May 1, 2017 | View PDF
Capital punishment is a topic that many people want to avoid discussing. Opinions about it are all over the map—from people who are totally opposed to the ones who would like to round up huge numbers of criminals and “fry ‘em till their eyeballs pop out.” Arguments about the right thing to do for various crimes have persisted for many decades and will likely continue through the foreseeable future.
The death penalty dates far back before the dawn of written history, and multitudes of different methods have evolved over the millennia. Nearly all of them were horribly cruel—burning at the stake, burial alive, crucifixion, drawing and quartering, keelhauling, and impaling—just to mention a few.
In more recent history, when people became more civilized, they developed less cruel methods—beheading, firing squads, hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, and finally lethal injection.
There are two primary reasons to justify a death penalty:
1. Some people (terrorists and mass murderers for example) are just too dangerous to be allowed to remain in society. Even in prison they can collude with others and plan more acts of terror and destruction. There is a possibility of escape, and it does happen on rare occasions. A much greater risk of escape is being traded for other people being held captive in other countries. A perfect example a few years ago was when our so-called “President” with the blessings of Congress released five of the world’s most dangerous terrorists from GITMO in exchange for one American deserter. We still don’t know how many innocent people those five have massacred since then. And we don’t know how many other GITMO inmates might be turned loose in the future.
2. It costs a great deal of money to keep people in prison. They have to be housed, fed, clothed, and guarded. Health care must be provided. If the prisoners have a reasonable chance of being rehabilitated and then released to be honest citizens, prison and then parole is a viable option. But people with mindsets of destruction with no remorse will only spend their time and effort planning the most evil deeds imaginable. And they can and will influence the minds of the other prisoners and even terrorize and/or kill some of them. For them, life without parole is not a viable option.
Obviously, a death penalty has a legitimate purpose. Some people are just too dangerous to have around. We don’t need to overcrowd our prisons and waste our taxes with that kind of incorrigible riffraff.
One problem is that some people are hard-core opponents—that having the state kill people regardless of how dangerous they are—is morally wrong. This has led to protracted, expensive trials and repeated appeals that routinely delay executions for years, often 20 or more. This is a sharp contrast to earlier decades of speedy trials (as stated in our Constitution) and prompt executions within a few days. In addition, these delays impose needless mental anguish onto the criminals, the victims, and the taxpayers who are footing the bill.
Oddly, the same people who whine about the cruelty of executions are strangely quiet about the routine homosexual rapes and other abuses that aggressive inmates and sometimes the staff impose upon the weaker ones.
Torture and suffering have no place in a civilized society. The purpose of a death penalty is not revenge. It is to remove the dangerous people. Since we now have painless methods, the argument of cruelty does not wash. In fact, it is a great deal more humane than locking people up in cages for the rest of their lives and letting them waste away. And don’t forget that the taxpayers would be relieved of the needless expenses of supporting them.
What is the most practical method to carry out an execution? Most people agree that electrocution and the right types of poisoning, if done properly, are the best ways to do the job.
In the early 1900’s electrocution gradually replaced hanging as a preferred method. A few states, like California, opted for a gas chamber. In recent years, lethal injection has become the choice of many states, including Alabama. Many people today believe that it is the most peaceful and pain-free procedure. Most of the time, it has worked very well. But right here in Alabama, a glitch recently caused a botched execution, and the drug company that had provided the specialized chemicals has shut off supplies.
But other ordinary chemicals can be substituted. Humane shelters routinely put many thousands of surplus animals to sleep with no problems. Why can’t it be done with human animals? Jack Kevorkian’s three stage device had always worked very well with no mishaps, and the chemicals for it are readily available. An even simpler procedure is carbon monoxide. A person breathing it just falls asleep, peacefully. It should be more expedient than our current snafu-prone injections or the cyanide pellets dropped into acid that California has been using.