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There are some pretty despicable people out there in this world. The unspeakable atrocities done by some can sicken the strongest among us and bring to a boil even the most forgiving disposition.
Sadly, our country is not immune to such vile behavior. The United States has always enjoyed being a leader in the world and violent crime has never been an exception to the many lists in which we find ourselves competing for first place.
Earlier this year however, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI released “some good news,” announcing that for the second year in a row, the number of violent crimes has dropped.
One does need a sense of humor when dealing with the government. “Good news” translates into having “only” 1.4 million violent crimes, including 17,000 deaths by murder and manslaughter.
Yes, it was worse in the early 1990s and overall violent crime has decreased by 37 percent in the past 15 years, but somehow that doesn’t alleviate the pain suffered by the families of the victims.
And so when someone does murder, the people call out for retribution. They call out for justice. They call out for the death penalty. Yes, I know ... this is yesterday’s news, but I view it as tomorrow’s problem.
Executing someone is certainly retribution, but is it really justice? If someone breaks into your car and steals your radio, we don’t punish them by breaking into their car. If someone vandalizes a school, we don’t send the police over to their house and vandalize their property. The very idea of raping someone convicted of rape seems nonsensical.
But when someone commits the absolute worst possible crime, when they murder someone, when they break that ultimate taboo ... we punish them by doing the same.
We punish them for committing murder by murdering them.
State-sanctioned execution, however sanitary and civilized, is still murder. Despite my emotional brain telling me that these people deserve to fry, I cannot rationalize killing someone for killing someone.
Recursion is a great concept for mathematics and computer science, but it holds little reason in legislated morality. As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
There has to be a better solution.
Don’t get me wrong. While I don’t support capital punishment, I fully understand the sentiments that motivate people to want to pull the switch. I freely admit that if someone assaulted or killed my wife, I’d want that person dead.
It’s unnatural to feel any other way.
But the inherent problem with our approach to crime and punishment is that of balancing the crime to the punishment. What if a person were to murder 10 people? A hundred? Is there a line we can draw? Or should draw?
Where and when do we draw the line on “enough is enough?” Should we compensate society on the severity of a crime, the frequency that it is committed, or a product of the two?
Governor Richardson’s recent signing of the repeal of capital punishment has renewed the debate. It is by no means over. All it takes is a single horrific event for the emotions of the public to be turned faster than you can say 9-1-1.
Eventually, you can count on someone out there to commit a crime terrible enough to prompt the masses to cry out for .... justice.
The debate over capital punishment exposes the worst side of us all.
In our hearts, we know that killing is wrong. We know that executing criminals does not deter crime. We look down on many countries for their abuses of civil rights and yet we find ourselves in “good company” with countries like China, Iran, Libya, North Korea and Uganda — countries that use the death penalty as “punishment” for severe crimes.
In the past decade, only five countries have executed some of its citizens under 18 years of age — China, Republic of Congo, Iran, Pakistan and the United States.
There has to be a better solution.
The arguments for capital punishment usually focus on the enormous pricetag on a lifetime of imprisonment, the need to exact extreme measures to deter others and the deliverance of justice to the families of the victims.
But it’s still murder. Government-sanctioned, yes, but murder is murder whether it’s done in a dark alley or a nice, clean prison.
The entire European Union has abolished capital punishment. Nearly 100 countries have followed suit.
We need to look in the mirror, admit that there has to be another solution ... and we need to find it.