There’s been a lot of talk about the death penalty floating about in the last few months, due to some horrible world events being beamed at us through the news. The Boston Bombers, the Woolwich murderers, the start of the April Jones murder trial. I’ve seen a lot of slogans and pictures on Facebook that suggest that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes should be put to death (which is a moot point in all but the case of the Boston Bombers, because although Massachusetts isn’t a death penalty state, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being charged for Federal crimes which carry the death penalty regardless of where they are committed) but I wonder if the people calling for death and baying for more blood have really thought it through?
Firstly, could you say without a shadow of a doubt, that you could be the person to administer the lethal injection, flip the switch on an electric chair or gas chamber? Sure, you don’t have to, you aren’t the executioner, but surely if you call for death you should have the courage of your convictions? Could you look a human being in the eye with 100% certainty of their guilt and send them to their grave? I’m not sure I could.
Secondly, I struggle massively with the thought of how flawed our legal system can be. I have huge respect for police officers who enforce our laws and criminal lawyers who do their best to secure convictions, but there have been cases of innocent men and women being incarcerated. Imagine if we’d excuted Barry George, the man wrongly convicted of killing Jill Dando, who spent SEVEN years in prison before evidence proved him innocent? And what about Timothy Evans, a man whose wrongful hanging was the very reason that Capital Punishment was abolished in the UK?
Another thing that bothers me is this; I firmly believe that execution is still based on religious doctrine, the concept that a person will meet their judgement in the afterlife and spend eternity burning in hell. This is simply not an idea I subscribe to, so from my point of view, killing a criminal is releasing them from life and therefore the consequences of their actions.
I’m not saying that the system of incarceration is perfect; it puts a huge strain on governments, the rate of recidivism is ridiculously high with most crimes and, if the media is anything to go by, prison is less of a punishment these days with gyms, libraries and access to video games. But I’m not sure that I agree with the death penalty either.
From a very personal place, a real hot button for me is the issue of paedophilia. I recall a few years ago watching a Louis Theroux documentary based in a maximum security prison in the USA which contained some of the most dangerous sex offenders in the country and they were running a programme of rehabilitation which claimed to be able to ‘cure’ people of paedophilia and used voluntary castration as a means of removing urges. I firmly, strongly, wholly believe that there is NOTHING that can be done to cure a paedophile, so if these people are to remain a persistent danger to children, what’s the point of allowing them to remain on the planet? But, again, could you be the one to flick the switch?
I’d be curious to hear your opinions on this; it’s one of those subjects that I go back and forth on and never seem to come to any sort of conclusion about and I don’t know if I ever will, but I’d love to know where you stand on the issue.