Welcome back to Let’s Get Political. I know I’ve gotten a lot more new readers since the last LGP, so I thought I’d explain the general concept first. I take a big deal issue (I’ve done healthcare, gun control, and education, among others, in the past), and I express my opinion on it and how I reached that point. Pretty simple.
For today’s installment of Let’s Get Political, I’m going to discuss the death penalty (I may also get into some criminal justice reform stuff here as well).
I’m opposed to the death penalty. Completely.
To explain my stance, I want to first start with a discussion of restorative justice. Restorative justice is a method of discipline in schools in which students are not simply suspended or expelled (or punished in any other form) for one given infraction of rules. Instead, the students (and possibly teachers) involved have the opportunity to talk out the situation and determine where there may have been misunderstandings. Students are encouraged to apologize to each other and find common ground to move forward and coexist. It was created as a method for helping to eliminate the school to prison pipeline (I’ll discuss this in a later post), and it really lowers the rate of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.
I was first introduced to restorative justice in my high school. Our first principal was a big leader in bringing the process of restorative justice to Denver’s public schools, and that was a key component around creating the culture of my high school. It also made me think more about the way we punish people in our country. We’re very quick to give criminal long prison sentences for small crimes. While many of these are results of the failed War on Drugs, we end up with a lot of people who made one little mistake in prison for a very long time while people who committed crimes that I view as worse (like rape and sexual assault) spending mere months locked up.
I think there’s a view of people who oppose the death penalty and support criminal justice reform as easy on crime and in favor of more criminals. I think that’s just the opposite.
I see our justice system as a chance for rehabilitation. Punishment should be given based on the severity of the crime and the harm caused to the victims. No criminal will ever know exactly what the pain they caused someone has been. But we can help them to understand that. So when we put people in jail for possession of marijuana or some other drug, it doesn’t make much sense, in my view, because there is no victim who has been harmed. It’s clear now: the drug-related punishments that went into affect due to the war on drugs are racist (I’ll clarify this in a later post). So we shouldn’t be spending time looking for ways to put more people in jail. We should be looking for ways to put bad people in jailed, and keep them punished for an adequate amount of time in order for them to have a good understanding for what they’ve done wrong.
So the death penalty. How does my views on our prison system and how we choose to put people in jail relate? Well, the death penalty is the most extreme option available as a punishment for criminals. It’s used very rarely, only in certain murder cases. And in my view, it’s wrong.
In giving the death penalty, the state says that they are going to kill someone, because that person killed someone, and killing someone is wrong. It’s incredibly hypocritical. To say that something is wrong, and then turn around and do just that to someone to punish them makes no sense to me.
It is also my view that killing anyone is wrong. Murder is wrong. The death penalty is wrong. Death due to battle in war is wrong. Any decision to end the life of a living, breathing human person is completely wrong in my view.
My final opposition to the death penalty forms around how it completely eliminates the purpose of the justice system. The purpose of the criminal justice system is to provide a punishment for someone while that person comes to understand what they did wrong and are able to do their time and return to society as a better person. With the death penalty, the criminal never has to come to an understanding of what they did wrong. They simply can go on a murderous rampage, and get the penalty because they killed a bunch of people and never have to understand that they did something wrong.
There are further issues with the death penalty that I see as well. Like the impact it has psychologically on a jury who decides on death as the sentence. What does it do to a person to knowingly choose to end someone’s life? And what about when the families of victims ask for the prosecutors not to seek the death penalty, but they do anyway? (I’m looking at you, George Brauchler).
There are so many things wrong about the death penalty. It’s just not an okay option for a punishment. I know that, for once, I’m among a small group of Americans who say it’s never okay. But this is one thing where my morals tell me I can’t be okay with it, and I won’t be moving off of this stance, regardless of how horrid the crime.