.

Then there's the whole risk factor that you mention -- what if we mess up? It's a bigger deal than "oops."

I can look at this from my "green" side and my "libertarian" side, and both would indicate a no-brainer direction. And as my dad used to say, "killing them is giving them the easy way out," so it's not about being "soft" in any way whatsoever.

Chad Edwards said...


Sometimes I will go as far as argue with proponents of the death penelty that life in prison is a far worse punishment than the death penelty. Why put some murderer, who may deserve to die in someone's opinion, to death and thus ending their misery when you can put them away in prison and take away their freedom until they die of natural causes- a far worse punishment in my opinion.

West Virginia has no death penelty, but our Democratic Joe Manchin keeps wanting to bring the up the issue even though the state legislature doesn't seem interested. (BTW- Manchin may be Hillary Clinton's running mate in '08).

Chad Edwards

Pleasants County

West Virginia

sandy said...

If the government endorses the idea that it is wrong to kill, then the government should heed it.

Chad Edwards said...

Agreed, Sandy.

BTW- I meant to say "Democratic Governor" Joe Manchin. Sorry about the omission.

alice said...

CathColl points out that since 1976, "122 people

vickie pierce said...

i think that a person that gose out & kills knowingly should spend the rest of his / her life behind bars that way that person can think about what they've done if i were a surving family member of someone that was murderd i would want to look the person that murderd in the face and ask why i would want answers that olny they could give