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The Lounge: Chat. Relax. Unwind. > For or against the death penalty?

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message 1: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments There may already be a discussion of this. If so, sorry for duplicating. If not, what do you think about the death penalty? For or against, and why?


message 2: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Exceptionally difficult decision. For every clear cut decision e.g. caught in the act murder and terrorism, there are far too many dodgy evidence cases. The fact that many of the dodgy evidence cases seem to feature poor working class often black makes assessments harder. That is not to say that black working class young men do not commit horrendous crimes, although most serial killers seem to be male and white. I read about a death row case going on for years where similar murders continued after the conviction and appeal of the alleged assailant.
The UK has not had judicial execution i.e. order by a court since the 1964. It remained on the statute book for a limited range of offenses until the 1970s

I state judicial execution because there has been state ordered execution since. Not via a court but by the actions of senior police commanders (abetted by security service and special forces). Most notably the shooting of

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_o...

He was a Brazilian electrician executed on a tube train when he was mistakenly identified as a suspected terrorist in the aftermath of 7/7 in London. I state executed because he was completely unarmed and not carrying a back pack but shot dead anyway.

Of course there have been police shootings in multiple countries since and counter terror operations resulting in the deaths of suspects. I make the distinction because of the procedure followed

Overall I am slightly against the death penalty but when I think of some serial killers and paying taxes to keep them alive I frequently debate the opposite.

Not sure how I would react on a jury. I don't have misgivings about the killing - I've been a military operations planner responsible for choosing where to drop bombs.

Perhaps in a death penalty case in USA the state should ensure the defence has as much legal capability as the Attorney General as that seems to be the common theme in wrongful convictions.


message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments My only reason against the death penalty for certain horrible offenders is that justice is NOT served often enough. In NZ there have been a small number of guilty verdicts whee, on reading the evidence, I would never convict. I am not saying I know the person did not do it from the evidence, but I am not convinced he did do it. There was enough doubt, although I also think in such cases it is wrong to send to jail for so long. The problem is, there are only too many people who seem to think that if authority says such and such happened, it must have.

I sometimes think that maybe there ought to be multiple crimes to qualify for death, so as to strongly reduce the chance of wrongful conviction, or a higher level of certainty, as sometimes verdicts based on circumstantial evidence are for conviction. But if you now the person was truly horrible, I see no reason to waste the taxpayer's money


message 4: by Rita (new)

Rita Chapman | 153 comments I strongly believe in the death penalty, but only where there is absolutely no doubt of the guilt. That means, they have to be caught in the act, not just found at the scene. I don't believe in it for crimes of passion either, only for evil, premeditated murder, such as serial killers or terrorists.


message 5: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Here in the States, appeals can go on for so long, it's often cheaper to jail someone for life without a chance of parole than it is to see a death penalty case through to the execution. I can certainly agree with the logic of not seeking the death penalty for that reason, but we see cases so heinous, these animals just should not be allowed to breathe. I suppose my opinion is that I'm all for it, but understand when it's not sought.


message 6: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments The appeals are a slightly different matter. That should be sorted out, if the other problems involving wrong convictions were fixed. Obviously there should be appeals, but there should be a limit on their number.


message 7: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments We see that terrorists while alive incentivize kidnapping of soldiers and civilians to bargain their release. Although we don't have a capital punishment, I think instating a capital punishment for terrorists responsible for multiple murder would lessen this peril


message 8: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments Since the idea is to discourage further crime, if keeping a terrorist alive is an incentive for other terrorists to kill innocent civilians as a bargaining chip to free the terrorist so he can carry out further murders, it is logical to remove the captured terrorist. Of course, it is important that such a penalty is imposed on a really evil terrorist and not on someone whose political views are opposed to the government of the day. Not saying any current government would do that, but history is full of rulers who find it more convenient to kill their opposition than to try to find common ground.


message 9: by Rita (new)

Rita Chapman | 153 comments Kings and Queens too!


message 10: by Holly (new)

Holly (goldikova) I favor the death penalty only in extreme cases. Serial killers who are just human predators; such as Dahmer or Gacy. With a charnel house full of evidence their guilt can't really be questioned. Killers like that can never be rehabilitated to society and after the horrific nature of their crimes, society shouldn't be burdened with the cost of protecting itself from them.


message 11: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I see it differently from you guys. I know it costs a lot to keep someone in prison, but that's a kind of hell on earth in my opinion. Life in prison is a slow death of the spirit, thus excruciating and punishing over a long period of time, which fits the crime more than a quick death.

I also have a moral objection to the death penalty. I understand the eye-for-an-eye thinking, but if we believe that killing someone is wrong, then it's wrong, period.


message 12: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments Ha, Scout is a secret Lucifer - get the most torment out of the lost souls :-) (Sorry, Scout, nothing against you but I couldn't resist this, and by and large I fully respect your opinions.)


message 13: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Scout wrote: "I see it differently from you guys. I know it costs a lot to keep someone in prison, but that's a kind of hell on earth in my opinion. Life in prison is a slow death of the spirit, thus excruciatin..."

I actually agree Scout except that that costs society to keep them incarcerated. In the UK life sentences have rarely meant life in prison. Instead the conviction means a period in prison (Sometimes decades) then release on license from which the offender can be recalled. We don't have the grades of homicide I see in the movies in USA. If found guilty of murder the sentence is life but the time in prison varies to give the reflection on the degree of harm.


message 14: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments That's OK, but watch out, Ian :-) Lucifer said, "It is better to rule in Hell than to be a servant in Heaven."


message 15: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments Philip, here we have a sentence of life without parole, which is the option given to juries instead of the death sentence.


message 16: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments As incarceration should supposedly serve not only for punishment but also for correction and rehabilitation, wonder whether those doing time shouldn't work in the facility to support themselves and save some


message 17: by Judith (new)

Judith Rand | 16 comments Scout wrote: "I see it differently from you guys. I know it costs a lot to keep someone in prison, but that's a kind of hell on earth in my opinion. Life in prison is a slow death of the spirit, thus excruciatin..."

Your reasoning is excellent on both counts. Prison life is a living hell and a punishment fitting the crime. And again if taking a life is
the crime why should we endorse it with the death penalty.


message 18: by Rita (new)

Rita Chapman | 153 comments Australian jails are more like a holiday camp. Taking away personal freedom doesn't necessarily bother many criminals.


message 19: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Lucifer can't be too bad off, seems he can leave Hell anytime he wants if he's always on our plane trying to corrupt souls...


message 20: by Denise (new)

Denise Baer This is a tough one. I'm not one for killing, but I've also never had a loved one die at the hands of a killer.

On one hand, my judgments are based on emotion. I believe in the death penalty for heinous violent crimes based on actual facts and not circumstantial evidence. There must be clear cut facts. For me, it not only includes murderers, but serial pedophiles and rapists along with human traffickers. Anyone who actually thinks it's okay to do what these people do to humans doesn't deserve a life.

On the other hand, I believe in God and that murder is murder. It doesn't matter which side of the coin you're on. Since I believe in heaven and hell, they will get their punishments on judgment day.

So, I'm torn between emotion and belief.


message 21: by Tree (new)

Tree District (treedistbooks) | 4 comments I’m typically for the death penalty but of course only for certain crimes such as murder and possibly even for certain cases of child molestation. People who are truly a danger to be around for society.


message 22: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments And how about amputating a limb (arm) for bribery and theft?


message 23: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Judicial amputations and floggings are barbaric leftovers from a past time better forgotten.


message 24: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments My view on moderate crime is the prison system should be more like forced school - the crims, especially the young ones, should have to work, but at something where they can learn a trade or something, so that when they get out they actually have some chance of earning an honest living. The idea of releasing them with a couple of dollars in their pocket and no support is just inviting them to steal and return.

For the longer term inmate, they should have to work at growing food, etc, the old-fashioned way, to support the prison. Nik's suggestion of amputation is, I am sorry to say, Nik, simply barbaric, and achieves nothing.


message 25: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments It's certainly not my suggestion, Ian. It's something I read still happens in places like Iran https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/new...


message 26: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments Good to hear Nik :-) And yes, that means Iran remains somewhat barbaric.


message 27: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments When I was growing up, the County Jail was called the County Farm. They grew their own vegetables, not sure about livestock, but my dad, a State Patrolman, said they had good food. Don't think I'd have eaten there, though. But the idea of supporting yourself with work is, I think, a good thing. Why not have farms, livestock, even dairies on prison property?


message 28: by Nik (last edited May 05, 2018 01:08AM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments As we can see here 'penal labor' was quite a popular thing once: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_l...
In USSR and before it in Tsarist Russia many died in unbearable conditions of such camps and work there.
On the other hand, at least as Wikipedia reports non-punitive prison labor returns and in the States private jails with such practices host a sizable % of inmates.
Developing new skills for the day after, supporting themselves and maybe saving up some money or sending it to family is probably not a bad thing. Not sure though I'm a fan of private jails


message 29: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Ian wrote: "My view on moderate crime is the prison system should be more like forced school - the crims, especially the young ones, should have to work, but at something where they can learn a trade or someth..."

This only works if employers accept them once they're out. Problem is, employers can discriminate against ex-cons, so they can't find work when they're out. Many become repeat offenders only because they can't support themselves legally.


message 30: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments J.J. wrote: "Ian wrote: "My view on moderate crime is the prison system should be more like forced school - the crims, especially the young ones, should have to work, but at something where they can learn a tra..."

It is an interesting point. Maybe the state should run "public industries" to employ these guys - and pay them well. In general, the state should not compete with the private sector, but if the private sector refuses to do its bit, maybe that should change. Having these working to replace infrastructure, etc, would not be all that bad, and would end up doing public good. I am not suggesting this be compulsory - but be there as a possible way of earning an income for the released.


message 31: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I know we're off topic, but that's fine with me.

I've had the idea for a while that Welfare recipients who are capable of working should have to work for their benefits. I'd not thought about the government employing released prisoners to repair infrastructure, but it's not a bad idea.


message 32: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments The 13th Amendment explicitly excludes prison labor from the abolition decree. Many states already use prisoners for some tasks...here in NC prison crews are sent around to clean up the trash on the sides of streets.


message 33: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I think that idea about the state employing released prisoners at a fair wage to repair infrastructure is a good one. It gives the released prisoners gainful employment, and the state gets motivated workers. What do you think?


message 34: by Marie (new)

Marie | 28 comments I agree with quite a few comments on here. This is a very delicate subject, but I believe that the hard core criminals that have murdered, raped, and tortured people should be put to death as what rights should they have to live when they have taken lives?

Here in the states they have federal prisons that house the worst of the worst and most of them are "lifers". They have it almost as good in the prisons than they would if they were on the street. They get three meals a day, television, radio, etc.

"We" the taxpayers here in the states are paying for them to live the good life in prison while the people they murdered are living their lives without their loved ones.


message 35: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments Marie wrote: "the people they murdered are living their lives ..."

Some of the murdered might not even be living -:)


message 36: by Marie (new)

Marie | 28 comments Nik wrote: "Marie wrote: "the people they murdered are living their lives ..."

Some of the murdered might not even be living -:)"


Very true! lol


message 37: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments I think living in a cage (even with TV) for the rest of your life is a worse punishment than death. And, even though taxpayers foot the bill, they also foot the bill for people on death row for years as they play out their appeals. In the end, if you're for the death penalty, you're saying that intentional killing is okay.


message 38: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments I'd say an economic reason, i.e. - to save costs on imprisonment, in my opinion shouldn't be even among the reasons to weigh on this issue.


message 39: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments The otherside of the coin, Nik, is say someone has killed half a dozen people. They deserved to live, but this person took away their life. Why is his sacrosanct?

Of course, if you really wanted to be cruel, you could give him the old Soviet 3 year sentence


message 40: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments Ian wrote: "They deserved to live, but this person took away their life. Why is his sacrosanct?..."

He's not and I'm not against death penalty. I'm just saying deciding for or against shouldn't be based on economic deliberations. Punishment, deterrent - yes, saving money - no, but that's just my opinion..


message 41: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments Nik, my reasoning is that economics is a good reason for having the penalty on the statutes, but it is not a good reason for using it on a specific individual. It is there was a tool, but the crim has to deserve it, and he has to be unambiguously guilty.


message 42: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6151 comments Someone commits premeditated murder and you sanction doing the same to him/her. You have to decide if premeditated murder is right or wrong and act accordingly.


message 43: by Graeme (last edited Jun 10, 2018 06:54PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Surrounding this question is several others.

What do you value more, Mercy or Justice? Can you have both at the same time? Can you have Mercy without Justice, or Justice without Mercy?

What is more important, to ensure the guilty are punished, or to ensure the innocent are not punished by mistake?

One of the problems we face as a society is that our systems for determining guilt and innocence are not perfect, sometimes mistakes are made, and sometimes they actual process is corrupted by false evidence.

The death penalty can not be undone. An innocent person, wrongfully imprisoned can be freed. A dead person, wrongfully executed can not be resurrected.

We have an adversarial court system where the onus of proof is with the prosecution to prove the accused is guilty, there is an assumption of innocence.

I agree with this position, the alternative is to assume guilt, and place the onus of proving their innocence on the accused - i.e. The inquisitorial model.

Our system is based on the value judgement that it is better that the guilty go free, rather than the innocent be punished. That the greater crime is to punish the innocent.

With the death penalty, I prefer to align with that value judgement and err on the side of caution and say no.

However, all the above presumes an environment where we have a functioning society, and active civilization.

In the modern world, there are instances where summary execution is warranted, and I'm on board with that.


message 44: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments I am with Graeme that we must not execute innocent people. On the other hand, I also believe that we do not want to imprison them either. I know the irreversibility of the death penalty is a problem, but I feel less so when it is absolutely certain that the person is guilty, OR he has been convicted of a similar crime before and served time, and is guilty again with a good degree of certainty.

Actually, I do not see prison as primarily a punishment. It is there to keep people off the streets, to protect the innocent, and also to try to re-acclimatise them so they will re-enter society as better citizens. This is partly why I think there should be quite long sentences for people who have been continual recidivists, PROVIDED when they were let out, they had a reasonable chance. If you just open the prison gate and let them walk out with no further help, the chances are that they will be back soon because there is nowhere for them.

Prison is also meant to be a deterrent. Right now, I am far from convinced it works that way.


message 45: by Lizzie (new)

Lizzie | 1847 comments I am addressing the initial question of the death penalty and also some of the comments made in the thread. So this is lengthy.

Considering the number of people the Innocence Project has proven were not guilty after conviction; the inequalities built into the American justice system; the uneven application of sentences that exist based on race and economics; the number of crimes in which the underlying cause is not malice but mental health, emotional distress ( such as PTSD), addictions - I am completely against the death sentence except as to serial killers.

In every state, the funding and resources for the public defenders office vs the prosecution is substantially less. The system is skewed towards clearing cases (police) and conviction rates (prosecution) so that truth is not the same as justice. Most homicides are spur of the moment and not pre-planned evil. I was watching a documentary recently where a police officer's wife stated her only goal was to see the person who killed her husband get the death penalty. She didn't feel better afterwards, and she came to the realization that vengeance is not justice. AN EYE FOR AN EYE LEAVES US BOTH BLIND.

We know that our criminal justice system is totally messed up. We incarcerate in both a percentage and actual number of our population more people than any other country. Those rates have not gone down because 80% of our inmates re-offend within 5 years. We don't rehabilitate, we just punish. Our system is part of the problem.

Most inmates in prison want a job. They are bored and that leads to more drug use. We are unable to even keep drugs out of our prisons. But, in most states, they pay 25 to 50 cents an hour. In AZ, and most others, the state takes 60 percent of that pay towards court costs, judgments, and other fees. In AZ they are charged $2 a month for electricity, $5 for dentist or doctor (nurse) appointment, a handling fee for any money that is placed on the inmates accounts by family and friends (and we also pay the private company that processes that money on average 7%). There is money held back from what they earn to give to them on a debit card when they leave prison (presumably to buy a bus ticket) for which the bank charges a fee (recent court ruling banks are no longer allowed to charge a fee). From their 25 cents an hour they get to keep about $40 a month. A pair of sneakers costs an inmate $20 or more and those twenty dollar sneakers last about 3 months. (They only get shower shoes for free). From what I send to my son, he gets to keep about 80%. In AZ they are required to have a job if available. While that means the basic clean the prison, maintenance, yard work, it also includes cleaning up along roads and public spaces.

Those who are eligible can get jobs for a large egg company and produce company at about $2 an hour. Personally, I think this is unfair and takes away from private citizens getting jobs with real wages. It also unfair to the inmates and their children. Child support is still required, but since they get paid cheap, there is little to go for support of their families. That means more money from the state to support the children with more children on welfare. My son recently had a job doing office work until they moved him to a different facility, for which he got 50 cents an hour. He was doing the same work he had done before being arrested, for which he was paid $8 an hour in 2012. Before that, he was tutoring inmates who were in the GED classes, at 25 cents an hour.

My son was on probation for a crime when he went off the deep end. Both his crimes, the underlying problem was opiate addiction. The system did not provide any help and he did not qualify for any health benefits because he did not have any minor children. During probation he was in group counseling. The counselor was a good source for drugs and partied with these 19 to 25 year olds. My son was guilty both times. He doesn't deny it. He was suicidal at the time he committed the 2nd crime because he couldn't find a way out on his own and there was no money or health insurance for treatment. Blaming the convicted for recidivism or having more than one crime isn't reasonable. Generally, there is no real help for them when they get out of prison. When you can't get a job, you are not provide with benefits that treat addiction, and the landlords won't rent to you, what do you do to survive?

The system is messed up from start to finish. Then add to that how many crimes are addiction related. As a society we blame addicts for their addiction - they are weak. Every person who has met my son would have described him as a good kid, friendly, smart, got along with everyone, patient, great with children and so on. His father's side of the family has a long history of alcohol abuse. My son's dad would lecture him about drugs as dad popped open the next beer. Is it genetic? My son's addiction started with prescribed medication as he broke his shoulder and knee in the same year. Is it the doctors over prescribing or big pharm who is responsible for pushing percocet? I don't know, but it is a disease which our society has failed to treat. Until we do so, we will have a revolving doors on prisons.

There is also the economics of the prison system. Private prisons. Private contractors provide health and food services. The contractor gives a bonus to employees like the head of the kitchen or the manager for health services, based on how much they "save" (as in don't spend) on feeding and providing health care. The ankle bracelet monitoring is done by private companies. The halfway house and counseling services are private contractors. My understanding is if you trace these back through the money, it all leads to several large corporations who are running the private prisons. They contribute large amounts of money towards lobbying groups, prosecutors, governors' campaigns - all intent on not changing the drug laws because doing so is negative to their bottom line.

In the past 9 years I have learned more about the criminal justice system, the prison system, and the problems of reintegration into society than I ever dreamed of in my life. (I was a paralegal, but my forte was divorce and estates.) There is no simple solution. But, we, the public, really have a skewed view of the criminal justice system and the prison system.


message 46: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16036 comments Lizzie wrote: "In the past 9 years I have learned more about the criminal justice system, the prison system, and the problems of reintegration into society than I ever dreamed of in my life. ..."

Not sure everyone will enjoy your account of realities, but I think knowing this gritty stuff is important.
Isn't 50 cents per hour a slavery? I do think there are quite a few advantages in having prisoners work, but I don't think it should have only a symbolic value. And just as penitentiary these facilities should be correctional and for this availing them a viable option after doing time seems paramount.


message 47: by Lizzie (new)

Lizzie | 1847 comments Nik wrote: I do think there are quite a few advantages in having prisoners work, but I don't think it should have only a symbolic value..""

What makes it even worse is that while the pay is symbolic, the costs the prison deducts is not.


message 48: by Lizzie (new)

Lizzie | 1847 comments Research is consistent that inmates have more success at reintegration and lower recidivism rates if they have in person visitation and frequent and meaningful contact with family and friends. Yet, most states place inmates far away. My son was 800 miles RT to visit him until a month ago. Now he is 150 miles RT. Yet, there is a state prison only 30 miles from me.

A lot of states and county jails are switching to video conference visitation and in the process they are removing in person visits. It is cheaper for them. Those video visits are run through the same companies that do emails, telephone calls and money transfers, all of which are charged fees to the friend/family. Cutting out in=person saves the prison on personnel costs.

Only recently, the feds made a ruling through an administrative arm that wiped out certain fees being charged for telephone calls, which ruling is being contested by several states including AZ. My calls went from @$8 to @$3 for a 15 minute, in-state call. Some states those telephone calls are still $15 each based on other rates and administrative costs. The state contracts with vendors to handle the phone systems and some of those contracts over the past years AZ was getting 90% of what family/friends were paying for a phone call.

So, one of the proven methods of cutting down on recidivism, meaningful and frequent contact with friends and family, has been consistently attacked at every angle because it financially benefits private corporations and the State.

On the weekends, AZ prison only provides 2 meals a day. The breakfast is a bit larger but still breakfast. The expectation is that inmates can have visitors who can bring $40 in quarters and we are to feed the inmate from the vending machines.

From every angle remaining involved for our loved ones who are incarcerated costs $money$, yet the economic levels of those who are incarcerated are generally the poorer population who can't afford those costs. The public perception is generally that inmates have it made and get free room and board and health care. A very different picture emerges when you are pulled into that system as a family member or friend.


message 49: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11771 comments I feel for Lizzie, but in my view the issue is whether the penalty is acceptable. Apart from the fact that someone might later be proven to be innocent, which I bet is rare, the life sentence for someone who is innocent is not much of an improvement. The Justice system has to be accurate - It is just as wrong to incarcerate the innocent.

The account of life in the US system was unpleasant. I suppose it is not supposed to be pleasant, but it should be oriented towards avoiding recidivism. There is a very strong case that unless the prisoner comes out with enough to be able to start life honestly there is no alternative but to steal, so back he goes. That is economically stupid, apart from being morally wrong. The penny pinching Lizzie notes is not only cruel, but it is totally counterproductive and economically stupid.


message 50: by Lizzie (new)

Lizzie | 1847 comments there are studies that put the rate at 4.1% of those given a death sentence are innocent.

in regards to overall convictions. "According to the Innocence Project's estimates, between 2.3 percent and 5 percent of all US prisoners are innocent. The American prison population numbers about 2.4 million. Using those numbers, as many as 120,000 innocent people could currently be in prison."


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