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500 Words on Capital Punishment, Thanks to William Barr

Robert Franklin

Posted on July 27, 2019 11:37

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5 federal executions will commence starting in December, following a 16-year hiatus. We should take a look at why this kind of backtracking is supported by large swaths of the American public, even if it's morally incompatible with other cultural ideas.

It's been 16 years since the last federal death row inmate was executed. But after Attorney General William Barr announced the U.S. Government will resume the death penalty at the federal level, it appears that five more will be executed starting in December.

I can't say I'm surprised, honestly. Very little that occurs during President Trump's campaign of chaos should be surprising to anyone. But this latest development in the saga of capital punishment in the United States should be cause for pause and reflection on why this level of savagery even exists.

Why do we kill? Why is the execution of someone a justifiable way to provide closure to the families of victims? What good does the death of a perpetrator actually do?

The only answer in the affirmative for executions is that the desire to promote retribution as a form of justice is worth more than any value placed on the concept of life. To subscribe to capital punishment means to view life, as a corporeal concept, as arbitrary. There is a higher value on the loss of the victim's life than the life of the person who victimized them. The death of the victim is worth more than the existence of the aggressor.

But what good does it do us? Does it protect society? Is the death of an inmate a better fiscal option compared to holding them in prison for what could be decades? No. Incarceration affords society the perpetrator's exile just the same and without the draining of resources common to death penalty convictions.

Does the death penalty deter the commission of similar crimes by others? Does it scare would-be killers and other offenders? No. In fact, mounting evidence suggests that not only does capital punishment fail to deter violent criminality, there exists a correlation between jurisdictions applying the death penalty and an increase in violent criminality, largely as a result of a message of social brutalization and the devaluing of life by governments.

So, capital punishment is more expensive than the alternative life imprisonment. It not only fails to be a deterrent to violent criminality, but might actually make it worse.

So where's the benefit? How is society improved by executing capital offenders? Afforded retribution. It's that simple. For many, death is the only price that can be paid for certain actions. To kill is to then be killed, as it were.

An eye for an eye.

It's Biblical thinking--old-world. It has no place in a modern society, especially one that, for varying reasons, desires to sanctify and deify the idea of both corporeal and metaphysical life.

Pro-life, to use a political buzzword.

But the idea that a society that claims to value life in that way can also devalue and vilify it so intensely, and with relative ease, represents at best a disconnect between individual and cultural ethics. Or worse, a blatant, desperate desire to assume incompatible and draconian moral control.

Which is it?

Robert Franklin

Posted on July 27, 2019 11:37

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The federal death penalty has returned to life after nearly 20 years. US Attorney General William Barr has ordered the Federal...

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