The Death Penalty Has No Place in Our Modern Society
The criminal justice system around the world is fraught with all kinds of innuendos. The death penalty – a.k.a Capital punishment is just one of those outdated, unproductive, vengeful methods for dealing justice to criminals, which time is in the past and needs be abolished. Terminating a human life because they have broken laws made by imperfect men/women for other not too smart men/women, is nothing short of barbaric and in line with the thought processes of the criminal being punished.
A historical perspective on the death penalty shows that this form of punishment made its first appearance in Babylon in the eighteenth century B.C. in the code of King Hammurabi. This information is available from the Death Penalty Information Center. Other early death penalty laws can be found in the Hittite’s code of the fourteenth Century B.C, Draconian Code of the seventh Century B.C.. which originated in Athens and made all crimes punishable by death, and the Roman Law of the twelve tablets written in the Fifth Century B.C. The methods used for exterminating societal varmints at the time included crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement. The Islamic Shariah law sanctions the death penalty for a variety of criminal behaviors.
The death penalty which may have been adopted from Islamic laws in the middle ages in Europe was mostly practiced in Britain, from where the idea was passed on to the new colonies, most prominently America. By the 1700’s, there were 222 types of crimes punishable by death in Britain including such mundane acts as stealing, cutting down a tree or robbing a rabbit’s warren. Execution of the guilty was accomplished by such methods as boiling, burning at the stake, hanging, beheading, and drawing and quartering. This method of dealing with criminals did not in any way deter would be criminals as the crime rate increased rather than have the effect it was designed for.
In the Americas, Captain George Kendall was the first victim of capital punishment, executed for spying on behalf of the Spanish Government, in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608. After him, many more would die for breaking the law, stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians. Although laws varied from one colony to the other, they all seem to include the death penalty for one reason or the other. Presently close to 3000 convicts are on death row awaiting their demise in about 37 American states.
The United Kingdom has since removed the death penalty from its law books but the legacy it left behind lives on in the new worlds it helped to create. Times change, human beings evolve from a barbaric state to a higher level of consciousness. Technology enhances lifestyles making living more meaningful. The laws however remain stagnant or take a very long time to change. This is the case with some American states and a lot of third world countries where the death penalty is still a means to an end.
Capital punishment is wrong for a variety of reason:
It really does not deter criminal behavior
It is the easiest way our for the accused
It engenders a revenge oriented society
It has no role to play in a civilized society
There are other far more productive ways for punishing heinous criminals
Inherent flaws in the justice system.
Deterrence of criminal intent is the reason we have the criminal justice system. For all intents and purposes, penitent and reformed criminals returned to the society will have a positive impact on criminal minds just emerging from their embryonic stage and possibly help to nip the bug in the bud. Those who are executed are most probably forgotten the next day. About 88 percent of 79 experts from the American Criminologist Society have concluded from research that Capital Punishment does not act as a deterrent.
Ours is a chaotic and virtually meaningless world and most of us are suicidal to some extent. Most criminals are like hardened drug addicts and their criminal behavior is a thrill that takes them to the highest places. Most of them perform death defying acts just to try and prove their invisibility. When such personalities eventually end up in the hands of the law, their most ardent desire is to go out with a bang. Sending such people to the gallows is like handing them an overflowing cup of their most favorite drink. I will do anything to get an overflowing glass of Stella Artois for free.
According to Mohandas Candi “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Revenge is a very negative emotional characteristic inherent in many of us. A convicted felon sentenced to die for murdering someone else, upon having his/her sentence commuted may seem to have died to appease the offended party, who are led to believe that justice has been done. Meanwhile the family of a dead offender may see it differently and plot their revenge at a later date. The cycle may, or may not escalate. The bad blood it creates however, lasts for a very long time.
Education, technology and social behaviors has been on the uptrend for close to thirty years now, aided by computer technology. Most people who erstwhile had difficulty forming a social circle seem to do so easily these days. The world, it seems is gradually evolving into a global village, and many people it seems, want to make love not war. What this means is that our consciousness is rising from the crusty bottom of our primordial soup origins, to greater heights of illumination. In short, we are becoming more sentient than our great grand fathers. Capital punishment in such a dispensation, is like a very high fence in the path of a stalwart horse competing in a steeplechase.
Criminals are liabilities to the system. This however is not a good reason for denying them the right to life. Rather, it should be an opportunity to turn them into assets. There are many creative and productive ways for reforming a vicious criminal besides execution. To start with, people who deserve to die for their crimes against humanity also deserve to loose their rights under the human rights code, thus living them open to any kind of disciplinary action besides death. Putting them in jail for life without the possibility of parole is a beginning, but not quite enough. They can be fitted with RF ID chips to monitor every moment of their lives. They can be subjected to experimental drugs designed to correct their errant behavior. They can be set free to live off the land on an isolated island that is very far from civilization and occupied only by others like them. Public funded farms can be set up for them to produce their own food rather they living off the system they have chosen to upset. Whatever they are involved in should be open to public scrutiny through the media.
The justice system is not perfect in its treatment of criminals. Many innocent people end up in jail because of crimes they did not commit. Some lucky ones are freed years after languishing behind bars. Others, not so lucky remain behind bars for a long time and some are executed before they have the chance to prove their innocence. If the death penalty is eradicated, innocent jailbirds may eventually get the opportunity to absolve themselves. Once they are dead however, that is the end of the story. How does the government designed to protect its citizens account for these kinds of incidents?
In a lawless society, chaos is the order of the day. Laws on the other hand are like an electrical ground through which all human beings big and small are connected. It is the common thread that weaves its path through our daily lives and activities and helps to form the bonds that holds us together. Like everything else that make us what we are however, there are good laws and there are bad laws. Laws capable of giving the state the power of life and death over its citizens are the most despicable laws ever conceived by anyone and they do not have a place in modern society. I think all progressive people around the globe should urge their governments to remove statutes sanctioning the death penalty from their law books starting today. The time to tamper justice with mercy is now.