seawasp (seawasp) wrote,

Writer's Block: Capital offense

What is your opinion of the death penalty? How important is this issue in deciding which political candidates you support?

If one had a perfect justice system -- one which would NEVER convict a person who did not commit the crime for which they were accused -- I would favor the death penalty for certain types of crimes.

In the real world, no. Hideous chains of coincidence have happened before, and will happen again, to get people convicted for crimes they did not commit, even if one would think it IMPOSSIBLE given the crimes and evidence. You can at least apologize, and try to make up for the mistake, to someone wrongly convicted who was imprisoned and let out. Apologies and reparations mean nothing to the dead.

In a more practical sense, the way in which the American system executes (ha ha) the death penalty is also a statement against it. If you're actually going to use the death penalty, it has only three practical uses: instructive/aversive (by seeing that people get killed for doing crime X, you prevent some number of people from committing crime X), preventative (a living serial killer, even imprisoned, represents a continuing potential threat; if he escapes or is released, he may -- probably will -- kill again), or financial (someone sentenced to life in prison costs society throughout their lifetime; an execution's costs end with the burial, cremation, and form-filling). I don't count "punitive/vengeance" or "catharsis" as practical uses -- they're emotional components and can be destructive as easily as not.

The way in which the American system has generally used the death penalty does not serve any of those practical functions well; many "death row" inmates spend years waiting, and some may never actually take that walk before natural causes catch up with them; the certainty of execution (needed for the aversive function) is not present. The long period of incarceration, obviously, does little to mitigate either the small potential threat or to provide the resource savings theoretically presented by the death penalty.

So overall, no, I'm not at all in favor of it. You can end up killing innocent people and there are, in practice, no real benefits to be accrued from it, so it is thus a bad idea all around.
Tags: writer's block
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