The verdict in the Scott Peterson case has brought the death penalty to the fore once again. I find myself re-examining my position, which is that I favor the death penalty for the most horrific crimes, such as murder and rape.
Every society has the responsibility to set rules for its members, and also to set penalties for those who don’t follow the rules. People who commit the acts listed above have earned and deserve the harshest punishment. The members of the society deserve not to be burdened by these vermin.
And so, I believe the death penalty is sometimes an appropriate punishment for the most serious crimes, fairly applied. Obviously, I do not consider the death penalty to be immoral, and in fact consider it a proper tool so long as the society has chosen it through a deliberative process.
However, since the death penalty cannot be reversed, it must be administered with great care. There is no greater error than for a nation to wrongly take the life of citizens. We have made some mistakes in the past, wrongly convicting people and sentencing them to death. If we are going to put people to death for committing crimes, we must be absolutely certain that they are guilty. Absent absolute certainty, the death penalty should not be imposed.
But there are other considerations for my rethinking the death penalty that are based in practicality. I believe that the death penalty carries with it a deterrent effect when it is swiftly applied. Waiting 10 to 20 years to execute a guilty criminal is not very effective. However, since some people really don’t care whether they live or die, the deterrent factor of dying for one’s crimes doesn’t matter to them.
There is also an imbalance in legal representation in death penalty cases: People with money can buy better lawyers than those without money.
But if we do away with the death penalty, or reserve its imposition only in cases where guilt is certain, the only acceptable alternative for those crimes is life imprisonment. But today, life in prison for those who have been found guilty of these crimes is inadequate. Prison life today often means cable TV; gymnasiums for body building; law libraries providing criminals the resources for all manner of mischief, including filing legal actions against the government; conjugal visits; and all manner of soft perks that are inconsistent with the concept of punishment for horrific crimes. If you are guilty of a crime serious enough that you might have received the death penalty, life in prison under the present system is not an acceptable punishment.
If we as a society want to completely do away with the death penalty, then we must implement a system of imprisonment for life that is very unpleasant. Cruel and unusual punishment is a concept that must be set aside when it comes to imposing punishment for murderers and rapists and others now eligible for the death penalty. These people ought to be sentenced to several hours a day at hard labor and the rest of the time in solitary confinement. These criminals ought to view death as the easy way out.