the Long's Strange Trip
into the unknown...
Crime and Punishment
(wpl) Two weeks ago we left Turkey, a beautiful and fascinating country, probably the most "Western" Muslim country in existence. For over 50 years Turkey has been looking to the west for inspiration and information. The west, to them, is modern, rich, and free. One major goal they have at this point is entry into the European Union.
One challenge that Turkey must deal with before being considered for acceptance in the EU is their use of the death penalty. No country that uses the death penalty can be in the EU. Europeans, in general, find the death penalty barbaric. That the U.S. shares this practice with countries like Iraq, China, and Saudi Arabia really confuses them. And me too.
Punishment has basically four uses in society. The first is as a deterrent (by making an example of those that get caught). The second is to prevent the perpetrator from committing that crime again (by keeping him off the streets in one way or another). The third is to rehabilitate the person, so that he will not commit the crime again once he is released. And the fourth is to obtain justice by extracting revenge.
Letís examine these issues when comparing the death penalty with a life sentence. Who out there thinks that before a murder is committed, the assailant pauses to consider whether this crime will result in the death penalty, or only life in prison? Will the former punishment deter him more than the latter? No way. This guy doesnít think heís going to get caught.
Issue two, preventing a repeat performance, comes with a trick question. Who gets out on the street earlier, the guy who is in jail until he dies, or the guy who is in jail until he is put to death? Some may argue that it doesnít make sense to spend our tax dollars keeping this scum alive in jail all these years. The fact is, however, that putting someone to death costs the state way more than keeping him in prison for life. Cut down on the appeal process, and you have more innocent people being executed (see below).
Issue three is not really a concern. Yes, we may want the killer to see the wrong in his ways, come to know God, and become a good person. But either way, heís not getting out.
So finally, we get to the last and really only legitimate reason for the death penalty. Sometime a crime so thoughtless, so heinous, and so evil is committed, that the only way we can feel good about things is by killing the killer. (A few countries go even further with the Old Testamentís directive of an eye for and eye. If someone is caught stealing, his hand is cut off.) Is it asking too much for us, as a society, to forgo this revenge in deference to a more enlightened way of thinking? After all, the use of the death penalty really sends the message that killing is OK, if the victim really deserves it. Is this really the message we want to send?
Over the past few years several death row inmates have been set free, after having been proven innocent. Fortunately, for them, modern science has perfected DNA screening to the point that it was clearly proven that they were wrongly convicted. Some had spent the past 15 years waiting for their execution. It makes one wonder how many innocent people have already been put to death. Scores, no doubt.
Its time for the U.S. to catch up with most of the rest of the world, and put an end to the use of the death penalty. Iíd love any feedback.