In Her Shell
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
  Evolving Standards Of Decency
The Supreme Court ruled today that people convicted of child rape cannot be executed. In their opinions, Justices discussed the relative impact of first degree murder and the rape of a child. They discussed the impact on the victim and the patterns of the offenders. Justice Kennedy wrote that the death penalty in this case would violate the Eighth Amendment and "evolving standards of decency" in this country.

I am waiting for the day our country's sense of decency evolves to the point that we don't execute people at all. Kennedy wrote about "proportional punishment." Being killed at the hands of your government isn't punishment; it's vengeance. This is just a nice way of saying "an eye for an eye." Yes, sometimes it feels f*ing good to know that a psychopath has been permanently erased. Especially if that psychopath has directly impacted your life.

But that kind of barbarism doesn't have a place in government. Take a look here, at the list of countries that permit the death penalty. If you go here you can read the abstract for a fascinating article in UK medical journal The Lancet (if you can get your hands on the full article, it is worth a read) about how inhumane the process of lethal injection is, and if you don't really care if the psychopaths suffer, consider that there are lots of mistakes that have been discovered--wrongful convictions that were overturned before the accused could be executed. Then there's the dubious claim that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, which is not exactly debunked, but certainly crimped, here and elsewhere.

As far as overcrowding in our prisons goes, maybe if mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders didn't make this particular industrial complex so profitable, there would be more room to pen away--and truly punish--those who cannot be allowed to participate in society.
Wow, it sounds like you've spent some time, maybe in the state of bliss (or western mass) thinking about this.
Personally, I don't think executions are justified in any context, especially absent a 100% perfect justice system that never convicts the wrong person.
Right with you! The state shouldn't have the right to kill anyone. Period.

The whole bloody prison system is a mess.

Mostly it's the "War on Drugs," America is wasting billions.

In the early 70s, there were about 200,000 people locked up. Today’s prison population of 1.8 million represents a growth of over 800% in the past 30 years.

Every 49 seconds, an American is busted for selling drugs.

Every year, more people are arrested than the entire combined populations of our 13 least populous states.

America incarcerates five times as many people per capita as Canada and 7 times as many as most European democracies.

America spends approximately $100 billion/yr on the criminal justice system, up from 12 billion in 1972.

More here + pics
Lu: You caught me! It took a lot of restraint not to dig out all my research and post every bit of it, down to the 'commercials.'

Some Guy: Right on, my brother!

Aaron: Thanks for the stats, and the link. Useful info and beautiful (though disturbing) pictures.
Here in Illinois we lead the nation in overturned murder convictions. It's a sin.

As a former death penalty proponent, I used to make the argument that the death penalty was not about punishment or revenge--it was simple damage control. There are some people for whom the only way to make absolutely sure they never hurt or kill anyone again is to kill them. At least a couple of the inmates let off death row by former Gov. Ryan were there for murders they committed while they were already in prison for other murders.
Wow, Bubs. It's good to be reminded of the arguments from the 'other' side. It's tough to argue with that one, except to think about the feeling of revulsion I always got when someone talked about having to put down an animal that was sick or injured. I don't know if that makes any sense, but...
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