When it comes down to it, the death penalty is about retribution. Having a death penalty is the ultimate middle-finger up to the concept of restorative justice: you do something wrong and you pay the ultimate price. Right?
But here is where I get a bit confused about it. The death penalty certainly doesn’t work as a deterrent, but that’s not to say it shouldn’t be used as life sentences also don’t really work as a deterrent (otherwise we would be living in a society free of serious crimes). The death penalty also doesn’t cut the cost of housing a prisoner and is often more expensive than locking someone away for life due to the high cost of appeals and other factors that are unique to death penalty court cases; again though, this does not mean that it is a bad idea still: after all people crave a sense of balance and justice-“an eye for an eye” provides this, regardless of additional costs.
What I’m really confused about is why the death penalty-in Western nations (mostly the USA)-leads to an often quick and painless death. Why should those who have caused pain and suffering to victims and their families alike be given a send off that is preferable to, say, dying due to internal bleeding from an aggressive beating or being run over by a car?
My view on the death penalty is that if you’re going to have it, stop trying to take some sort of moral high ground with so-called humane methods of killing. If you’re willing to claim that it is only right people should pay for their crimes in a like-for-like fashion, yet condemn Arabian countries for chopping off the hands of thieves then you are a massive hypocrite who is also lying to themselves in the same way that Tony Blair probably has to lie to himself so that he can get to sleep at night (after all the sobbing of course).
So here’s what we should do: we should reinstate capital punishment, but how it was intended all those years ago. Instruments of pain such as the Brazen Bull and scaphism should be reintroduced, as should public executions (but none of this hanging malarky: a broken neck can be too quick). Sure, you might think this uncivilised, but if you believe in capital punishment then you believe that the person it is happening to has strayed outside the protection of a civilised society and thus they can be treated as an outcast; a spectacle; a figurative speck of dirt on your brand new shoes.
There is no point in trying to moralise state-sanctioned murder. It can be dressed up in all manner of ways: from a protective force to an ultimate form of justice, but really what the death penalty is about is revenge. Cold, unadulterated and vindictive revenge: so why not cut the crap and actually make it about that instead of figuring out how to make another chemical cocktail that euthanises a death-row inmate in 10 minutes instead of 15? Because that’s what you really want if you support the death penalty: you want to see someone suffer for their sins.
The death penalty is a gut-reaction-a visceral and violent response to those who we perceive to have wronged our sensibilities. It is pure emotion masquerading as a controlled and measured response. Again, I am not denying the right of people to want justice in that sense: people do just feel that way. However, I want the death penalty to stop being portrayed as a legitimate and logical choice and for it to be accepted for what it is: our primal and animalistic instincts coming out and baying for blood.