Monday, July 13, 2009

The Death Penalty-

Over time I have reconsidered my support for the death penalty. Perhaps some is the consequence of the changed perspective of many years of living. A great deal is the consequence of working many years in a county jail.

I have learned something of what life in prison is like. Even in our relatively humane modern prisons life is difficult and brutish. It is no favor to the guilty to sentence them to a life in prison, especially without prospect of parole.

With that in mind, the appetite for vengeance that drives the passion for the death penalty for many people can be satisfied with the knowledge that it is not a pleasant life to which the guilty are assigned.

Additionally, by sentencing a person to a life in prison it does remain possible to reverse the sentence should additional evidence vindicate a sentence server. That simply cannot be done in the case of an execution. On this point the opponents to the death penalty are right, no matter what their actual motive for that opposition.

From a cost only perspective a quick execution of those found guilty of murder would be a savings. However, few executions soon follow a sentence, and death row inmates are expensive to hold. Calculating a break even point in the cost of a life sentence as opposed to a death sentence might prove difficult.

I don't have the data, but the rough figures I have seen in the past indicate that the greater expense of death row housing over the protracted periods inmates reside in such housing hint at a probable savings in an alternative a life sentence.

While working in jail I have transferred a lot of young people to prison. Some I have transferred repeatedly. As the inmates aged they tended to get longer sentences. I don't recall seeing any of these repeat offenders come back after reaching the age of forty five or so.

Are they dying in prison? It would seem so. Many become diseased due to chronic abuse of drugs, alcohol, and dangerous sexual practices. Many practice violence in their youth that eventually comes back upon them as they are sentenced to long terms later in life. The probability of a long life is not high in prison.

I shall not be joining any protests of the death penalty. I shall not strive to halt any particular executions. I shall support elimination of the death penalty as a voter. I will probably not consider the position of a candidate on the death penalty as critical with regard to my support and my vote.

I am reminded of one inmate I transferred to prison. He had three consecutive life sentences. I was confident he would serve the first one. I doubted he would make it through the other two.

Death was too good for him.


Jared said...

I don't have a problem with the death penalty per se, but rather with the justice system in general in regard to determination of guilt or innocence and penalties for guilt. Perpetual imprisonment, however, serves no use for society and costs quite a bit of money. We should at least be allowed to do non-invasive psychiatric or neurological research on them. Perhaps by understanding the causes resulting in these crimes, specifically, violent crimes, they can be prevented.

Michael Lockridge said...

I am not a fan of prohibition. It is estimated that 80% of the people in prison are there for crimes related to drug abuse. Many of those crimes would not occur if there were no prohibition on the free use of drugs.

Were the prohibition ended the population in prisons would decline by roughly 80%. Housing the remaining criminals would cost the same per individual, but with fewer to house the overall cost would be lower.

Imprisonment does prevent repeated crimes, or more accurately confines the crimes to prisons. Liberating some funding by ending prohibition would allow such research as you suggest.

Since prisoners like to work out, we could also give them exercise equipment that generates electricity. They would become a resource and not a burden. With any luck, they would offset their own cost and perhaps even make a contribution to society.