:: For the poem of the same name, click Here ::
For many years Americans have struggled with what is acceptable punishment for a crime. Judges use a guideline to have flexibility in their decision process, and guidelines are given to jurors when they decide the fate of one convicted. Today the sentencing of Scott Peterson (convicted of killing his wife and baby) is in the news, and again there is conversation about what will be appropriate punishment for the crimes. There are those that don’t agree with capital punishment, and those that do. There are lawyers who wrestle with the law and plea bargain until some sort of “justified” compromise has been reached to reduce the possible severity of a conviction. In the end, a sentence will be handed over.
I, for one, have had many thoughts on this issue about capital punishment, and penalties for crimes committed. At one point I felt a punishment for a crime should be the very act of the crime itself, such as, if a person has been convicted of starving another human being to death, then the punishment should be starvation for the convicted. If a person is convicted of battery and maiming, then the convicted should be battered and maimed in the same manner (i.e. an eye for an eye). Then I realized this was nothing more than treating a barbarian in a barbaric manner, and it wouldn’t apply to crimes of materials such as stealing or embezzling. In this respect, punishments for material crimes seem suitable. However, we are faced still yet with capital punishment. A life for a life.
Is it justified to take a life for a life? I pose only one view of many views on this topic. Jails are overcrowded, the cost for jail management is incredible, and quite frankly, there are many criminals getting away with reduced sentences for time served or good behavior because of the lack of space to house them for a full term of their sentence. A person receives a death sentence for the crime of murder, and spends years in prison on death row costing millions in tax payer money and taking up space in a jail cell. One of my opinions is to drastically reduce the costs, and free up the space by eliminating death row. When a death sentence is handed down, they have 24 hours left to live. Sounds drastic? Sounds unfair because they didn’t get to appeal? I agree. But, why waste time and money on the inevitable once the sentence is handed down. Just to name a few benefits, it is a great deterrent if those contemplating murder knew before hand that the consequences are swift and sure. What about those that kill “accidentally” such as from being drunk while driving and killing someone as a result? Well, again, great deterrent for those thinking about driving while intoxicated or not having a plan for a way home before drinking (since I don’t believe a good defense is “I was too drunk to stop myself from getting behind the wheel, I didn’t know what I was doing”). In this respect I don’t believe a “life sentence” should be given to anyone that has killed. This also reduces the chance of the criminal educating themselves behind bars until they have attained enough skill to manipulate the law until they are free. A life for a life, swift and sure, to me, is far more humane, effective, and a deterrent, than the present manner in which punishment is delivered.