General Question

RareDenver's avatar

Do you think the death penalty has a place in todays society?

Asked by RareDenver (13097 points ) July 11th, 2010

I ask this of all citizens of all nations, do you wish the death penalty was not an option where you live? Do you wish it was an option? Do you believe it to be a just deterrent to the most serious crimes? Do you believe it to be the most barbaric way a civilization can express it’s collective will? Do you believe it helps a wider part of society than those directly affected by the perpetrators crime? Do you believe it is merely a cost cutting exercise? Do you believe it makes the populace safer?

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61 Answers

perspicacious's avatar

I personally oppose the death penalty, period.

TexasDude's avatar

I have severely mixed feelings about the death penalty.

For one, it’s definitely not a cost cutting measure. The appeals alone usually clog up and cost the system more than keeping the prisoner alive.

Secondly, I do believe that some crimes are ludicrously heinous, and some criminals are so far beyond rehabilitation that offing them would be the best punishment. Besides, life in prison for some wouldn’t be too bad a punishment at all. They get three squares a day, a yard to play in, books to read, etc., right?

BUT and that’s a big but… I don’t like letting the government have power over life and death for people, even if said people are the ultimate scum of the earth.

My emotions say go ahead and kill the bastards, but my logic says that it probably isn’t the best idea. Thankfully it’s not up to me to decide. We have a tenth amendment in my country that pretty much lets individual states decide if they want a death penalty or not.

Bottom line is, I have no idea, but I lean towards a big “no.”

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

There is no death penalty in Canada. There has been no evidence that it deters homicide. I do not believe it benefits or protects society in any way. I do not want people killed by the government on my behalf. Do I sometimes feel so outraged by a crime that I emotionally feel that the perpetrator deserves some ultimate penalty? Yes, but after careful thought, I know that is not the answer.

ItsAHabit's avatar

I oppose the death penalty except in certain very specific cases, such as murdering a correctional officer while in prison.

Coloma's avatar

I oppose.

Society needs to be protected form the dangerous elements, but, those dangerous elements are sadly disturbed people too.

I have no answers, but I do not believe we have a right to take anothers life, ever, regardless.

marinelife's avatar

I am opposed to the death penalty. How can the state be opposed to murder if it is itself guilty of murder?

I do not think it is a deterrent.

ipso's avatar

I think the death penalty is right as rain. It’s absolutely a valid and (I believe) effective deterrent, if levied in a just and consistent manner.

What is “barbaric”, if anything, is keeping them in a cage. The government does not decide – a jury of peers decides, in a fair and honest court of law.

Coloma's avatar

@marinelife

I agree.

To murder someone for murdering is hypocrisy defined.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

im not really against it. but you have to consider well they were proven guilty but what if their innocent. your also punishing their loved ones and i wouldnt want or take the job to start the electric chair or drop the door. i say put them on a remote island in the pacific. if they survive good if not oh well

daytonamisticrip's avatar

the island would be for killers and rapist

Kraigmo's avatar

The Innocence Project has proven that a certain percentage of men put to death by the government, were innocent.

So long as there’s room for error, the death penalty should be abolished.

Bring it back when judges and juries and prosecutors are 100% accurate.

Coloma's avatar

I also tend towards karmic belief…whether or not it’s a possibility, but IF..by some chance, our souls are reincarnated for spiritual growth, well…maybe that criminal is just fulfilling one of their destinies for reasons we cannot and do not wish to comprehend or entertain.

All I know is I wouldn’t wish to interject myself into that mix, I am hoping I am nearing the end of the wheel. lol

lynfromnm's avatar

I think there are circumstances in which the death penalty is appropriate. However, as justice is meted out around the world, I don’t think it can be fairly administered now. I don’t think the death penalty should be used in cases of circumstantial evidence – it’s just too subjective. The fact is that people in the lower economic strata are usually the ones who get the death penalty while wealthier people who can afford the best attorneys get lighter sentences, and that doesn’t seem right to me either.

stardust's avatar

I agree with @marinelife and @Coloma in that it’s complete hypocrisy to “punish” murder with murder. It’s simply not the answer to me. I believe it’s barbaric and not a deterrent. Such archaic systems need to be torn down and re-built on a foundation of education and awareness

ipso's avatar

I wonder what the conversion rate is for people who were against it, but then had their most cherished loved ones or children brutally raped and murdered by a completely unapologetic serial rapist. (god forbid)

I wonder if their more informed POV is more valid relative to making this decision, or should their opinion be excluded for being biased?

What about a sane prisoner who says: “I did it. I’ll do it again. I totally deserve and accept the death penalty as just.”, and there is absolute proof? On what basis are they exempt?

This is not intended to be inflammatory. I’m truly curious on these dimensions of the OP.

UScitizen's avatar

The death penalty is the ultimate justice, under the correct circumstances. What is unjust is allowing a corrupt government to implement this penalty and execute the citizens.

Coloma's avatar

@ipso

Those situations would not shft my thinking in this area.

Anyone that is capable of crimes such as those, as horrible as they are, deserve some measure of compassion too.

Only seriously deranged and anti-social personalities commit crimes such as these and they are disordered in ways that do, render them irresponsible.

Killing the mentally ill is not any better than murdering or raping.

Besides…as long as a person is alive there is a chance for their redemption..a way for them to make amends, make a contribution, heal and bring some goodness out of tragedy.

I know this is not a popular opinion but it is an enlightened way of thinking about a situation.

Look at the Bird man of Alcatraz..and others.

Not all lost souls remain lost forever, and the noblelest part of our humanity is our ability to forgive.

zophu's avatar

First, we as a people must demand that qualified science be the only determining factor in how the community deals with people who are a risk—wait, I skipped a step. First, we need to demand that qualified science be the only authority in determining who is an actual risk towards the health of the community. Then, we need to demand that qualified science be the only authority in determining what is done with these harmful or potentially harmful people. We fucking fail at both of those things. It’s utterly pathetic, for us more than the criminals.

There is absolutely no scientific reason to condemn people to death. In fact, there is no scientific reason to condemn anyone at all, for anything. If you don’t work with society, then it is your right to be incompatible—because it is either your sickness, or society’s sickness, or (almost always) both. It is our responsibility to quarantine you for study and potential treatment or other resolution.

Of course, if we started using “science” to dictate how we are organized, we would be forced to recognize that our entire power structure is as corrupt as it is incompetently idealistic. And that wouldn’t be nice.

Coloma's avatar

‘Criminals are people who were never loved enough to make a difference.’ ( author forgotten )

josie's avatar

The death penalty is morally justifiable. But an institution that is corrupt and fallible as is the modern State should not have the power to snuff a citizen. So until the rules of evidence change, and there is no metaphysical doubt of the guilt of a capital criminal, they should be locked up forever, or until the State’s mistake is revealed and they are released.

ipso's avatar

@Coloma – that’s a damn darn good answer.

However, I feel the noblest part of Christianity is to forgive, whereas the noblest part of Humanity is to give your life for your country in [a just] war.

I had a criminal justice class in college and I remember being told prison was historically 100% about punishment. Death was in fact not what you did to particularly heinous criminals – you tortured them for life in a dungeon. But in the New World apparently puritan factions championed the idea of “rehabilitation” (via the bible), and that was a revolutionary idea relative to traditional state imprisonment. I don’t have support, but I distinctly remember being told that.

Criminal justice is fascinating stuff.

Coloma's avatar

The death penalty does nothing for the victims.
It is ALL about assuaging the pain of the surviving loved ones.

Hows that productive?

It’s not.

Why would anyone wish to burden themselves even more in their greif by having a hand in yet more pain and suffering.

Senseless.

Coloma's avatar

@ipso

Well said

I’d just sub in ‘spirituality for Christianity. :-)

missingbite's avatar

Totally against the death penalty in almost all cases. However, with that said, only a few people in prison would get to that point if we made prisons a place you NEVER want to visit. Doing hard time should be just that. Hard. I for one, don’t think the PC way of running prisons is working. We need chain gangs. We need hard labor. We need criminals to be scared to come back after serving a prison term.

I know most on Fluther will disagree with me but that’s how I see it.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I believe in the death penalty for particular offenses by offenders who are beyond rehabilitation and can’t be trusted to ever be among society. I don’t believe they should be penned up somewhere out of sight in misery, preying on other prisoners and supported by society’s tax dollars. To me, the death penalty isn’t so much a punishment for past deeds or determent for others as keeping the rest of society safe.

Coloma's avatar

I dunno..all I know is criminals are already really angry, sad, disturbed people.

Treat angry and sad with more brutality you’re just going to harden the monster within.

I think that prisons should do what they promise…hah….instead of cruel hard labor I like the working ranches, the Nevada prisons that get the guys into working with the BLM mustangs, teach them a trade like horse shoeing or training…give them something POSITIVE, to bring them back to some sort of connection to caring!

Chain gangs are just going to make someone madder and sadder.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Coloma
Rapists of small children, serial torturers/murderers, drug people used to making six figure incomes- these people are never going to have an interest in not doing what they’re in prison for and to work in animal shelters or whatever instead.

plethora's avatar

For all practical purposes, we do not have a death penalty in the US. What we have is a long long prison sentence with the possibility of death at some point in the distant future either by the hand of the state or natural causes. While I would be in favor of an effective death sentence for appropriate crimes (Jeffrey Dahmer comes to mind), I have seen too many people exonerated by DNA in the last few years to trust our justice system to wield the death sentence.

Coloma's avatar

@Neizvestnaya

Well..of course segregating the mentally ill from the mere greedy…always a million pieces to the puzzle, but..I still think all in all it s about positive reinforcement not more brutality for your ‘run o’ the mill’ criminal types.

zophu's avatar

@missingbite Months—years—of “hard” prison doesn’t serve as deterrent as much as it just breaks you to the point where the real world no longer exists for you. Well, I guess there are a lot of people who pull through it okay, but it’s still brutish. It’s sad how quickly fear is used to influence people over education (and actual rehabilitation.) I guess it’s cheaper.

Coloma's avatar

@zophu

Yes. Sad is the word.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Coloma
It’s boggling who all makes up the “run of the mill criminal” but I would be in favor of rehab and training for them as long as we could afford to offer everyone else in non offending society the same opportunities and services.

zophu's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I think it’s like 47% of the population is made up of people in for non-violent, drug-related crimes. I guess that includes dealers, though. I don’t really know, but it’s weird how even addicts are bunched together with the truly insane criminals. Is that really how we’re supposed to make people better? Surround them with other, more severely sick people in a confined, insulated environment?

Coloma's avatar

If I had one wish it would be to end all the suffering. :-(

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@zophu
That’s how I see it also. Watching film clips about prisoners detailing how they become better criminals doesn’t endear me to the system in place either. What to do now that institutions are frowned upon? The insane and/or unmanageables get sent to prisons instead and mixed in with people who look at non criminals as entertainment or source of profit.

plethora's avatar

@Coloma Well certainly…who wouldn’t?

Coloma's avatar

@plethora

Just had a moment of universal sadness hit. I’ve recovered. lol

zophu's avatar

@plethora widespread suffering is ultimately good for business. it’s what the developed world is founded on. not everyone’s looking to end it. not the people who have the power to do so anyway.

missingbite's avatar

@zophu I probably should have clarified myself a little more. Take an 18 year old kid that gets busted for selling crack. Should he get a reduced sentence and probation or 30 days of breaking rocks into small pile. Or digging a ditch on a chain gang for 30 days. 15 hours a day. This is his first offense of anything. What kind of rehabilitation would he get in todays courts system? I feel, and I could be wrong, that you are less likely to see this kid again. He may have learned his lesson. Too many kids see their friends arrested for things like selling pot or crack, only to be back out on the street selling the next day and not jail time. Most of the time, laughing at the system.

Some people need rehabilitation. Some need long term prison. Some and I mean some, need death.

Cruiser's avatar

I can’t say anyone deserves to die, but I will say there are a lot that don’t deserve the life they have.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I like what @Cruiser has written above me.
That more how I feel, that no one deserves to die or suffer but it comes down to caring for them or protecting people who cause no problems.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’m against it. Studies have shown that is does nothing to bring down the levels of violent crime. Too often the state will prosecute the most prosecutable person, not necessarily the the guilty one. Even one innocent person executed erroneously is too many.

Here’s one that was a death sentence case that was commuted to life in prison and he was innocent the whole time

Coloma's avatar

@tranquilsea

I can’t imagine anything worse than being falsely accused. Could you imagine!

Well..maybe a run in with a serial killer… :-/

aniisback's avatar

I have a kind of mixed feeling about the whole thing. Yeah sometimes when you see a terrorist attack or so, you feel like the whole terrorists should be caught and sentenced to most painful death type possible. But yeah most of the time, for other sorts of crimes i feel like a rehab, or a long sentence would have done the job. I think every government should once more check their laws and just be a little more lenient in certain cases

tranquilsea's avatar

@Coloma I can’t either.

YARNLADY's avatar

I am not against the death penalty for those who have proven they don’t deserve to live.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@tranquilsea A more recent case in Canada was David Milgaard who was exonerated with DNA after serving 22 years in prison. Evidence was found that the police never looked for any other suspects and concealed exculpatory evidence to guarantee a quick conviction.

There are so many other such cases in North America.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am a coward, I do not want to push the button or pull the trigger to execute anyone. But at the same time I think rehabilitation is not a viable option for hardened criminals and repeat offenders. Let’s face it, therapy can’t even rehabilitate smokers. I also hate to see my tax dollars spent to feed, house and clothe murderers and rapists. I would rather see them spent on more productive endeavors. Does it not annoy you that you get up and go to work each day to support people who make no contribution to anything?

It seems as if prison should be a punishment and after being there once, the first time offenders would not want to go back. I don’t buy into the theory that people become criminals because there is no other option, it is the option they choose above others. Not every underprivileged person becomes a criminal, so some make different choices.

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that when I hear, and if happens all too often, that a guy who was just released from prison or acquitted because of some sort of technicality goes out and commits another brutal rape or murder, it makes me wonder if society would
not be safer if the death penalty had been used in the first place.

missingbite's avatar

@rooeytoo I agree about the tax dollars. My state is relatively small and we budget 44 million a year for litter pick up. I can’t think of a better solution for 16 year olds caught of small crimes than picking up trash every weekend 16 hours a day for 6 months. First they won’t have time to commit more crimes and second, the state saves money. Problem is, some people have said that is cruel punishment. I disagree and think it would teach some of these kids a lesson.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence I followed that case too. The Steven Truscott case chilled me because he was sentenced to death and he was only 14 at the time of the crime.

Coloma's avatar

@rooeytoo

I have no solutions for repeat offenders, and, it is true that many do re-offend within an amazingly short amount of time after release, as well as those that are released against psychiatric reccomendation as well.

But..I never give thought to feeling angry because there are others that are not productive members of society.

There have always been indiginent segments of the population, whether it’s street beggars in Calcutta or dishonest welfare recipients.

For every truly ‘lazy bum’ there are another dozen that are mentally ill.

What to do?

I don’t know…but I don’t waste energy being angry about this reality.

It is the way of the world….do what you can and forget about the rest.

Austinlad's avatar

In the abstract, I have the same mixed feelings as Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard and others. But in the back of my mind I always wonder how I would feel about the death penalty if someone close to me were murdered.

doublebogie's avatar

My fellow Flutheren, When I saw this question I thought I knew my answer. I was raised under a law enforcement influence, my father was a Lieutenant in a Sheriff’s Office and I put in 6 years as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff and attained the rank of Sergeant. I have friends that are CO’s. I know innocent people have been put to death but always thought untill we come up with something else to deter the heinous crimes I was for the death penalty. It is the answers and questions that you have come up in the collective that make me question my belief. I don’t my answer now, I need to revist my convictions. This subject is a great study. Thanks

RareDenver's avatar

Great answers everyone, thanks for a good read.

zophu's avatar

@missingbite You make good points.

zophu's avatar

I guess it’s a balancing act. It’s not until cultures become dramatically healthier in general that the prison systems are going to improve much, I think. Even accounting for possible corruption (and obvious corruption) the judiciary system still reflects the culture in a big way.

mattbrowne's avatar

Not in Europe.

maggiechen55's avatar

in china ,death penalty is legal.

iamthemob's avatar

I can only see two reasonable purposes for the death penalty in society:

(1) as a prosecutorial bargaining tool to use in order to prevent future harm;

(2) as a method to ensure dangerous individuals will not cause harm to others if they have been subjected already to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

However, I think that the system doesn’t require it, and the use of it brutalizes more people than it helps.

bomyne's avatar

Absolutely not. I want those that have ruined people’s lives to suffer for their crimes. I consider the death penalty to be an easy escape for them… It’s like a “get out of jail free” card.

That’s forgetting the moral implications of the death penalty. Do we have the right to take a life, even if that person has taken other people’s lives? Does that make us as bad as the criminal we’re punishing?

lynfromnm's avatar

In principle I do not object to the death penalty. However, in its application I strenuously object. My objection is that I would not risk killing an innocent person. I don’t recall who said it, but it is far worse to punish an innocent person than to let a guilty one live. I agree.

The results of investigations by the Innocence Project have convinced me that a lot of innocent people have been convicted of crimes. ONE PERSON being killed in error is far too many. At this point I think that unless there is DNA evidence, the death penalty should not be imposed. Circumstantial evidence, and even eye witness testimony, are too insubstantial and tricky to be a basis for taking someones’s life.

Bottom line – juries can be wrong. Therefore the death penalty is inappropriate.

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