What are your thoughts on Capital Punishment?

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Jared Alesi's picture
What are your thoughts on Capital Punishment?

Another hot controversy these days (really, for a very long time now), the death penalty. What do you think about it? From my experience, there are a few basic views on it: It's never justified, or it's okay if guilt is definite, or that the death penalty should be used as a sort of public display event to deter crime, and should be made the standard punishment (sort of like the medieval system with pillories and public hangings).
What do you all think? Should the death penalty be done away with, kept how it is, glorified and exemplified, or something else? There are no wrong answers to this question, so long as the provided answers are in some sense rational. The only wrong answer in a debate is the one with no logical basis. And whatever your answer might be, why? Explain how your views like humanism, utilitarianism, Kantian thinking, etc. or religion come into play.

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chimp3's picture
I think taking a human life

I think taking a human life except in self defense is murder. The state should be held to the same standard.

heretic's picture
There are people who have

There are people who have forfeited any right to live one more day, and a few of them, I would shoot myself, but depriving them of that right is not worth the chance of killing innocent people. The people who study prisons, penologists, say that at least 10% of the people in prison at any given time, are not guilty of the crime they are in prison for. When that is extrapolated to people on death row, that means that innocent people are being executed.
The death penalty is not a deterrent, and that has been shown in one study after another, and then, on top of all of that, it costs about 10 times a much to execute someone than it does to incarcerate them for life. Besides, there is something poetic about seeing one old convict pushing another on in a wheel chair.

Jared Alesi's picture
Very beautifully put. I am

Very beautifully put. I am curious, however, if the cost of execution could be reduced. Let's say, hypothetically, that there was a nasty, rude, all-around horrible inmate in for murder, multiple counts. He makes life hell for all the guards, he constantly gets in fights that cause serious, expensive injuries and damages to the prison. Would it be better to execute this prisoner in a cost-effective fashion, so that there are only benefits to the prison? By this, I mean a simple execution, maybe by firing squad (or any other means that's fairly humane), which is fairly cheap to perform, given you don't televise it. I would still be against this, I think, but maybe it would be better? As a fellow inmate, I would be glad to have him gone, and I can't imagine any guards would miss him. But is the convenience of everybody else worth the loss of that one, unproductive life? Food for thought.

heretic's picture
Or, that prisoner could be

Or, that prisoner could be isolated which is what is done with trouble makers, anyway.
The cost of executions is in the multiple appeals that are done by specialists and take years, and have exonerated over 300 people on death row, convicted of crimes which they did not commit..
IN Russia, the prisoner is not told that he is going to be executed, he is taken from his cell, and walked down an hallway and is unceremoniously shot in the back of the head with a small caliber pistol, no muss, no fuss, no bother. It doesn't really matter if that person is guilty or not.

Jared Alesi's picture
Oh, of course, I totally

Oh, of course, I totally agree. I was merely playing Devil's advocate. I am opposed to capital punishment a vast majority of the time. The only way I could ever condone it is for a capital offense (rape, murder, the like), and without a shred of doubt over guilt. Like, twelve witnesses, DNA evidence, security footage, a confession, and a guarantee of no evidence tampering (highly doubtful to get a guarantee like that...). Curious, though, are you from Russia or have lived there before? I've always been fascinated by the place. Never ceases to amaze me how some countries never left medieval status quo.

heretic's picture
No, I'm not from Russia, nor

No, I'm not from Russia, nor have I been there. That method of execution there, is fairly common knowledge. I have always read a lot (and I mean a lot!) and now that I am retired, even more. I do believe that there are people who truly deserve the death penalty, but with the chance of killing innocent people so high, I just don't see how the death penalty can be supported

mbrownec's picture
What gives a man or woman the

What gives a man or woman the right to take the life of another?

Truett's picture
I am completely against the

I am completely against the death penalty. The more we learn about neurology, underlying causes for behavioral disorders, and successful treatment modalities, the more untenable it becomes to kill a human being. No human chooses their own DNA, chooses their own parental guidance, chooses their own childhood environment, chooses their own innate tendencies, or chooses their own initial strengths and weaknesses. Killing someone because society considers that person morally flawed and undesirable and incapable of improvement says terrible things not about that person but about that society. Some people will never be safe to live unrestrained among the rest of us, but murdering them for convenience or to make some ghastly point to others isn't acceptable to me.

Endri Guri's picture
Society does sometimes breed

Society does sometimes breed Monsters, Criminals, Psychopaths, Maniacs, Pedophiles, Murderers, Necrophiliacs, etc. But taking Life is not justified, even in the name of Law or in Self-Defense, a Murder is a Murder. Sure, personally, I'd want some very evil people dead, but if I place myself in their Position, it would not be good to have such thoughts. Plus, people that are in Jail have sometimes been arrested for no crimes they have committed, thus killing innocents and depriving them of Justice. Nevertheless, what makes us better than a Murderer, if we killed him? Why would you wanna give a Criminal the short way out, when Jail is a much slow punishment?
It all comes down to Human nature, when Humans act in Anger, they don't think, they don't rationalize their choices, they just act. But when Calmness is followed by a Just decision, it will spawn a fitting punishment for the Criminal, something which is not every time followed nowadays due to outrageously irritating crimes such as rape, mutilation, mauling, etc.

As a very personal thought of mine: People sometimes have gone through heavy trauma in their life, you won't get someone so Evil if evil wasn't acted upon him. You wouldn't have an Abusive Father if his Father didn't abuse him, people deserve a Chance to wake up, a chance to remove that blindfold and see much more meaning to Humanity and in general, Life. Nobody is born wanting to kill or harm others, it's influence and sometimes mental problems.

One fitting example is Hitler, when he was young and just went home after WWI, he saw that his entire people were in ruins. He saw that those outrageous reparation demands from the Entente had destroyed his people, he bred hate from such a trauma, especially against Jews, whom he thought were controlling the government at that time. There are many other mental factors that played his Extremism so well, I just don't know it on full detail.
But in short, from Pain comes Pain, from Hate comes Hate, from Prejudice comes Prejudice, it's a chain-reaction.

algebe's picture
In Japan several people have

In Japan several people have spent decades on death row before being found not guilty. The most infamous case is Sakae Menda (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakae_Menda). He was tortured by police and denied legal representation. I'm sure many innocent people have been executed. In Japan there are serious problems with police procedures, including no sound or video recording of interrogations. Don't ever get arrested there. Getting arrested is tantamount to being convicted.

Another tragic case is that of Derek Bentley in Britain. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Bentley_case) He was committing a burglary with a 16-year-old accomplice when the police arrived. The 16YO had a gun, which a policeman demanded he hand over. Derek Bentley said "Let him have it," and the boy shot him. The boy was under age, but Derek Bentley was convicted of murder and hanged. He was pardoned later, so I guess that's alright. He always claimed he meant "let him have the gun."

There are people who really need killing. But 100% certainty of guilt is impossible. Christians might say "Kill them all and let god sort them out." Decent people, such as atheists, don't have that escape clause. So if someone is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, lock them up indefinitely just in case the unreasonable doubt turns out to be true. Incarceration is horrible, too, but at least errors can be corrected and amends can be made. There's no compensation for the dead.

Endri Guri's picture
Yeah, and let's talk about

Yeah, and let's talk about Buddhist assholes, quoting here - "A lawyer only came to see Menda once before the trial. The lawyer, a Buddhist monk, came to pray for him, but offered no professional expertise to help him fight the charges, but instead told Menda to accept his fate. His trial did not include any physical evidence or the witness accounts that proved Menda had an alibi. He was wrongly convicted of murder and robbery based on the extorted confession."

Nyarlathotep's picture
If we had a magic wand, that

If we had a magic wand, that could determine with 100% accuracy that you were guilty of the worst crimes; I might be on board...Of course the next problem would be: who do I trust to use the wand?

Jared Alesi's picture
Haha, we would have to video

Haha, we would have to video every use of said wand so that no verdict could be unaccounted.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Yeah I guess you'd need

Yeah I guess you'd need another magic wand to be sure the first person used the first magic wand correctly. But then we'd need a 3rd... and so on.

mykcob4's picture
I disagree with capital

I disagree with capital punishment as a whole. First of all, there are not enough safeguards to make sure the person is really guilty. Secondly, it is pure revenge and not punishment. Next mostly only the poor are executed. I would reserve execution for treason.
The official death certificate of a person executed is "murder by the state". That is exactly what it is.
I know that rapist and murders are pieces of shit and don't deserve to live, but capital punishment is more about the people that want it and order it than those executed. We as a society should be better than the people that commit crimes. Let's get this straight. I don't think deranged criminals can ever be rehabilitated. I just don't think that we should lower ourselves by committing state sanctioned murder. Besides life without the possibility of parole is a much harsher punishment.

mykcob4's picture
All we are saying john is

All we are saying john is that execution is final there is no going back from that.

MCDennis's picture
Think about all the people

Think about all the people who have been convicted and later found innocent. No one should be executed until and unless the (in)justice system cleans up its act.

charvakheresy's picture
My Human tendencies demand

My Human tendencies demand retribution from those that have harmed me. In fact they demand retribution from those that have harmed others terribly as well as I would hate for it to happen to anyone I knew. I would want Criminals to pay with their lives for hurting and depriving others. However these are just emotions, nothing more.

On researching the Data available we find a different picture.
1. As most people have pointed out, there is an increased tendency to punish the innocent only to find out they were innocent long after we have destroyed their life or any semblance of a life. I hope most people agree that it is much better to free many guilty than to convict a single innocent, despite that that is our reality.

2. An Eye for an Eye Just doesn't work.

a. Look at the countries with sharia and Islamic law. Are they Higher up on the happiness Index, Have they been able to curb Crime.... The answer is glaringly obvious

b. Lets look at the Norse countries which are infamous for their soft stance on criminals. We find (contrary to what we would like to believe) that they have a lower rate of crime and a higher happiness index. Somehow being Humane is better than succumbing to Human emotion.

Truett's picture
And Nordic countries look at

And Nordic countries look at incarceration as a human improvement enterprise focused on helping a person obtain the skills, outlook and capacity to become happy, productive members of society. It is far less common that the criminal justice system is looked at as just deserts for being a criminal. The US and a sizable portion of the world attempt to destroy "criminal's" lives. And the christian ethic built on the bible is a foundational reason for this barbaric mindset. Recidivism rates are far lower in the Nordic countries, and far higher here in the US. They are doing a better job than us. We should learn from them and treat people humanely.

mykcob4's picture
It is no coincidence that the

It is no coincidence that the number one demographic of criminals in the world are conservative christian middle aged males.

CyberLN's picture
Would you cite your source,

Would you cite your source, please? I poked around but could find one. Thx.

Truett's picture
Hi CyberLN, I saw your note

Hi CyberLN, I saw your note and realized that I didn't include references. Here are a few references on the Nordic vs. US penal system comparison that I mentioned:

This is a 2013 research study:

This is a 2014 article in Business Insider magazine. It contains this quote:
"...when criminals in Norway leave prison, they stay out. It has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world at 20%. The US has one of the highest: 76.6% of prisoners are re-arrested within five years" written by the author Christina Sterbenz:

One last reference that contains this quote:
"Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: They have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us," Nils Öberg, director-general of Sweden's prison and probation service, told the Guardian in 2014.

Another article worth a read is from the New York Times in 2015 on Norway's Halden Prison. Very humane and compassionate. And very successful.

mykcob4's picture

This is an exhaustive search. I have done it before and it took nearly six months. It involves actually calling the Cheif of the bureau of prisons of the fed, each state, the county, and every nation you want information on.
When I posted what I did about the demographics of inmates I did so from memory.
But, I gave you the beginning of how I came to that conclusion in the first place.
Basically, there are known quantities and educated guesses. Since most felons cannot vote they are not listed as affiliating with a party BUT what is known, based on the free population, you can glean an educated guess.
1) Middle aged white males, are the largest segment of the prison population.
2) Of those white males the majority are protestants.
3) conservatives are overwhelmingly middle aged white male.

ThePragmatic's picture
This is the latest data I saw

This is the latest data I saw, regarding prison population and religious affiliation, in the U.S.
Perhaps there is fresher data avilable today.

This is also a very interesting read about how religious people rationalize being criminals.

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