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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Capital Punishment: How to Achieve 0% Recidivism

The purpose of prison is to reform, to rehabilitate. If someone is executed, the chance for rehabilitation drops to almost zero. Therefore, the purpose of capital punishment is not to rehabilitate, but to punish. But the use of the death penalty is questionable; is it painful enough? When should someone be held ultimately accountable for their actions? The Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of Roper v. Simmons that no state can execute anyone for a crime committed under the age of eighteen. While some people claim that the death penalty is the only thing standing between them and a horde of murderous teenagers, I believe that the Supreme Court did indeed make a good decision. A powerful decision, one that will reshape the very fabric of society and (maybe) increase property value.

For years, our continued use of capital punishment has created a rift with Europe. Out of all the countries in the developed (civilized) world, only the United States and Japan still use it. About 80% of the Japanese population supports the use of capital punishment, but Japan is small and has no influence on much of the world. The United States, however, is a military superpower and therefore more important. But now that the Supreme Court has ended the death penalty for minors, the Europeans might start getting uncomfortably close to us. It is a commonly known fact that in Europe, the culture is different. In some countries it is acceptable to just sit down next to strangers on a bus and start talking to them. Now that the Europeans think that we’re becoming more like them, thousands of European tourists will descend on the United States like locusts on a dead horse and make uncomfortable conversation with us. A truly horrible fate.

A question that keeps coming up is, “Is it even possible for someone who committed murder to be re-absorbed into society?” Do people change over time? Can a killer ever become a successful member of the community again? The answer to all these questions is no (maybe). Being a sociopath is an illness for which there is no cure. Some people can’t and will never understand the way they hurt others. These aren’t people who did stupid things as kids. These are true sociopaths who understand the difference between right and wrong and just don’t care. If we let these psychos out, they’ll kill again. Although, a few years ago, this Japanese guy in Paris killed a woman and ate her flesh. When he was arrested, he was sent to a French mental hospital. Then, he was deported to Japan, where the Japanese government simply released him. For years, this cannibal-killer has walked free. I don’t know about you, but there are some who don’t want Hannibal Lecter living next to them.

But is the death penalty even cost-effective? After someone is sentenced to death, they appeal. This appeal costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and ties up the courts for decades. It seems that it would be cheaper just to let them live in squalor for the rest of their lives. The cost of capital punishment in Florida between 1973 and 1988 was $57,000,000. This amounts to just over $3,000,000 per person. (Miami Herald, July 10, 1988). If those sentences were commuted to life in prison, with the cost of food and amenities at only $17,000 a year, 40 years in prison would only cost the state about $680,000 (The Geography of Execution... The Capital Punishment Quagmire in America, Keith Harries and Derral Cheatwood 1997 p.6). As any idiot can see, it costs Florida over $2 million dollars to execute someone instead of keeping them in prison forever. If I had to choose between executing a sociopath and paying lower taxes, I’d say “Throw that guy in jail and throw away the key!” (actual quote by me).

Another problem with capital punishment is that it isn’t all that painful. Back in the day, if someone committed murder they were hung from a rope for the whole town to see. Now that’s justice! Today, if someone kills their whole family with a spoon, they get to relax on death row for a few years, and then sit down in a nice quiet room while doctors put a needle into their arm. Sometimes, the victims’ families don’t even get to watch! How is that justice? They even swab the guy’s arm with alcohol. Why do they do that? Are they worried he’s going to get sick after the execution? As I successfully stated above, it costs the state more to kill someone than to keep them alive. So, I assume that one of the main reasons for capital punishment is revenge. How can the victim’s family taste the sweet scent of vengeance if nobody suffers? If you’re not going to execute someone right, don’t even bother.

Yet another problem with the death penalty is the utter incompetence of the bureaucratic system that maintains it. What would happen if someone was wrongly convicted of a crime? If that person was in jail, they could easily be exonerated and released. But let me tell you, exoneration won’t help you when you’re dead. If you have an incompetent lawyer who forgets to file an appeal, it’s too late. The government has, for decades, executed innocent people. Between 1900 and 1985, new evidence cleared 350 people of crimes they didn’t commit. These pardons were given years after those innocent people were sent to prison, although some were pardoned only minutes before being executed. 23 innocent people actually died (Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael L. Radelet, "Miscarriages of justice in potentially capital cases" Stanford Law Review, vol. 40, No. 1, November 1987, pages 21-179. Extracted from: When the State Kills... The death penalty: a human rights issue, Amnesty International 1989).

There are several reasons to keep the death penalty; vengeance, keeping away talkative Europeans, etc. But capital punishment costs us more than we bargained for- $2,000,000 more! And that’s just per person. As of 2002, there were over 3,500 people on death row. If all their sentences were commuted to life, states across the country would save over seven billion dollars. With that kind of money, we could save social security! Or do a bunch of other things, whatever. Still… would you want to talk to a bunch of tourists?

There have been 8 Cries of Anguish:

Blogger Cabe maliciously intimated...

I agree with you that the Death Penalty is not Cost-Effective. Death shouldn't be so expensive. Morally I can see why you agreed with the Supreme Court about the age limit for executions, but I simply believe States should have decided this issue.

12/06/2005 9:42 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo maliciously intimated...

States do have authority in a lot of matters. Much more so than their counterparts in other republics. But the constitution has a lot of overlapping powers, so things like this are flexible.

12/06/2005 10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous maliciously intimated...

When it comes to costs, Life without the possibilty of paroll is the tops on cost. That criminal has the rest of his/her life to make appeals and therby cost the system untold dollars. Death penalty cases should have a standard of no circumstantial evidence convictions allowed. A standard of hard evidence of DNA and or including eyewitness or caught on tape evidence (such as murders during a commission of a robberies caught on surveilence cameras).

If a person is put on death row and the prosecuting attorney is found to of witheld evidence that could prove or at least shed doubt on a conviction. The prosecuting attorney would have to prosecuted for the crime of withholding evidence and punishable with at least ten years to life. Our current Governor of PA would be a candidate for that type of prosecution. Ed Rendell prosecuted a man (Neil Ferber) and put him on death row while he was Philadelphia's DA. Neil was later exonerated after it was found that Ed Rendell withheld vital evidence that proved Neil Ferber's innocence.

The death penalty is serious business and much tougher evedentiary rules need to be applied and prosecuting attorneys need to be held responsible for their actions.

12/07/2005 12:28 PM  
Anonymous brother of buddha maliciously intimated...

If it's true that people reincarnate, then freeing the "soul" (we Buddhists don't believe in soul, actually, but we'll use that term for the sake of western mindsets) of a murderer through capital punishment is like signing them up with the Witness Relocation Program and giving them a new lease on life.

They will not remember anything of their past existences, of course, and their karma will be stained with their mis-deed, giving them a great many challenges to overcome on their way to enlightment (we believe that even murderers eventually make their way to spiritual fulfillment).

However, if society returns evil for evil in killing a murderer, the soul, when reincarnated, will carry something of the knowledge, at a subconscious level, of what has been done to it. This individual will be even less likely to respect the laws of civilization than before, because he will have a sense that those laws are hypocritical (he was told that killing is wrong, then the same people who tell him this, turn around and kill him).

It would be better to keep an individual who takes another's life alive himself in his present incarnation, so that he had a chance to reflect on his action. If he or she were treated with even just a little compassion during the remainder of their lives, it would move them that much closer to enlightnement and rhabilitation. Of course, murderers are not often treated compassionately by anyone, but it sometimes happens, through the Great Kindness of the Buddha.

Thus, from the metaphysical perspective of reincarnation, capital punishment is an unelightened way of dealing with human wrong-doing. Even in such a system, eveything will eventually work itself out, as is the great general thrust of all life, but it will take longer, and the road will be beset with unnecessary suffering.

12/08/2005 5:53 PM  
Anonymous E.U. tourist board maliciously intimated...

Since the the posting of your post, we have put out a Europe-wide bulletin instructing citizens to stop striking up idle conversations with American citizens when abroad.

We are very sorry. We didn't realize the unnerving effect our gregariousness was having upon the populace.

12/08/2005 7:02 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo maliciously intimated...

Actually, all my knowledge of Europe comes from secondhand sources.

But getting back to the death penalty, it's probably just cheaper and easier to get rid of it. We've gotten to a lot of metaphysical stuff, so get ready for my next GINORMOUS post on nuclear power!

12/08/2005 9:43 PM  
Blogger flatlander maliciously intimated...

Sometimes me and the other Fakie agents like to sit around the lip of one of those huge thermo-nuclear stacks and toast marshmallows.

None of us need nite-lights anymore, or mircowave ovens--we just cook food by "laying of hands".

12/09/2005 11:22 AM  
Blogger Gyrobo maliciously intimated...

Nuclear reactors yield the best s'mores.

12/09/2005 12:54 PM  

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