Sages of the New Covenant
“An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The "eye for an eye" mentality will never solve anything. A revenge philosophy inevitably leads to an endless cycle of violence. Why do you think the Kashmir conflict has been going on for 60+ years? Why do you think gang violence in this country never seems to end? It is important to send a message to society that striking back at your enemy purely for revenge will always make matters worse.
Life is given by God; not by the State. Hence, God alone has the liberty to take the life of an individual.
The death penalty requires extensive due process to reduce the chance of a mistaken execution. But that means a lengthy process that prolongs the pain of victims’ families, who must relive their trauma and suffer uncertainty over years of court hearings. Life incarceration without parole is a harsh punishment that would give those families closure instead of prolonged trauma – and the savings could be used to support those families.
Only a hundred years ago or so, there were public hangings in England, punishment for pick-pockets who were caught. Interestingly, in the crowd that came to watch, because public hangings were high drama then, pick-pockets were still active during the public hanging process. From this itself, one can understand that death penalty was obviously not a deterrent.
There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long terms of imprisonment. In US, States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than states without such laws. And states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates.
An overwhelming majority of the nation’s leading criminologists believe the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime. Most think that the abolition of the death penalty would not have a significant effect on murder rates. - Death Penalty Information Center
Studies have repeatedly shown that the death penalty does not deter violent crime any more than other punishments such as life imprisonment. Eighty-eight percent of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide. - Radelet and Lacock, 2009
A new, comprehensive study states that there is absolutely no evidence that the death penalty deters crime. A panel at the National Research Counsel claims that no research about capital punishment to date can be trusted. Neither has it been investigated in the past 35 years whether the death penalty deters crime more than other punishments (e.g. life in prison).
US states practicing capital punishment have murder rates at least 48% higher than the states with no death penalty, and studies in the US have consistently shown that the death penalty is not a deterrent. States without the death penalty have far lower murder rates than those with the death penalty. The South accounts for 80% of U.S. executions and 50% of the U.S. death row population but has the highest regional murder rate.
A study by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock on the subject: “Do executions lower homicide rates? The views of leading criminologists” reveal that 88% of criminologists do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent. Police chiefs across the nation don’t think the death penalty deters crime, ranking it last among ways to reduce violent crime. A recent poll found that only 1 in 100 American police chiefs feel the death penalty has a serious impact on crime.
“I am not convinced that capital punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or capital crime." -Willie L.Williams, Police Chief, Los Angeles, CA
In India, the Mohan Kumaramangalam study shows that prior to Indian independence, in the princely state of Travancore & Cochin, a total of 962 murders cases came for trail between 1945 to 1950 – a period moratorium on the death penalty was in force. After the princely state of Travancore became the part of Madras State, the moratorium on death penalty cease to exist and total number of murder cases came for trail in the same courts between 1951 to 1956 were 967. This study is particularly important because it shows that even when the death sentence was commonly employed as the main punishment for murder; it had no additional deterrent effect on murder rate.
From the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau, it can, therefore, be inferred that if the heavy use of death sentence in the pre-Bachan Singh era (death penalty as default punishment for murder) did not deter murder. Though during the initial (1978 to 1991) post-Bachan Singh era (death penalty only based on the ‘rarest of the rare’ taking into consideration the specific aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the murder.) there was an increase in murder rates (0.12%), it had decreased over 20 years (from 1992 to 2011) at the rate of 0.09 percent. Clearly the decline in the murder rate in India has been neither sudden nor short-lived. On the contrary, it has been continuous and steady over a period of 20 years.
People do not consider the consequences of their actions at the time they commit murder. People commit murders largely in the heat of passion, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or because they are mentally ill, giving little or no thought to the possible consequences of their acts. The few murderers who plan their crimes beforehand -- for example, professional executioners -- intend and expect to avoid punishment altogether by not getting caught. Some self-destructive individuals may even hope they will be caught and executed.
Death penalty laws falsely convince the public that government has taken effective measures to combat crime and homicide. In reality, such laws do nothing to protect us or our communities from the acts of dangerous criminals. In India, the recent increase in terrorist activities or public support for terrorist or ceasefire violation in LOC, after the execution of Afzal Guru, supports this theory. The death penalty does not make us safer. Government of India could have allowed Afzal Guru to have a graceful death in an Indian prison, instead of being elevated to the level of a martyr. Bhagat Singh was a terrorist in the eyes of the British, where as for Indian left-wing parties, he is a martyr.
No one deserves to die. When the government metes out vengeance disguised as justice, it becomes complicit with killers in devaluing human life and human dignity. A civilized society, should reject the principle of States literally doing to criminals what they do to their victims: The penalty for rape cannot be rape, or for arson, the burning down of the arsonist's house. If someone has burgled your house, do you go and steal from his house? Similarly, we should not, therefore, punish the murderer with death.
We as a society have to move away from the "eye for an eye" revenge mentality if civilization is to advance.
"As someone who both served as a prosecutor and a defender, it is clear to me that if we cannot execute the death penalty with absolute perfection and fairness, and it is undeniably clear that we cannot, then we are unqualified to execute anyone at all." - Aundre Herron, Former Prosecutor & Defender whose older brother was murdered in 1994.
Let us go by country-wise Status:
In Malaysia, Chan King Yu, one of Reprieve's clients, was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. Chan's conviction was overturned after it was discovered the police had lied in court.
In Pakistan, after more than five years in prison without trial, and having suffered torture at the hands of the police,Naheem Hussain & Rehan Zaman are currently facing execution. Torture techniques used to make them confess include falaka (whipping the foot with a rod or cane rendering them unable to walk), "inverse strappado" (being hung from a hook then kicked and punched repeatedly, causing shoulders to dislocate), extinguishing cigarettes on their skin and yanking out their fingernails. Ropes were used to pull their legs apart whilst wood turned like a garrote to effectively paralyze their legs. The men frequently passed out so water was thrown on them until they revived.
In Laos, former prisoners held in Phongthong prison, have reported they were intimidated and beaten. They also reported seeing other prisoners having their genitals burned. The 20-year-old Londoner,Samantha Orobator, pregnant at the time, was facing execution in Laos. After a brief "show trial", she was given a life sentence instead of execution due to her pregnancy.
In China,Akmal Shaikh was executed despite his severe mental illness and vulnerability. Akmal's tragic death was a shocking failure of the Chinese legal system.
In Japan, the justice system tends to place great reliance on confessions obtained under physical abuse, sleep deprivation and denial of food, water, and toilet facilities. According to a 2005 Amnesty International report:
"Most have been sentenced to death on the basis of confessions extracted under duress. The potential for miscarriages of justice is built into the system: confessions are typically extracted while suspects are held in daiyo kangoku, or 'substitute prisons', for interrogation before they are charged. In practice these are police cells, where detainees can be held for up to 23 days after arrest, with no state-funded legal representation. They are typically interrogated for 12 hours a day: no lawyers can be present, no recordings are made, and they are put under constant pressure to confess. Once convicted, it is very difficult to obtain a re-trial and prisoners can remain under sentence of death for many years."
People may feel it is morally wrong to kill, people may feel it is hypocritical to punish a murderer by imitating him, people may feel that there is no evidence that death penalty deters crime any more than life imprisonment does. If somebody is involved in the burglary in our house, we don’t go and steel from their house. We don’t rape the rapist. Then why do we murder the murderer through a judicial process of capital punishment?
In fact, the most affected is the victim’s family. Instead of taking care of the family of victims, we exhibit of revengeful act by inflicting a similar or slightly more catastrophe to the murderer’s family.
Society tells us that justice is punishment for the offender. Punishment also helps victims' families to find some sort of closure. However, many families find that an execution does not bring the relief they were hoping. The pain remains. Rather, the death penalty creates more victims and more brutality. Executions do not help victims’ families to heal.
"I said to the warden, 'Could you give me his body so I could kill him again?' I was filled with much hate. Then I felt like I knew what it was like to be a killer because I felt I could be one". - Sandra Miller, a mother's comment on her son's murderer
Two years after the execution of her son’s murder, Sandra Miller, testified as follows:
“It [the death penalty] doesn’t bring closure. It’s an impossible thing. Nothing can bring closure to the death of a child”.
While waiting for "closure", Miller says she became an alcoholic, had two heart attacks, fell into a deep depression and attempted suicide several times.
Death penalty trials often become media shows and the dignity of the loved one is lost. Furthermore, the appeals process may last for decades, delaying any sense of closure the execution may bring to a victim's family. However, alternatives such as a sentence of life without the option of parole may allow families to see the offender punished in a timelier manner.
“When the execution does happen, they [the victim’s family members] find that they are still left empty, unsatisfied and unhealed and afterwards. They have been victimized again, this time by the system they sought to give them justice. Capital punishment desperately disappoints the families, and it degrades, dehumanizes and debilitates us as a society.”
- Marietta Jaegger Lane, Senate Judiciary and murder victim family member
A testimony from Robert Meeropol (born Rosenberg), son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953 when he was six, states:
“As far as I know no one has studied how the execution of an immediate family member impacts children. We don’t even know how many children have an immediate family member on death row in the United States today. Worse, we don’t know the effect that having a parent executed will have upon their impressionable lives, and the cost society may pay, for that impact. As far as I can tell no one has bothered to study this even though these children are all innocent victims of the state’s efforts to kill their loved ones.
And this disregard is matched by apparent indifference to the families of the executed. I was also unaware of their needs. But I’ve begun to redress that ignorance today. (…) I’ve met my brothers and sisters of shared suffering. We’ve been isolated for too long. We’ve been silent for too long. We have gathered here to end our isolation, and to proclaim to Texas, the USA and the World that we will bear our victimization in silence no longer.”
To be meaningful, justice should be swift and sure. The death penalty is neither. The current system drags families through an agonizing and lengthy process that holds out the promise of an execution in the beginning, but often results in a different sentence. Life without parole begins as soon as the victims’ families leave the courtroom and is served outside the spotlight of the news’ cameras.
"The death penalty has absolutely nothing to do with healing. [It] just continues the cycle of violence and creates more murder victim family members. We become what we hate. We become killers." - Bill Pelke, Founder, The Journey of Hope
Families of murder victims have mixed opinions about the death penalty. However, even families who have supported the death penalty in principal have testified that the drawn-out death penalty process is painful for them and that life without parole is an appropriate alternative.
People may feel it is morally wrong to kill, people may feel it is hypocritical to punish a murderer by imitating him, people may feel that there is no evidence that death penalty deters crime any more than life imprisonment does.
Another reason to oppose death penalty is that it is irreversible. And there are situations where judgments have proven to be erroneous – they cannot be reversed, nothing that can be done, it is final.
A country like India, which got freedom from the British yoke through non-violence, should top this practice of non-violence; and this get more significance, if we consider Mahatma Gandhi as the Father of our nation. The practice of death penalty is not compatible with his principle of ahimsa.
It's no secret that anti-Indianism is rampant around the South Asia. One of the reasons is we have gone away from the ahimsa with which we got our independence. We're seen as a violent, vengeful nation for our unforgiving nature to Kasab and Afzal Guru. Other countries (especially in Europe) would have a more favorable image of India.
For those of you who don't feel much sympathy for a murderer, keep in mind that death may be too good for them. With a death sentence, the suffering is over in an instant. With life in prison, the pain goes on for decades. Prisoners are confined to a cage and live in an internal environment of rape and violence where they're treated as animals.
Criminals usually are looked down upon by society. People are disgusted by the vile, unconscionable acts they commit and feel tremendous sympathy for the victims of murder, rape, etc. However, the death penalty has a way of shifting sympathy away from the victims and to the criminals themselves. Candlelight vigils were held for them. There are many cases, which made a mockery of the evil crimes these degenerates commit. It creates sympathy for the monstrous perpetrators of the crimes. And consider terrorists. Do you think they'd rather suffer the humiliation of lifelong prison or be "martyred" by a death sentence? What would have been a better ending for Kasab or Afzal Guru, an instant death by hanging or a life of humiliation in an Indian prison (or if he was put through rendition to obtain more information).
A sentence of life without parole means exactly what it says—those convicted of crimes are locked away in prison until they die. Unlike the death penalty, life without parole allows mistakes to be corrected or new evidence to come to light, without the high cost. Life without parole is a sensible alternative to the death penalty.
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Sages of the New Covenant