Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Reconsidering the Death Penalty

There is a logical sort of justice when someone who has taken an innocent life, raped a woman, or committed some horribly violent crime, dies for his crimes against society. It is not cruel and unusual punishment for a society to determine that the price for horrible wrongs is the death of the perpetrator, and considering what the perpetrator has done, no punishment is cruel and unusual, for the criminal has redefined “cruel and unusual” through his actions. Furthermore, the arguments that execution is barbaric, or that “we are better than that,” are unpersuasive when dealing with the violent scum who kill, rape and brutalize.

However, while I firmly believe the foregoing, and while I am a supporter of the death penalty, the proposition that under certain conditions living is worse than dying has merit, depending upon the conditions. As with so many dilemmas, the devil is in the details.

We have to first acknowledge that the primary purpose for fining, incarcerating and executing criminals is to punish them for their crimes. Without the specter of punishment, there is no deterrent for doing wrong. To the extent that criminals can be rehabilitated, rehabilitation takes a back seat to punishment.

Therefore, in exchange for true punishment for the worst offenses, as I define it, or as I deem acceptable, I am willing to substitute life in prison at hard labor for the death penalty.

Life at hard labor means that offenders get simple, solitary living conditions, including a small, sparsely appointed cell that does not have a TV, radio, etc. They get three very basic meals a day in their cell. They do not get access to a law library, a gymnasium, rec room, conjugal visits, basketball games or other opportunities to interact with other prisoners, except when working. They work a strenuous 10-to-12-hour day. If they wish they were dead, the punishment has worked. Keeping these degenerates alive at public expense must involve as little expense, and as much discomfort as possible.

There you have it, folks: the JS formula for punishment to replace the death penalty.

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