Thursday, September 30, 2010

Capital Punishment

Recently, I've seen a rash of news articles considering capital punishment. The idea of capital punishment is absolutely abhorrent to me, no matter what the crime. The thought of purposely killing another human being strapped to a table makes me physically ill. It has become so awful that I must force myself not to read any of the article articles concerning an execution.

I am aware scores of people would emphatically disagree with my feelings. Those people on death row have committed horrific crimes, almost always murder. The loved ones of the victims will never be able to fully recover from their loss and I cannot blame them for desiring revenge on these criminals. And I have no objection to life sentences for murders.

Despite this, I cannot support capital punishment. To me, it is the equivalent of another murder. It fixes nothing. It cannot bring the victim(s) back to life. It cannot heal the pain their death caused. All it does is create more people who have lost a loved ones, for, no matter how evil their actions are, murderers still have families and friends, and their deaths will also cause great pain.

What is worse is the absolute indifference from the justice system. In Texas, several death row inmates have been denied permission to introduce new DNA evidence that could exonerate them. Their lives are viewed as worthless and no one cares enough to even absolutely determine their guilt. It is sickening that these criminals lives are seen as so expendable. They become nothing more than a statistic.

From a practical view, in the United States it costs more to execute a criminal than to leave them in prison for the rest of their lives. It is also an unfair penalty, with minorities predisposed to be sentenced to death than caucasians for similar crimes. A multitude of studies have demonstrated that the existence of a death penalty does not deter crime. Yet none of these rational reasons have a substantial influence on my own opinion. The strongest instinct inside me tells me that executing a human being is deeply and profoundly wrong.

Most would presumably question my intense feelings for murders and I doubt my opinion is widely held. How can I feel sick over people who have committed heinous crimes and never contributed positively to society in any way? They ask "where is your sympathy for the victim?". Or "what about justice?"

Well, my sympathy for the victim is just as strong. But I cannot, and will not, eradicate my sympathy and compassion for the murderers. The Bible itself tells us to love our enemies. As a society, we should do everything we can to help these people. A majority of them  have been neglected or abused as children. This by no means excuses their crimes. But it does mean that we should be aware of the factors that can put individuals on the path toward a life of crime.

As for justice, I think that life in prison serves the place of justice. They will be punished for their entire lives. Execution is not necessary for justice to be accomplished, nor will it reverse the agony the criminal has produced. Only God has that ability.

I deeply believe in the infinite worth in every single person, no matter how terrible their crimes. I have always felt this way, but my feelings have intensified the past year. I believe in a God who is love. If God loves every person equally, how can I be justified in feeling that the taking of a life by execution is justice? How do I know that, if given the chance, these people might change? Shouldn't they be given that chance? 

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