Friday, December 24, 2010

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 3): And Justice For All

**NOTE: This was written previously and kept sitting on my iPad until I was ready to post it. There are about three or four more of these that I will be posting as "catch-ups" between now and new years.**

So this week, we talked briefly about the death penalty in my class today. To be honest, I tend to waver about the death penalty. I am torn between the fiscal sense of the death penalty and the lack of social good it does ... let me explain.

I believe that the death penalty makes good fiscal sense. It costs lots and lots of money to maintain a prisoner in prison, especially with the indefinite sentence of "life in prison", which ostensibly means you remain in prison until you die. It makes much more fiscal sense to enable states to use the death penalty as a punishment for violent offenders, which then removes the financial burden from the state of maintaining the prisoner.

However, I believe that the social benefit of the death penalty is limited at best. The deterrent effect of the death penalty is confined to the offenders themselves. A dead criminal will not commit any more crimes. Beyond the actual offender, I don't really think that the average person gives any thought to the death penalty as a deterrent. After all, we execute criminals so infrequently, is a sentence of death really any different from a sentence of life in prison?

IF we were to want to make the death penalty a more effective tool of social change, it would require a serious change in the way the due process of death row inmates is handled. We would have to limit the ability of an inmate to postpone their execution date by filing lawsuits and motions. We would need to streamline the appeals process for death penalty cases so that an appeal is filed, heard and disposed of in short order. Perhaps if it becomes regular news of criminals being sent to their maker, others will think twice about committing heinous crimes.

Finally, we considered this thought: put the executions on pay per view. Even at only five bucks per execution, there are enough death junkies out there to put the death penalty on a paying basis. Just one televised execution would net the prison system millions. Imagine, living in a world where rape an murder are rare, and the perpetrators are caught and punished for their crimes.

ADDENDUM: So as I post this I am re-reading it and realizing it ends rather abruptly, but I will leave it as it was when I typed it.

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