I was struck by a remark made by a regular reader and commenter on my blog, John Myste. I don’t exactly remember where it was located, so I can’t link to it [yet], but John mentioned that after sharing his view that capital punishment should be banned, he found little support for it, even on the left.
To be honest, I’m not too fond of the idea of ending capital punishment mysef, but I am disgusted by the actual practice of capital punishment in America. The poor (who are often ethnic minorities) are more likely to be executed for their crimes, and part of this is linked to their inability to afford adequate legal counsel. But I think I have a solution to the problem.
I think capital punishment should be banned… for poor people. I don’t have a specific way of determining how to define “poor people,” but I think being too poor to be represented by anyone but a public defender is a good start. I think we can even exclude the middle class.
I would like to see the actual number of victims considered, as well. Let’s say you kill 10 people. You can count those ten people as victims, then everyone they’re directly related to, and maybe even throw in their close friends. I imagine those ten people were close with about 10-50 people each, so that means about 100-500 people were affected, and this is just a rough guesstimate. I can easily imagine scenarios where the numbers skyrocket, and there is probably no upper limit to the possible number of victims directly affected.
While this may seem callous, that isn’t very many people. It just isn’t. In a nation of over 300 million, a few hundred people barely registers. And indeed, people are killed in America every day, and unless you’re a white, middle- or upper-class woman, your story probably won’t even end up on the news. Not even most child deaths are reported nationally anymore, just a bunch of missing mothers and female college students. I guess the news only reports on a story that may elicit an image of an attractive Caucasian female being raped in a dingy basement somewhere.
I don’t think we should be executing people for murder, if only because I think that’s what the murderer wants. It seems like these days, most of the murders I hear and read about end in the killer taking their own life. It seems to me that executing a murderer is just finishing what he started (and it is usually a he). Make them live with the guilt. Make them slowly waste away in a cell while the world goes on without them.
This is especially important to me as an atheist, because I don’t think a person goes to hell when they die if they’re a bad person. From my perspective, killing someone is letting them off easy. The punishment ends once you execute someone, but it can drag on for years if you keep them alive. If your intent is retribution, the way to go is life in prison. The prospect of decades alone in a cell is infinitely more terrifying than putting them out of their misery.
But I’m not willing to throw capital punishment out altogether. I would like to change who is subject to execution, and I also take issue with the methods used. I’ll start with who I think we ought to be targeting with the death penalty.
The answer is simple: we should be making a public example of those whose actions affect millions. We should be killing those who pose a serious threat to society itself, not those who hurt a few people here or there. No, I’m not talking about terrorists. I think we should only execute politicians and white-collar, corporate criminals.
I never saw a better candidate for capital punishment than Bernie Madoff. That piece of human waste deserves to die. I feel no sympathy for him, and my deepest wish is that someone in jail castrates him and makes him eat his own genitals. I cannot wish enough horrible things upon him and those like him. When you gamble away the futures of millions of people, you deserve no future, and perhaps even a bloody, horrible demise.
And as for politicians, I think there are a whole host of crimes that warrant the death penalty. Bribery, for one, war crimes being another. If you betray the trust of your constituents by being beholden to wealthy interests, you undermine the very democracy our nation is built on. I can think of few things more truly dangerous than that… except maybe using a nation’s army to settle personal vendettas and to line the pockets of war profiteers, while in the process killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians. That also makes you not worthy of the oxygen you breathe.
Now that I think I have settled who should be subject to capital punishment, and for what sorts of crimes, I have to say: I take issue with the way executions occur now. The methods we use now are so… so… sterile and boring.
Here’s what I’m thinking: once every year or so, we should gather all of the condemned in a stadium, and they should be made to fight to the death for our amusement, and it should be televised on Pay-Per-View. All proceeds from PPV and ticket sales should go towards paying victims and their families.
I’m thinking we can mix it up and take a few cues from the Romans. In the morning, we could have corrupt bankers being fed to lions, tigers and bears (oh my). Around midday, there could be some hand-to-hand combat using medieval weaponry between disgraced elected officials. And for the main event: we’ll flood the arena floor with water, throw in some hungry sharks, and give all remaining contestants jet skis and chainsaws. The last man standing gets to live to fight another battle.
During the “off-season,” as it were, those awaiting their fate could be subjected to medical testing, and the surviving wounded could be used as practice for young surgeons. The general idea here is, we should make good use of these people who tried to take too much from society.
Ultimately, I don’t see capital punishment as a deterrent for murder. Most murderers don’t contemplate their crime far ahead of time; it is often a decision made in the moment, without much thought, and is often based on fleeting emotions.
I would rather see capital punishment reserved for more deliberate crimes, the kind that require criminal decisions to be made over and over again over a period of time. It is these types of crimes that can be deterred, because they require one to make conscious decisions to break the law. Having a corporation buy your vote is not a crime of passion, nor is scamming investors out of billions of dollars. These are crimes against humanity, crimes perpetrated by those who betray the power and privilege we as a society bestow upon a very select few. These are crimes committed by those who know better, by those who abuse their status and public trust. Really, they are the crimes of those who think (and right now, know) they can get away with it.
What better way to send the message that, “No, you will pay for your crimes,” than to promise a bloody and painful death before the roar of a crowd they cheated?