Monday, November 28, 2005

1,000 and Counting

A recent news report reminding us that we're almost at the milestone of 1,000 people who have been executed in the US since the 10 year moratorium ended with Gary Gilmore's "Let's do it" as he faced a Utah firing squad in 1977. My immediate thought was...that's almost 30 years and it's ONLY 1,000? When you consider that death sentences seem to get handed down like candy, it just seems like a pretty small figure, doesn't it?

I am still inclined to be opposed to the death penalty, which will probably come as something of a surprise to those of you who've seen how much I loathe and detest the criminal element. My big problem with it, I guess is that it's kind of like bad parenting. For a deterrent to work, it has to be enforced, doesn't it? Is anything worse than seeing the parents who are constantly telling Junior that if he doesn't stop his behavior, xyz will happen. And then constantly telling him over and over without ever producing xyz. The child catches on pretty quickly that xyz isn't a real deterrent at all.

I think of the death penalty in much the same way. If you're going to have it, you should enforce it. People shouldn't have the chance to die of old age on death row before their sentence - issued two or three decades earlier - is carried out. If you're so convinced that you have the right guy in prison for the crime, then why give them more than say a year or two to exhaust the appeals process before carrying out the punishment? By the time these people are executed, nobody remembers what they were put away for in the first place anyway, so what kind of deterrent is that?

And yes, it does bother me that innocent people have been executed. Posthumous pardons are all well and good but they don't do much for the wrongly-accused, do they? England's famous Dr. Crippen, who saw young, borderline retarded Timothy Evans hanged for Crippen's own crimes springs to mind.

But don't get me wrong. I think if you're going to abolish the death penalty, then life should mean life. There shouldn't be the stupid option of life equalling 30 years - out in 15 with good behavior. If you commit a crime like murder in the first, you shouldn't ever get to breathe free air again. And I'll go you one further. People doing LWOP should be doing their time in a penitentiary. And I'm not talking about the new age prisons with all the creature comforts. I'm talking penitentiary in its 19th century definition. A place where you went to repent your crimes and live in nasty conditions, sometimes at hard labor, for the rest of your life.

Look - if these people are never going to see the light of day again, why do we have to spend time and money and resources making sure that they get treated as well as possible under the circumstances? Save that for people doing minor sentences, who have a chance at being rehabilitated. I don't want people convicted of heinous crimes having access to cable tv and social programs designed to make them better people. Sod 'em. They abdicated their rights to live like a human being when they took the life of a human being.

Yeah, I know, that's not a popular way of thinking, and many criminals faced with a small dark stone cell 24/7 might prefer the death penalty. Oh well...too bad. I believe in public birchings too :) You can bend so far over in an attempt to protect the civil rights of a defendant that you leave yourself open to the possiblity of forced sodomy. It's about time that the victim started to be the one who had the rights.

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