Say it loud and say it often, but above all say it with panache!

I just wanted to acknowledge a couple of really excellent articles I have read in the past couple of days, disparaging the Death Penalty.

It is time to abolish the Death Penalty
This News Junkie Post by Gilbert Mercier is spot on and makes some excellent points.

I was originally going to write a post for my blog called ‘When is it OK to commit murder?’ in order to set out my take on execution being no better than sheer State-sanctioned murder, but Gilbert puts it perfectly in his opening para:
“The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is a premeditated and cold blooded killing of a human being by a state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice. It is barbaric and violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of human rights.”

And the photograph (shown here) he uses sums it up brilliantly. In  fact I am going to use that on my blog homepage (can‘t see any copyright restrictions?) It shows a bumper sticker with the legend ‘Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?’

He also makes the point that America can hardly take an international stance on human rights when it has its own backyard situation to explain. I was thinking this very thing recently when friends on Twitter decrying the human rights situ in Iran were begging for foreign nations to openly criticise the Iranian government for allowing the execution of minors to go ahead (amongst the rest of the human rights abominations practised in that country). Apparently Britain and France etc were very swift in doing this, but for some reason it was taking the US Congress some time to come out and make a public international declaration against Ahmadinejad and the actions of his “judiciary”. Hardly surprising given the domestic tolerance of the death penalty and everything that is despicable in relation to that. I would personally say that the USA is over the line, not close to it, on the matter of human rights. In another post I want to set down some thoughts about ‘cruel and unusual punishment’; I can think of more than a few ways that the United States exact this on their condemned prisoners and their families and the families of victims.

Look, NOBODY deserves to die*, nobody. FFS, death comes soon enough to us all in any case. ‘An eye for an eye’ is barbaric, outdated, uncivilised and irrelevant outside of Bible-driven reactionary culture. And in any case it belongs to the dimension of Religion, not State issues. No-one would deny that the most dangerous members of society need to be incarcerated for the protection of that society; nor would they deny that in most cases, rehabilitation and ‘corrective’ atonement is not appropriate; nor would we deny that leniency has failed the public in the past – where people paroled too soon have succumbed to recidivism and lives have been lost or ruined as a result. Perhaps, too, there is a case for making punishment fit the crime. But punitive measures should NEVER be irreversible – for the obvious reason that even one innocent person wrongly executed or maimed makes the system inhumane and untenable; and neither should they result in cruelty as defined by international standards of human rights.

I truly, truly believe that every living person has value. It is most probably a lack of sense of that value which has led people into the lifestyles which has resulted in their criminal act (but that’s a whole different matter). It is my belief that penal reform should embrace incarceration with relevance, irrespective of a person’s crime. Killers should pay by having their freedom removed, by being denied access to common luxuries, and by being obliged while in confinement to work in some way which both proves their value and makes restitution both to their community and to the families of their victims.

But anyway – this is a whole different thing and I am straying from what I wanted to say next. Which was to point my readers to the other excellent article I stumbled across recently – by Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle. A wonderfully sardonic set of observations around the cost of maintaining a system of execution by lethal injection for even one individual vs the funding it would take to get a bunch of under-privileged youngsters through a college education. As usual the comments in response to the article are a mix of support and callous unswerving ignorance, but we can’t do more than ask for debate and keep, keep, keep repeating the manifold reasons why the death penalty is just WRONG.

The Lethal Injection College Fund
Pure class! Go read it in full here.

An excerpt:

“Here’s my simple and semi-obvious idea: what if Washington D.C. had taken the same $30 million, and instead of killing a single remorseless criminal, created upwards of 600 full-ride college scholarships for lower-income or minority students, at 50 grand each?

In other words, for every criminal a given state is seeking to execute — like, for example, the Fort Hood killer, who they say might well be eligible for the death penalty — we take the same tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and send hundreds of kids through college instead, kids who otherwise would never have been able to afford it and in fact might’ve ended up on the streets or in prison.

We’ll call it the Lethal Injection College Fund. It shall, by its very existence, do nothing less than completely transform the ugly American revenge impulse into something celebratory and optimistic. We shall transmute a brutal crime into a glimmer of hope and possibility. From dark to light. From excrement, flowers. From our most violent nightmares, a hint of grace. What a thing.”

Cor, indeed, what a thing, bless ya Mark!

* I admit, I am struggling with the issue of immediate reactive self-defence and the defence of others. I think this may be the only time when it may be OK to kill – when all else fails in terms of stopping someone from killing you. The same might also apply for cases of severe cruelty and provocation if all else failed. However I can also see that there would always be an argument for stopping any such threat by causing injury rather than death…?

November 14, 2009 - Posted by | cost, death penalty, human rights, hypocrisy, justice, lethal injection

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