DEATH AND OTHER PENALTIES


 "O sinner man you'd better pray
  Goin' home in the chariot in the mornin'...

        Most individuals who are either in favor of or against what is inappropriately termed, the “death penalty”, apparently misunderstand the entire purpose of capital or any other type of criminal deterrence.  In fact, the entire idea of and the word punishment itself should not ever be included within a civilized society’s written law (“penal code” being another very poor choice of language).  The idea of adult human beings assuming themselves in a position to punish other human beings is immoral and without any rational justification. As the founder of Human Rights clearly taught, let those of us who have done no wrong "cast the first stone”. ¹

        A sane civilization seeking peace and social justice for its members should base codified law on sound reasoning of deterrence rather than on theory of punishment.  The entire concept of legal justice should be formulated on a theory of protection against the thievery, murder and mayhem that all of us have at one time considered, not on punishing others for what we ourselves would more than likely do when presented with a dire enough situation.  Those who anoint themselves as a moral majority apart from the so-called “criminal element” are somewhat naïve and to say the least, have not thought their position through very carefully.

        Biased assumptions of personal morality are generally manufactured from our own comfort zone and position in society.  Rarely does one who is well fed and clothed pause to consider how they might act if they were out in the cold, had no shelter and no immediate ability to feed their children.  Neither do the well heeled and educated majority consider what it might be like to be raised in a minority urban ghetto environment or to be held back because of one’s ill-perceived physical or cultural difference.  Again, those who quickly condemn some as “terrorists” rarely have a clue as to the life experience and mindset of those so labeled, nor do individuals who are treated reasonably well generally consider the pain of others who have endured a much different reality of physical, psychological and/or, emotional abuse.

        On the other hand, it is arguably correct to sentence those who commit an injustice against society based on the severity of the offense committed.  In order to discourage criminal activity, prison should be an unpleasant experience devoted to long days of physical labor, where inmates grow their own food, make their own clothing and manufacture goods to help pay back the society they have wronged.  Rather than allowing time off for favorable behavior, a more enlightened approach might be to legislate additional time for non-corporative conduct. ²   Many individuals within society who have never been convicted of any serious criminal offense endure long six and seven day weeks of often grueling, physical labor.  Why is it then cruel and inhumane to expect the same of those who have been convicted of serious crimes?  Prisons should be places of hard labor for no monetary compensation that no one would ever want to return to for any reason.  Why is this not a just and correct theory of criminal deterrence?  Why should those incarcerated for criminal behavior have it easier and more pleasant than many on the outside who work hard daily to feed their families and strive to be productive members of society?

        When traveling by automobile across the vast deserts of the Western United States, it becomes readily apparent that there is ample barren space to isolate prisons where no one could survive an escape, even if there were no fences or bars, far away from the possibility of inmates attempting to flee posing immediate danger to citizens in inhabited areas.  Additionally, constructing institutions in remote locations would allow room for farming and manufacturing facilities to be part of large institutional complexes.  Guards could be flown in and out, work in shifts and be housed on site for periods of weeks or months---military, fire prevention and other occupations, such as oil rigging and deep sea fishing, currently involve a similar reality of rotating personnel temporarily away from family and friends.

        The underlying and correct theory of true legal justice is to deter future criminal behavior and likewise, executing those who murder should not be legislated as punishment but rather, as a necessary reality to spare future victims.  Until someone can guarantee beyond a reasonable doubt that murderers will not escape or otherwise, be let out of prison by blind judges of unfathomable ignorance, then it is arguably not rational or reasonable to eliminate the execution of murderers---that is, for those who have been fairly convicted.  Because of the finality of such a deterrent, there should be much higher standards than now demanded before handing down a sentence of death.  For example, the word of jailhouse and other dubious police informants or those testifying to reduce their own sentences should never be considered when invoking a death sentence.  This alone would eliminate many and perhaps most capital cases that currently warrant some doubt.  It should be legislated that the convicting evidence be overwhelmingly crystal-clear or otherwise, such an unalterable decision should never be allowed. *

        Some often highly educated individuals claim it is "barbaric" for a 'civilized' culture to execute people for any reason.  On the contrary, when the evidence is truly beyond all reasonable doubt, it is rationally the only sane and logical approach.  Every year in the United States, there are several documented accounts of murderers who escape incarceration, as well as of judges who grant convicted killers parole.  If we fail to execute murderers when such a horrific and unalterable crime committed by an individual is truly proven beyond any (not just "a") reasonable doubt, then we are no longer acting as a sane and just society.  Allowing a window of opportunity for those who commit such a terrible crime against another human being to repeat such an irreversible offense is truly a barbaric and irrational injustice for a civilized society to permit. As long as those who murder beyond any reasonable doubt maintain the possibility of obtaining their freedom to kill again, if we allow such a reality to continue, we are telling our children that we do not care about their safety and well being. ³ **

 ...For judgment is comin' ever' day
    Goin' home in the chariot in the mornin'"


National Center From Missing & Exploited Children


DEDICATED TO:  John Walsh , a most dedicated individual who has recoiled from unthinkable personal tragedy of his own to spearhead a more-or-less, one man crusade to help keep American society safe from those who would significantly harm our children and ourselves.  Also dedicated to Governor George Ryan of Pennsylvania, who had the political courage to place a moratorium on death sentences until our legal justice system can be insured against executing innocent men and women.  There should be no more executions allowed in the United States until a fair and just system adequately insuring guilt beyond any reasonable doubt becomes a mandated reality on a national basis.  Likewise, it should be a federal law that anyone being tried by jury should have a minimum of three individuals of their own color represented among those selected.


Credits:

1. John 8:7.

2. Critics will point out (correctly) that adding on additional time for behavior opens up the probability that prison guards and other authorities would take advantage of such a system to unfairly single out prisoners for unethical reasons, such as perceived racial, cultural, religious and other differences.  As with any system, including behavioral inducements now currently used, stringent measures and clear guidelines would need to be established to minimize prison authority corruption.  Similarly, clear and equitable judicial guidelines need to be established from a federal level to insure that initial sentences fairly reflect the crime.  The U.S. legal system is currently so extremely out of equitable balance that someone possessing a small quantity of an illegal substance for personal use can receive a life sentence while corporate 'white-collar' crime of immense magnitude affecting millions of victims adversely, often goes unpunished entirely.  A society that locks up an impoverished inner-city criminal twenty years for attempting to steal $40 from a convenience store and at the same time, awards so-called "paper criminals" with two-year sentences at 'country-club' minimum security facilities, is truly a society of untruth, injustice and the opposite of the theorized American way and it would truly take a superman or woman to even halfway begin to straighten things out.

3. In February of 2003, an admitted strangler about thirty-five years of age known as the “Preppie Killer” was released from a New York prison after serving a sentence of only fifteen years.  According to Cable Network News, during his incarceration he accumulated several violations, including heroin possession, assaulting a guard and possession of a weapon.  Also according to the same source, at a 1995 parole hearing, he expressed no remorse for his crime. Shortly after sentencing, a videotape showed him snapping the head off of a small doll and remarking, “Oops, I think I killed it.”  What does this say about our ‘civilized’ society and who is going to now protect our children if and when he should try to kill again?


*FootNote:  There has been much talk recently regarding the frequency of executions performed in the state of Texas for a capital murder conviction in the past several years. What has been much less discussed is that current Texas law mandates either a sentence of death or life with the possibility of parole after twenty years served for conviction of such a crime---life without the possibility of parole is not a legal option for Texas juries to consider. Perhaps if otherwise Texas law did not insist on allowing the possibility of parole for those convicted of willfully taking the life of another, Texas prosecutors would not be quite as inclined to push for a sentence of death and Texas juries would not be so hasty to listen and assess the death penalty.

**FootNote II:  "CONCORD, New Hampshire (AP).  A convicted killer and two other inmates were on the loose Thursday, a day after cutting through two fences topped with razor wire and escaping from a state prison on a busy street."  During a typical year, stories such as this appear many times throughout the United States.  As long as such accounts are the reality, it is barbaric NOT to execute those who have been convicted of murder beyond any reasonable doubt as discussed in this chapter---inhumane to the rest of society and in particular, grossly unfair to our children, whose vulnerability necessitates protection ahead of consideration for those who have willfully taken the life of another.


           


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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.

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