I was vaguely listening to the radio yesterday when an item concerning the death penalty (in Texas, I think) began to air.
I confess that I did not catch the whole piece, but it became quite clear that an American police officer was arguing for the increased use of the death penalty when it comes to child rapists and murderers; and also to “cop killers”. Further along the line, the police officer argued that the range of murderers who should more often get the death penalty should extend to those who murdered medical staff, firefighters and, indeed, to anyone who murdered government workers who “put their lives on the line in the call of their duty.”
Well, in brief, here is my response to these proposals.
1. We are already well on the way to giving far too many special privileges, pay handouts and protections to government workers, and this idea that murdering government workers is, somehow, more heinous a crime than the murdering of anyone else pushes government workers even higher up the pedestal – the pedestal of life itself – something which is clearly very dangerous indeed judging by the history books.
2. Why should the life of a police officer – or any other government worker – be considered to be more valuable than the life of, say, your daughter, your mother, your father, and so on?
3. In addition, if the state accepts that the death penalty is legitimate for the murder of certain people – such as government workers – then it will not be too long before people are demanding the death penalty for the murders of members of other groups; such as ‘women’, ‘homosexuals’ etc. etc.. And it will surely end up being the case that it is only for the murder of white heterosexual men that the death penalty will NOT be forthcoming.
Furthermore, even where such demands were resisted successfully, it would still be the case that people would feel very aggrieved that the murders of some people (especially those of their own loved ones) did not attract the death penalty while others (such as ‘government workers’) did.
The upshot would be a permanent state of fury and anger being directed not only at the system – and those who seemed to benefit from it – but also at those who had, indeed, committed other forms of murder.
Indeed, even abortion is the murder of children – for some people.
Imagine how these people are going to feel towards women who have had abortions if they are indoctrinated into believing that the death penalty is a legitimate punishment for murder.
Even if these people do not actually feel that women who abort their offspring should receive the death penalty, the point here is that they will still likely feel far more malevolent towards them.
And this leads me directly to my next point …
4. The more that we justify the death penalty for others, the more violence among ourselves do we justify within ourselves.
In other words, our tendencies towards violence are ratcheted upwards.
Is this what we really want?
5. It was suggested that government workers who ‘put their lives on the line’ were in need of the ‘greater protection’ that the death penalty would bring them, because the death penalty would help further deter criminals from taking the lives of such government workers.
Well, the notion that the death penalty acts as a good deterrent, in practice, is not very well supported by the evidence, but, for the moment, let us just assume that the death penalty does, indeed, help to deter murderers.
Well, if this is the case, then this takes us all the way back to point 1 – and to all the points that follow it.
In other words, why should we deter more the murderers of some people, but not the murderers of other people?
Why should some people be seen as ‘special’ when it comes to deterring murderers?
6. Some time ago, I took a look at the mugshots and the profiles of the inmates of Death Row inside an American prison.
I can summarise them thusly.
They were mostly black, decidedly unintelligent, mentally challenged and, I imagine, never had much of a chance in life.
Furthermore, these individuals mostly had criminal histories that ran to pages upon pages.
And so what we really see going on here is a complete failure of the government to deal with the circumstances, genetic and environmental, that led these murderers to do what they did.
And arguing for the death penalty is just one of the ways in which the politicians and their agencies can pass the buck.
“Nothing to do with us,” they can say. “These murderers are ENTIRELY responsible for what they did.”
Well, I suggest that you, yourself, do a Google search, and so see for yourself the type of individual who typically ends up on Death Row. I think that most of you will see that these individuals had a history that could have been dealt with quite effectively, in most cases, many years before they ended up murdering anybody.
Hence, if government workers such as police officers are so concerned about murder then, perhaps, rather than taking us all down the horrible pathways through which the death penalty leads us, they should seek to persuade the government to adopt policies that would reduce the likelihoods of people becoming murderers in the first place!
For example, reducing the number of single-mother households would reduce the number of murders – as well as the general crime rate – quite significantly.
Bringing more discipline into our schools and on to our streets would also help a great deal.
Reducing excessive immigration would also cut the homicide rate.
There are many, many things that the government could do to reduce the numbers of murders if it really wanted to reduce them.
But governments benefit hugely from murders and from serious crimes, and so they will do very little to decrease their number.
What they will do, however, is forever try to put the blame elsewhere.
7. Of course, we often feel that cold, callous murderers do ‘deserve’ the death penalty. And, in my view, some of them actually deserve far, far worse than the death penalty.
But, in practice, and as indicated above, the death penalty simply poisons us all by increasing our desire for violence across all other circumstances. The evidence does not suggest that it reduces the murder rate. And the death penalty allows the government to keep on passing the buck and to avoid having to address those policies of theirs which lead to a higher murder rate.
Finally, I am not intending to suggest that all lives are equal in value to society. Indeed, this is clearly very much not the case, in my view.
Some human lives are definitely more worthy than others. And some people are just scum.
But my claim is this.
The death penalty poisons us all in very many serious ways; and we would all be much better off without it.
This might not have been true 100 years ago, and it still might not be true in certain countries today.
But, in western countries, at this point in time, I can see no benefits accruing to society from the use of the death penalty, but I can definitely see numerous very serious disadvantages arising from it.
As such, I believe that we should be sentencing those who ‘deserve’ the Death Penalty to life imprisonment – which, in many ways, for many convicts, is probably a stiffer punishment to deal with.