Punishment by Death

On this blog over the past several days, there has been a lengthy discussion on the death penalty. It was initiated by a post written by Mick on his blog. Overall, the debate has leaned towards the feeling that the death penalty is wrong and rehabilitation is preferred.

In my opinion, the whole issue isn’t so cut and dried. I feel there are simply too many extenuating circumstances to be considered before a declaration can be made one way or the other.

An example of this is a comment by an individual who goes by the name of Violet. She offered these thoughts:

When I was religious I believed god would deal out all final justice, so humans did not have to bother with such things. Of course now I believe there is no final justice (as there is no god)…so if the only justice is that which we can extract ourselves, this leaves revenge more acceptable position. There are certainly moral problems with revenge, but there are also a number of moral problems without revenge. When I was a christian I was opposed to capital punishment for severe crimes…now I’m not so sure.

[…]

(P)eople need to abide by the social contract if they want to be a part of society. We do not live in a utopia by any means and the innocent need to be protected from predators.

To me, Violet brings up some valid points, which proves this is a very sticky issue. There are no easy answers.

So I’m asking my blog readers to weigh in. What do you think? Is the death penalty justified? If so, should it only be warranted under certain conditions? What are those conditions?

Or … do you believe the idea of executing someone is a “crime against humanity” and thus, should never be considered?

For my part, I tend to believe the death penalty should not be taken off the table. I believe there are certain circumstances in which it is justified. For example, when it has been proven the guilty party has maliciously and deliberately ended another person’s life (let’s use Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman as an example), to simply confine the guilty party away from society seems inadequate.

For other crimes, as when someone knowingly and intentionally violates the norms of society, inflicts harm against another individual (or even ends a life but without malice and forethought), then I feel the punishment should fit the crime. And this is where our judicial system comes into play.

Some people brought up the point that our prisons are often referred to as “Correctional Facilities.” And surely this is the ideal — to rehabilitate and return criminals to society as changed individuals. But it cannot be denied that many who are behind bars are hardened offenders and no amount of “rehabilitation” will change them into a “good citizen.”  (Some statistics on recidivism can be found here.)

I think we all know there are no simple answers. The circumstances surrounding any crime are many and varied (which is why we elect judges). But for the sake of discussion, I hope you’ll offer your viewpoint on this blog topic.