Capital Punishment: Unjust and ineffective….
So, Guido Fawkes and a gaggle of frothing-at-the-mouth Conservative MP’s want to bring back capital punishment. Guido is launching a campaign to collect a 100,000 signatures and thus force MP’s to consider the issue through one of the more gimmicky schemes this government has launched. I suspect that, even if Guido is successful, MP’s will duly consider the matter and bin the petition and they would be right to do so. The death penalty is one of those issues that it’s easy to whip up a storm of sentiment over but even a cursory consideration of the facts shows, no matter how emotionally appealing it may seem, it’s a singularly bad idea.
Firstly, it violates core principles of justice which are not, contrary to popular prejudice, purely about ‘punishing the wicked’ but also about restoration and reform of offenders. Restoration of a pre-crime state for the victims is impossible in the case of most serious offences (you can’t ‘un-murder’ somebody, for example) however reform of the offender is possible and a pivotal part of a healthy system of justice. Of course, there is also the issue of innocents who are tried, convicted and put to death and the guilty who are guilty but are more likely to be sentenced to death because of their social or ethnic background, or who are mentally ill and therefore not fully culpable for their actions. In it’s arbitrary finality the death penalty is a perversion of the core principles of justice.
Secondly, and this is the kicker, it simply doesn’t work as a ‘deterrent’. This is one of the great lies perpetrated by the pro-death penalty lobby. Name a society you think is particularly violent/dangerous and the odds are these are societies are ones in which the state can legally murder somebody (which is what the death penalty is, legalised murder). They are violent, in part, because the state does commit legalised murder, not the other way around. In America, the states which have capital punishment generally have higher homicide rates than those that don’t. Rationally, it staggers me beyond belief that people insist the prospect of dying would deter anybody determined enough to kill.
Guido and his Conservative lackeys are not reflecting popular will but are in actual fact fanning the flames of popular ignorance and blindness when it comes to this issue. No principled or rational case exists for the restoration of the death penalty; the only case is the one-made by unprincipled demagogues and those who are blinded by emotional responses to an issue which demands emotional detachment, lest the innocent and most vulnerable suffer the most horrific consequences.