Tags: russell's tea party
Note: After Sunday’s meeting discussing the death penalty, members of the SAIU were given the opportunity to write an op-ed defending their position. The opinions expressed in this piece are not necessarily those of the SAIU.
Why do we punish criminals? We punish as prevention — to keep the criminal from causing further harm, or to deter potential offenders. We punish as rehabilitation — to heal the criminal’s psyche, or to make him a functional member of society. And we punish as retribution — to give the victims peace of mind, or to balance the scales of Justice itself. This is why we lock human beings up in very small rooms with other very bad people, and why we sometimes give money to corrections officers to kill them. But having been made aware that these are our reasons, we can question whether they are good reasons.
Focusing on the death penalty sharpens the question. Given corpses’ incorrigibility, rehabilitation is ruled out. Nor has it been proven that execution is a better deterrent than life in prison. Murderers do not systematically weigh all the consequences before acting. And even if they were rational and well-educated enough to do so, they’d be crazy to give much thought to the death penalty: In the United States, 40% of homicides go unsolved, and even among the convicted, only 3% of murderers are sentenced to be executed.