Capital Punishment and Justice

Capital Punishment and Justice
Paul Johnson

So, it’s just a coincidence that the Bush Administration has decided to wait until now to prosecute bad guys #1, #2, and #3, all responsible for 9/11. (By the way, I thought Bush was responsible for failing to protect us from 9/11, but that’s another story.) So, if we ignore the unreliable nature of tortured confessions, and ignore the totally unethical and deceptive Bush Administration, and ignore all the questions about how Saddam (oops, I mean Osama) has gotten EVERYTHING he demanded from the US, ignoring all these things, if we find the bad guys guilty and everyone really believes it, how do we punish them?

On another note, there has been new evidence discovered around the finding of the latest dead victim of the Nevada UNR serial rapist. The charity fund to help find the poor missing girl is now redirecting their efforts from finding the girl to exacting “justice”.

In yet another news story, there have been hundreds of deaths every year caused by greed in the medical industry. Back when our country was young, and for thousands of years before that, when someone killed or crippled a friend or neighbor or customer through greed or stupidity, we felt obligated to ensure that the victim and his family were taken care of.

So, what is justice? I should remind you that justice is not, in any way, the same as revenge. Revenge is a lousy moral trait. No amount of killing or suffering will ever bring back someone’s ability to walk or live and breath.

What is capital punishment? It’s nothing more than revenge, plain and simple.

Electrocuting someone to death doesn’t bring back loved ones, it only causes more pain, suffering, and death, and not just for the hopefully correctly convicted convict, but for his friends and family as well. And why should we care? Because we’re better people than that.

The Death Penalty does not exact justice, but only revenge.

Pay attention to the number of people on death row and in lifetimes of incarceration who have recently been  found innocent. Imagine how many have already been put to death who were also innocent. In these cases, the “justice” in the form of revenge, has become murder, cold blooded murder on our parts. That’s not something we want to be a part of.

So, what is the purpose of our penal system if not for revenge? I suppose everyone can answer that. Our penal system is supposed to serve two purposes, first, it acts to discourage wrong-doing through fear of the consequences, and the second is to protect society from the bad apples.

In the first case, the term penal system is incorrect. What we really need to call it is a re-education system. The best way to ensure that convicts, innocent and guilty alike, turn to crime when they leave the penal system is to fail in our efforts to rehabilitate or re-educate them.

In the second case, the penal system isn’t intended to reform or re-educate criminals, but to prevent them from doing further harm to society.

In neither of these cases is “Penal System” the correct solution. No wonder it doesn’t work.

So, we seem to have a pretty good handle on what “Justice” is not. But what, exactly, is it? How, exactly do we reform our penal system into a correctional system?

Looking at the three examples in the beginning of this essay, we have three overlapping solutions to three very different crimes, and yes, malpractice is a crime.

#1. Will fear of death prevent religious zealots from trying to infect the rest of society? I guess that’s pretty obvious, but needs to be stated. Punishment, especially the death penalty, does not discourage the mentally unstable. This is true not just of religious fanatics, but applies equally well to any crimes done out of emotion. In other words, the only crime that punishment will discourage is crimes done by high-society aristocratic spoiled kids getting their kicks. This will not discourage emotionally driven people, and will obviously not discourage desperate people.

Putting to death religious zealots will only breed more religious zealots.

#2. What is justice for the doctor who is performing so many operations that he can’t keep them straight and ends up cutting off the wrong limb? Just as in the past, this greedy doctor should be responsible for the victim and his dependents for life.  What about cases where the perpretator has no means of supporting the victim and family? Then a life of servitude is in order. Serve that family in any way you can, and if that means going door to door begging for food for the victims, then get to it.

Will a million dollar punitive damage settlement be fair justice? Perhaps, if that’s what will make the victim feel fairly compensated for the loss of his sight, or hearing, and if the family will feel fairly compensated for the loss of a loved one and the loss of decades of care, help, and income. But, really, would you trade your eyesight for a million dollars? How do you put a price on something like that?

Keep in mind, that this corrupt industry is trying their best to limit their need and inclination to provide restitution to those they’ve harmed. This is immoral in so many ways. Yes, we need to reform our medical industry.

#3. The serial rapist currently preying on the girls and young women of Reno’s UNR campus is not discouraged by fear of death. He is encouraged by his belief that he will not be caught. I guess if we had the cops that are currently busting people for smoking pot, or watching adult movies, or prostitution out there on the streets dealing with real crime, then the criminal would be much less inclined to rape and kill, but he would still yearn for it and would eventually succumb to his weakness.

When caught and convicted, will the correction system be able to rehabilitate him? Was Willie Horton on the path to rehabilitation? I’m not a psychologist, but I know that some people are not able or willing to rehabilitate. Can a jury decide this? I suppose not. Since I’m not a psychologist, I couldn’t decide, and nor could all but a very few jurors. However, many jurors are driven by emotions, especially in cases like this. Decisions based on emotion, are what got us in this mess, it’s obviously not the solution.

In cases where the bad apples must be separated from society, rehabilitation should still be a regular part of the incarceration, but keeping the bad apples out of society has to be the primary focus in these cases. For those who we are unable to keep out of society should then be considered candidates for a more permanent solution. Is that solution Capital Punishment? I don’t think so.

In conclusion, what do we do with the people responsible for 9/11? I suggest we start with impeachment. If we fail to impeach, will that encourage criminal behavior by future presidents? Maybe in some cases, but it’s not a solution in itself, either.

What do we do with the three 9/11 suspects delivered by Bush? Maybe we could start by apologizing for being so un-American and torturing them and refusing them legal council. Then, if they truly are guilty, we could rehabilitate them and use them as poster children on anti-terrorist propaganda to broadcast to religiously fanatical groups here and abroad.