I’m sure this one won’t be controversial at all.
We’re reading The Last Day of a Condemned Man, by Victor Hugo, for my monthly book club. It’s the journal of a man in 1820s France who has been sentenced to execution. Needless to say, we will be talking at great length about capital punishment at our next book club meeting, because this book is very much against it. I suggested that everyone in the club write down what their current opinions on capital punishment are, to see if/how they change after reading the book. I’ll probably be the only one to actually do that.
I know this is a rather volatile topic, so only read on if you’re open to considering opinions that may be different from your own. And that’s really all this is – opinion – and I’ll try to avoid using any biased information. As always, if you disagree, please let me know – nicely.
Frankly, I don’t like capital punishment. I don’t like the idea that a human being can be deliberately killed by our legal system – for any reason. I’m not going to address whether or not it works as a deterrent; I don’t care. I’m not going to address whether it’s cheaper to execute someone or put them in prison for life; this isn’t about economics. I’m not even going to address the issue of trusting the government not to execute someone unjustly; clearly it happens.
Simply put, I am against capital punishment because it robs a human being of their chance at redemption.
I don’t mean “redemption” in a religious or spiritual sense. I don’t really care if someone has become “right” with their preferred deity, beyond the psychological effect such a thing can have on a person. To me, seeking supernatural forgiveness is pure selfishness. Even if your deity does exist, and does forgive you, that doesn’t mean that your victim(s) and their families and friends have had their lives improved in any way. To me, we’re all responsible to our families, friends, societies, countries, species, and planet; supernatural forgiveness is entirely meaningless.
When I say “redemption”, I mean their ability to change who they are, to give something back to the society they’ve wronged. Because yes, even murderers are human beings. They’re not irrevocably tainted by evil; they can still do good.
One name has stood out in my mind since I first heard it several years ago: Stanley “Tookie” Williams. He co-founded the Crips in Los Angeles in 1969, was convicted of multiple murders in 1979, and was finally executed in 2005. While in prison, he became an anti-gang activist and wrote several books aimed at helping young people avoid getting involved with gangs.
I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have been executed (at least by the rules of law he lived under), just that his death served no purpose, and he was arguably more useful to society alive than dead.