Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Capital Punishment may be a "casualty" of economics.

As I scan the headlines and read the few stories that are not deeply depressing, I am beginning to think that it's possible that what many are now calling a Depression, not just a recession, may actually be our salvation.

The realization began to dawn when I saw an article in the Seattle paper about Capital Punishment, about which I have grave concerns. It appears that many states, mine among them, are considering doing away with Capital Punishment because of its immense financial costs. It's far more expensive than life imprisonment and, in these strapped times, states have to watch every penny. How wonderful it would be if Capital Punishment were scrapped because of how expensive it is! Of course, it would be more wonderful if states abolished it because it's wrong, but no matter how it happens, I would be glad.

I have many reasons for opposing Capital Punishment, not the least of which is its vengefulness. I just think it makes far better sense to let a capital criminal spend the rest of his/her life behind bars where s/he can consider the consequences of his/her crime, rather than be let off the hook by death. There is also the possibility that s/he will be proven innocent and there are some incredible tales about how this has happened (or not happened) in a number of incidents.

Washington is scheduled to put a criminal to death on Friday. I haven't done anything to protest this action nor have I seen anything in religious circles that any kind of protest is planned. But I feel hopeful that perhaps this will be the last in this state. It looks as if the guy is guilty; he's been through every appeal and is likely to die on Friday.

I'm sorry to feel so preoccupied by other concerns that his execution has not taken on greater significance for me and others. His was a heinous crime, the rape and murder of a young woman in the 80's. But I would rather he lived to regret his crime, to reflect on the life he took, to agonize over what he might have done differently. That seems like more of a punishment than to distract him from that reflection for years by teasing him with appeals and stays of execution.

If he lived, he might come to some kind of redemption, some kind of realization of what life can be like. But that possibility has been short-circuited by the years he has spent fighting his execution. I also wonder about the effect execution has on the executioners who prepare the man for his death and administer the injections that will kill him. I understand that the responsibility for the death is distributed among many, so that no one person feels the whole brunt of the act, but I wonder what it is like to be an executioner. What a terrible task to be paid to perform!

10 comments:

Anna Banana said...

Thanks for this post, and especially for your last paragraph. I don't hear very many people express concern about the immorality of paying people to execute. If the legislators who enacted the law and the judges who uphold the law and the state Governors were forced to be the executioners, there would be fewer or no executions.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Anna B. I agree---asking people to kill someone, no matter what the situation is, puts the asker in the same position as the killer, in my opinion.

Mile High Pixie said...

I believe Colorado is considering suspending the death penalty for now (if they haven't already) for the financial concerns you mention here. There is also the much-discussed but possibly not that publicized issue of the inequality of the death penalty's assignment; if you are black and commit a heinous crime, you are several times more likely to get the death penalty than if you're white and commit the same heinous crime.

ms. kitty said...

Hey, that's good news, Pixie! I hope it happens there and here and everywhere.

Miss Kitty said...

Sadly, I don't think Georgia will be doing away with the death penalty anytime soon. The 'necks love their eye-for-an-eye, even if it does leave everyone blind.

ms. kitty said...

That's probably true of some other states as well, Miss K. Maybe someday...

Joel said...

I take issue with the death penalty for one of the reasons you gave - the risk of executing an innocent person - and also because the application is so iffy as not to create a deterrent. The fact that so many death sentences are never carried out leads criminals to believe that they can stave it off indefinitely. And many do.

If the penalty is applied evenhandedly for specific crimes, then I see it more akin to an assisted suicide on the criminal's part. (Assuming for the moment that the party is guilty.) If he knows he will hang (or electrocute, or be shot with poison or whatever), and he commits the crime anyway, then he's made his decision.

Joel said...

I also wonder about the effect execution has on the executioners who prepare the man for his death and administer the injections that will kill him.

I'll agree with you there. There's been a lot of talk lately about doctors refusing to oversee lethal injections. Although I believe the death penalty is valid (with the above caveats), I think it's reprehensible to force someone who believes it to be wrong to participate. (With the exception of the actual condemned, of course, who would certainly rather opt out himself.) :)

LinguistFriend said...

Another point is that those who are subjected to capital punishment are very disproportionately the poor, the uneducated, and nonwhites, as of the last time I looked.

Joel said...

Another point is that those who are subjected to capital punishment are very disproportionately the poor, the uneducated, and nonwhites, as of the last time I looked.

Which of course begs the question of whether such people actually are more likely to commit capital crimes or whether they are consistently judged more harshly than their educated white wealthy counterparts when they do.