His object all sublime
He will achieve in time —
To let the punishment fit the crime —
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!
— from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan
A Good Week For The Death Penalty
This week the Commonwealth of Virginia put the DC Sniper, John Allen Muhammed, to death by lethal injection. His accomplice and fellow trigger guy, Lee Boyd Malvo, gets to live out his days in prison. He was too young to get the needle. Not quite 18. But for a few months, he would have been killed, too.
In Ohio, the State is playing around with the idea of switching from the the three drug “cocktail” to a single drug protocol that can be used by stabbing the needle into a muscle if a good vein can’t be found. It seems like the Ohio executioners couldn’t find a good vein after 18 attempts on Romell Broom and the Governor had to call off the execution.
It seems that both Ohio and Texas are trying their damnedest to catch up to Texas as the States who kill the most criminals. It’s an uphill battle. Texas kills a lot of criminals. And pretty damn fast, too.
The Death Penalty Doesn’t Work and Doesn’t Even Feel Good
I’ve heard of two reasons why the death penalty exists at all:
- Retribution – this is the “eye for an eye” argument
- Deterrence – if murderers know they will die it will make them less prone to murder
Sure, it feels good to call for the head of high profile killers. Most certainly, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, will be facing the death penalty. The 9/11 terrorists that are about to go on trial in New York are facing the death penalty. For these folks we, as a society, want justice to be swift and severe. Well, we’ll get severe. Swift is another story. The court martial of Maj. Hasan and the trials of the 9/11 terrorists will go on forever providing vicarious thrills for thousands of cable TV viewers and fodder for the “fair and balanced” network screamers.
In the end, though, it’s always a little bit anti-climatic. Once the criminal has been put down we quickly forget what it was all about and move on to the next high profile atrocity. More to the point, it doesn’t “undo” the crime. Killing the killer doesn’t bring the dead back to life. It rarely heals the broken lives of those the murders affected.
Deterrence is a joke. You can watch the news any night of the week to listen about drive-by shootings, gang-related murders, drug deals gone wrong or wronged boyfriends going nuts and killing their lovers and, sometimes, the whole family. The death penalty does not deter nut cases, whack jobs or people who just plain crack up in the moment and happen to have a gun handy. It doesn’t deter teens and young adults starving for attention, love and validation from doing what it takes to get attention either from the gang or from the media.
In short, the death penalty doesn’t work and it should be abolished. I won’t be holding my breath.
On The Other Hand…
… it’s perfectly OK to remove any semblance of reproductive choice from women who have no access to affordable health care. It seems that the “‘Just Say No’ to Everything” party is pulling out the old chestnut — abortion — to kill health care reform. They couldn’t kill it with all the scare tactics about the ‘Public Option”. God forbid, one dollar of government money be used to assist poor or even moderate income women with access to the full menu of health care options.
Of course, it’s a nice trick to kill health care reform. Women of means can always find a doctor who can help terminate a pregnancy and pay for it. It’s the poor and lower middle class who will bring children into their world of financial hardship with limited or zero access to good health care even for the child, lack of educational opportunities and general hardship. No matter whether the pregnancy was bought on by rape, incest or just plain sweet talk from an older man promising love and security but leaving as soon as the fun’s over.
Of course, poor women don’t have high-powered lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Poor women don’t have lots of money to line the campaign coffers of candidates.
Big Pharma wins. Big insurance companies win. Politicians win. People most in need of access to affordable health care….sorry.