Thursday, November 16, 2006

Capital Punishment

My letter to the editor in today's Technician:
Capital pubishment misses target
Jeff Gaither's satire of lethal injection makes a legitimate point, but focuses on a symptom instead of the problem.
Capital punishment by the state assumes that the debt a criminal owes is to society or the government rather than to the victims. When such a criminal is executed no retribution, save psychological, is made to the victims. The loss has not been repaid, and now a second loss, the life of the criminal, has been incurred.
For example: Mary's husband John has been murdered by Bob. The state has tried and convicted Bob and he is set for execution. Mary is now poor and destitute without John's income. Yet she continues to pay taxes, her share of which may be wholly absorbed by the cost of incarcerating Bob until his execution, which will also be costly. How has Mary been helped?
How has justice been served? She may feel a good deal safer, but she is much the worse off.
How much better if Bob were compelled to make retribution to Mary. Mary and Bob's taxes would be put to better use than his incarceration. Mary will have recovered some portion of her lost income. Bob will have recovered a portion of his dignity and the whole of his life. There is a risk to such a proposal, that Bob may run off and murder somone else. We must then ask ourselves which we value more highly: security or liberty? To answer security is to give in to fear which enslaves us. Liberty, in contrast, leads to personal responsibility which encourages productivity and peaceful resolutions to conflict. We ought to be willing to take the risks of liberty.

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