Without death penalty, prisons would be overloaded. Criminals would be released to make room for new criminals and many of these criminals who were sentenced for life for murdering or raping someone would be roaming the streets where you live. lots of tax money is wasted on these criminals, people who plan to murder would have nothing to fear since they are guaranteed they won't get any harsh punishment and that would increase the crime rate. And the planet is already over populated, so why not get rid of the rotten apples?

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I was under the impression that prisons are already way overloaded, and it's mainly due to drug laws, not capital offenses.

"According to the Bureau of Prisons, as of March 2001, federal drug offenders constituted 56.3% of the total federal prison population. Between 1990 and 1999, drug offenses represented a 20% increase in the total growth of sentenced prisoners under State jurisdiction. During that same time period, drug offenders were responsible for 60.9% of the federal prison population growth"

The US has a lot of people in prison - "Compared with other countries, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. As of 2006, a record 7 million people were behind bars, on probation or on parole, of which 2.2 million were incarcerated. The People's Republic of China ranks second with 1.5 million. The United States has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated population."

The overwhelming majority of these prisoners are not there for murder - " There were 17,034 murders in the United States in 2006"

"In terms of federal prison, 57% of those incarcerated were sentenced for drug offenses. However, the federal prison population is a very small percentage of the massive state prison population, which also holds numerous people convicted of drug offenses. Currently, considering local jails as well, almost a million of those incarcerated are in prison for non-violent crime."

If we are really worried about reducing the cost and societal burden of excessive prison populations, I think that doing away with the prohibition of marijuana would do far more to reduce prison population size, than killing prisoners. It would also reduce the # of people killed due to illegal traffic of marijuana.

from White House report on Drug Crimes
Table 4. Drug-related homicides, 1991–1998
Year Number of homicides Percentage drug-related*
1991 21,676 6.2%
1992 22,716 5.7
1993 23,180 5.5
1994 22,084 5.6
1995 20,232 5.0
1996 15,848 4.9
1997 15,289 5.1
1998 14,088 4.8
* Drug-related homicides are those murders that occurred specifically during a narcotics felony, such as drug trafficking or manufacturing.

I think that if we just provided the ex-cons with some pot every day, they would be too happy and stoned to commit further crimes.

Im OK with continuing the death penalty, as long as we have a law in place that states if a jury and judge are found to have enacted a death penalty, and the executed prisoner is later proven innocent, then the judge and jury also need to be given the penalty of the innocent person who they had executed.
"Scott, the idea that,

"I'm sure it came about because people wanted reparations to be equal to the loss. This is fundamental as I see it.
It is only fair to want what is lost to be replaced with something of greater or equal value."

doesn't make sense unless you see the taking of a life as giving something back to the grieving party. But the loss can't be recovered, so it's just the base human reaction of vengeance, which we should be able to rise above in our enlightened time. Or are we still back in the iron age?"

So what you are saying is that I don't deserve equal repayment? I know that this harder when dealing with a life. Shouldn't the person deprived be the one that decided if a life for a life is fair? Given that choice many people would let the other live in confinement. Though some people would see that as being just as cruel as killing them.

"The trouble as I see it is that we are still operating on that level, rather than accepting a societal responsibility for the disfunction of the perpetrator. Look at any serious offender and you'll see a background that you would never want to experience yourself. We need to change the culture to diminish the reasons for violent offences."

So people aren't responsible for their own actions? There are plenty of people who have grown up in miserable conditions and don't turn out to be criminals. As I've said unless you suffer from a mental disease its hard to find an excuse. Even people that grow up in the ghetto have a concept of right and wrong. There is always another option, some times you just have to wait.
If a murderer gets convicted to the death penalty because the killing of an innocent person is wrong and punishable by death, then what happens if a person gets convicted to the death penalty and executed while being innocent?

Who will be executed for the murder of the innocent convict? The judge, the jurors or society in general because of their support of the judicial system?

The death penalty has the potential to make murderers of us all, which is why I am opposed to it's application. I would not even have the most vile and despicable criminal of all time executed even if his guilt was proven without a shadow of doubt.
As someone who studies psychology, it's given me a great deal more understanding and tolerance of others- including when they do something wrong. I read an article a while back entitled "free will is an illusion". It's not a new thought but I do agree with it. We think we make choices completely on our own, but of course we don't. It's all about our life experiences which create defence mechanisms and coping techniques, it's about chemicals and intelligence and a whole host of other things. I think that the system is completely and utterly broken. Countries which focus on helping, healing, and rehabilitating their criminals have much lower crime rates than we do.. it works.

I'll give you a personal example- my sister and I were abused growing up. My sister, who was the youngest, was often told things like she was worthless and stupid and my aunt liked to call her "crack whore barbie"- maybe partly because she was a little preppy.. but she was also only 10. You can't expect things like that not to effect a child permanently and after about two years my sister started running away from home a lot, smoking, doing drugs, drinking, sleeping around, and hanging out with the gang crowd. Why she did all of these things is perfectly understandable if you look at her psychological status. You cannot say that someone who grows up like that has the exact same ability to make those kinds of choices as someone who grows up in a loving, healthy and supportive home. What my sister needed that whole time was help, not to be grounded, or beaten, or put in jail... luckily my mom did put her in therapy and today she no longer engages in any of those activities, although she still deals with a host of mental issues.

Another personal example: my father was murdered when I was 16. The boy who did it was 15. He shot him three times with a rifle.. planned it ahead of time, waited for him to open the door, and shot. While it's difficult, since it's so personal, to look at it and not think "i want him punished!", the fact is that he was an abused, neglected, 15 year old boy. His mother had a revolving door of men and the boy's home life was incredibly unstable. He just snapped.. emotionally and psychologically. He was sentenced to therapy and, better yet, his mother was sentenced to stipulations on the relationships she could have. Those two things probably helped him become a normal functioning member of society far better than jail time would have-

and what would have been accomplished with the death penalty? Revenge? Is it really fair for us to take people who have lived miserable lives and kill them just because no one wants to take the time to help them instead? Yes, there are people who could not be released... and they should be treated as the criminally insane, but given the choice, everyone would choose life (except the suicidal, but that is, of course, a person who needs help anyway). Then you can also get into how many innocent people have been executed, the cost of death row (it's more than life imprisonment), the psychological and emotional effects on the executioner and authorities present, or the effect on society's overall capacity for aggression versus compassion.
Thank you Heather. You expressed that very well. I struggle to remain composed with this issue. It screams of cultural stone age mentality and I get so frustrated at the task of changing peoples perspectives to bring about as you said 'Countries which focus on helping, healing, and rehabilitating their criminals...' so that we may '...have much lower crime rates than we do.. it works.'

It seems our justice system holds to a gratuitous revenge mentality. We have, and are having reinforced, a separatist mentality where differences are promoted. Yet if you really look at any individual regardless of criminal status, culture, race or even physical/mental ability you'll find a huge percentage of similarities and only a few diferences.

I believe a key to working with people is for every person to be shown that we are really all the same. If we view others as ourselves the answers become clear.
To be able to think from a different perspective about a crime that affected you so personally, I find that very impressive. It is a good thing to be able to learn the facts about a person instead of just shouting "they're evil, kill them!". It doesn't really make me excuse the crimes that are committed, but it does show that they are human. People like to make their villains completely inhuman (and their heroes completely perfect) instead of realizing that no one is so black and white.

In an imaginary case where there is absolutely no question of guilt, the death penalty makes sense. However, this is almost never the case. And, statistically punishments are not assigned with much equity. Your race, social class, level of education, physical appearance, historical background, etc. all strongly influence juries.

Here are some trippy graphs that illustrate how race influences punishiment:

Edward, thanks for that. It clearly states what we all know, at least on a subconscious level, is the truth about our punitive justice system. It surely makes us ask some very serious questions about the racial and socio-economic equality of the justice system and even the efficiency of incarceration as a response to crime.

Ultimately, our 'justice' system is still based on the ethics promoted in the judeo christian culture that says you are either good or evil. If you 'choose' evil, you pay to the higher power. There is no concession for the disproportionate prominance of crime and punishment among the ethnic minorities, so it enforces the subconscious belief in many people that those people are not as 'good' as whites. We know so much these days about psychology and the real motivations for illegal activities yet instead of that knowledge driving legislation for crime management, we are still operating on a 'vengeful god' mentality, stupidly thinking that enough threat and/or punishment will bring the evildoers back to the fold - or cast them to hell.
Good point David. It would be awful nice if laws were developed and maintained using objective data, rather than through a mishmash of "lower self" motivations.... fear, anger, bigotry, greed, ignorance
I'm mixed on this. Mainly I'm for lowering the population, and when it comes to sociopaths who have ruined so many people's lives (I especially remember the story of a teenager who came home to find his whole family murdered...went from Christian to atheist in a few milliseconds) I think why the hell are people sticking up for their rights. The current death penalty is lethal injection, which is the same way dogs and cats are euthanized. Their victims had more painful deaths, and most of us will not be lucky enough to die painlessly.

People often point out the irony that people who are anti-abortion tend to be for the death penalty, but then these same people are pro choice but against the death penalty...it's the same damn irony.

I know that it is considered unconstitutional to execute a mentally ill person. I don't think they have applied this to sociopaths, though. If a person is so crazy that they have no way to keep from killing other people, then they should be put out of their misery and we should get rid of any possibility that they could be released into society. This is a less direct way form of killing someone in self-defense.

Of course people are going to want revenge. Pretending you're above all that is usually denial. I don't think it's such a bad thing to want to get even with someone who has caused you great injustices.

The main problem is being 100% sure that it is the right person. There are some cases where the identity of the person is not in question, though.

Also, being in jail for life is probably a worse punishment than a painless lethal injection.
I don't get why, through all of this discussion, that extinguishing a life is considered an acceptable solution to the problem. It's clearly just revenge, but it's seen as being the best we can do. When we see kids in a playground reacting to a hurt by lashing out or by returning the same harm, we try to teach the child that there's a better way. We do this because we know that there are circumstances around the incident and that increased understanding leads to less conflict, where as retaliation leads to more.

I read such glib statements such as 'lethal injection would be better than life imprisonment' but I don't know what those who have had to face that choice would say. Let's face it, the death penalty is just a convenient way of getting rid of a problem.

The whole basis behind aggressive behaviour is fear. Without fear there's no need of violence. So in promoting the ultimate violence of purposefully and clinically killing a human being, we are displaying the basest of human reactions to the fear that this person might threaten OUR lives. Are we not modelling exactly the kind of behaviour that we want to diminish in the communities we live in? As Heather aptly put it, "Countries which focus on helping, healing, and rehabilitating their criminals have much lower crime rates than we do.. it works."

This site is dedicated to using reason to distance ourselves from the mental slavery of religion. But the culture that those religions were grown in has to be left behind too. Vengeance is NOBODY'S.
Your premise is entirely wrong. Without pot prohibition, there would be plenty of room in our prisons. In fact, even if all murderers got life, we could reduce the number of cells. The overcrowding argument is a false dichotomy.

Rape, serial killers, child molesters - these all are incurable, have very high recidivism rates and, when the victims survive, they are very likely to become perpetrators. These are like contagious or cancerous diseases and should be cut out of the body. These people should die as it is more humane than life in solitary.

However, since we each get such a short time within the 14 billion years the universe has been around, making a life even shorter is no trivial matter. We need to be damn sure.

People who have killed once in a crime of passion are actually (statistically) far less likely to kill again than a person picked at random is likely to kill at sometime in their life. Also - fear of prison is rarely a factor in a death that results from a heated argument.

If we gave up on drug prohibition and regulated drugs like we do cigarettes and alcohol, violent crime would drop precipitously since turf wars would go away and junkies could either afford a fix or have better access to treatment.

Overpopulation is mostly a result of religious cultural tendencies - to reject teaching kids about sex and contraception, fighting the right to choose, and actively promoting large families (especially Catholics and Mormons.) If you try and argue overpopulation as a justification for the death penalty, then you start to create laws for more people to break so you can kill them. This is a bullshit argument.


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