Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Death Penalty Thoughts
I've never agreed with the death penalty. The thought that by killing someone you are somehow writing a wrong seems extremely medieval to me. Two wrongs never make a right, and killing someone should be avoided at all costs. The recent media binge on Stanley "Tookie" Williams seems even worse, though. It makes me question the entire reason we have a prison system. I did a paper last year on prison libraries, and learned a bit about the history of prison systems as a result. Prisons were originally meant to places of rehabilitation and reform. Yes, the inmate is being punished for whatever wrong he did (in Williams' case it was murder). But at the same time he is denied the right to most of his freedoms, he is also supposed to be learning a lesson. Learning that crime is wrong, to put it in very simplistic terms. Hopefully, when he is released back into society, he will be able to live a crime free life - because he learned his lesson in prison. The death penalty says that a certain individual has no possible hope of reform. He is judged to be beyond hope of being a decent human being ever again, then locked away for years to await death. Death is his punishment, and it is much easier than trying to rehabilitate someone. (In Williams' case it took them 11 minutes to find the vein - but we are a civilized people. It would have been quicker and more humane to just use the guillotine.) Killing someone does not make the world a better place. In fact, it puts you on the same level as the person you are killing. Sometimes, it puts you at a lower level. But is the death penalty effective? In his book, The Death Penalty: A World Wide Perspective, Roger Hood writes: It is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment. Hood's book is a good place to learn about the death penalty. He has gathered all kinds of statistics on the countries of the world that do and do not use capital punishment. In fact, the countries with the lowest crime rates in the world have outlawed the death penalty. The so called 'civilized' world has rejected capital punishment as an effective means to prevent future crimes. Take a look at these lists - I'll put a shortened version here: Countries that have outlawed the death penalty: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Monaco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Venezuela. Countries that still use the death penalty: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, People's Republic of China, Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, Ghana,Iran, Iraq, Japan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe. There's a proverb I learned in my Spanish classes that seems appropriate here: Dime con quien andes, y te dire con quien eres. Tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who are.