He was about 26 when he was convicted, and was 51 when he was executed. Can anyone honestly say that he was the same person at 51 that he was at 26? Can any of us even say that we’re the same person today that we were 5 years ago? This is what I’m getting at: people make mistakes, especially when they’re young and in a bad situation. And people change over time – sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Would Williams have written those books if he had merely been sentenced to life in prison? It’s impossible to say. But at least he would’ve had the chance to write them, and to write more, and to start to “pay back” society for the harm he caused.
This strikes me as a time when rehabilitation probably worked. And that’s what we should be focusing on in our prison system: secluding criminals and rehabilitating them, not satisfying someone’s need for vengeance or justice. Some can’t be rehabilitated, no matter how hard we try, but we should give them that chance, and not take that chance away from them.
People often talk about “closure” for a murderer’s victim’s family and friends. That’s a nice thought, but I really doubt if it helps them very much, if at all. Closure doesn’t give you back your murdered family members. Grief is a horrible thing that you need to work your way through, and living to see someone else die just hinders the recovery process. And even if it does help, is it fair to buy your comfort with someone else’s life, possibly in the same way the murderer did it?
Also, I could go into the whole free will vs. determinism debate, but I really don’t want to. (Not today, at least.) Let’s just say that I think the environment and circumstances people find themselves in affects their likelihood to commit crimes much more than whether or not they want to commit those crimes. Would Williams have started the Crips if he had grown up with a great family in a nice Minnesota suburb? I really doubt it.
Often times, people with my views on capital punishment are accused of coddling criminals, and favoring murderers over their victims. I can’t dissuade those types of people from those views, and I abhor the concept of “justice” that they preach. Execution is wasteful; when something is broken, we should at least try to fix it first before throwing it away.