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  1. #1

    Lets talk about the death penalty

    So, the issue of the death penalty seems to be back on the agenda on both sides of the pond. In the UK we have the e-petition demanding that Parliament debates returning the death penalty in the UK.
    In the USA we have the questionable execution of Troy Davis, and Rick Perry's electric-chair happy gubernatorial record in the spotlight during the 999999th Republican primary debate.

    So what do you guys think? This has always been a contentious issue, with supporters using arguments ranging from the (false) belief that it is cheaper than imprisoning someone for life, to simple moral equivocations that someone who takes a life should lose their own.

    Is this a non-issue? Is it right to house a serial child murderer at the taxpayers' expense? Is the threat of the death penalty a deterrent, or even a useful bargaining chip when trying to coax confession/co-operation out of a suspect?
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  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    You know i think we really shouldn't be killing people it just seems to final. Even serial rapists I think might have some kind of redemption maybe to them. I think the complication of evidence and everything else basically means we can't really ever be 100% sure that they ever committed a crime, i mean there's some prisoners out there after 20 years still defending there innocent. Also something like rape which is a thorny subject evidence wise already could never be in there.

    You know what I think I think we should be copying Norway focus on rehabilitation of the prisoner and usually people don't commit crimes afterwards. Also if we had a better society i think less people would commit crimes.

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lukasz's Avatar
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    When I was younger I supported the death penalty.
    With age I realized that it does lots of harm yet brings nothing positive.

    It costs more than life imprisonments and our modern morality cannot allow lowering the cost as:
    we have to prove without doubt that person deserves death. It takes time, it takes time of tens of people. So unless we are prepared to lower the cost by increasing the risk of sending innocent person to his or her death then it will always be more expensive than life imprisonment.
    It does not work as deterrence. Criminals who murder people do not think logically. It will not stop a person from killing bunch of people just because he or she can get the chair. Do states with death penalty have lower crimes than rest of the country?
    High possibility of killing innocent person. It happened few times. It is not the case most of the time but most states do not have death penalty, yet often they had to release prisoner after a decade or even a couple of imprisonment after it was found out that he/she is actually innocent. Does that make the system a murderer? If judge sent innocent person to death is he/she not the murder then? what about the guy who pulled the switch? This kind of thing is not acceptable to me.
    Death penalty also creates social problem as it acts as vengeance for a family who got hurt. That's not healthy in my opinion. It teaches the society to spill blood for spilled blood.

    I would also agree with King of Persia, that adopting Norwegian focus on not punishing but rehabilitating criminals will lower the crime rate and better the society as a whole.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Actually, I'm in a bit of a strange position with my beliefs. I don't believe in the death penalty, but perhaps it should be considered for those who commit the most atrocious crimes. I mean those who go above and beyond. There has to be a point where it's just unsafe for everyone for someone to be kept alive in prison. Even then I'd be worried about it happening, because how do you define where the line is?

    I've got to say, though, that I like how some US prisons operate. They "employ" their prisoners, putting them to work. Yeah, I guess it's a sort of slave labour but not. It gives them skills to find work, I think they're rewarded for good behaviour and earn a little bit of money whilst doing it, so basically it's a form of rehabilitation but it gives something back to the prisoners as well as simply giving them something to do. I think it's a great idea, and one that's vastly underused.

    Either way, the crime rate won't reduce until the world situation is improved. Some people commit crimes to get back in prison as life is better for them there. That speaks volumes both about the situation inside prisons, but also outside.


  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    New York hasn't executed anybody since 1963, despite having it on the books. I hope this trend continues.

    I think there are five key issues when you talk about any incarceration, of which the death penalty is the most extreme:

    1) Prevention & Deterrence - Harsh punishments have little effect on crime levels because potential criminals don't expect to get caught.
    2) Error in Rulings - With new evidence, all court rulings are reversible. The death penalty is not.
    3) Cost of Incarceration - It costs close to $24k a year to house and police an inmate. Since the average wait on Death Row is well over a decade, you don't save any money by killing them.
    4) Rehabilitation & Recidivism - Put anybody in federal or state penitentiary, and they're far more likely to end up returning after release, no matter the original crime. The original ruling matters more than any subsequent punishment.
    5) Social Policy - are you incarcerating the inmate to punish him, or are you incarcerating the inmate to remove him from potentially harming the public? If the latter, then life without parole does the same thing.

    The problem with America is that we're punishment-happy. We have more inmates both per-capita and in raw numbers than both Russia and China, and thanks to recidivism, we've essentially manufactured a criminal class. The Death Penalty doesn't fix that: Texas is still four times more violent than New York, despite having the most bloodthirsty governor ever. If the UK is looking for examples, let us hope they take the American system to heart as a case study of how harsher rulings do not work.
    Last edited by Nalano; 17-11-2011 at 11:45 PM.
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  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    I've got to say, though, that I like how some US prisons operate. They "employ" their prisoners, putting them to work. Yeah, I guess it's a sort of slave labour but not. It gives them skills to find work, I think they're rewarded for good behaviour and earn a little bit of money whilst doing it, so basically it's a form of rehabilitation but it gives something back to the prisoners as well as simply giving them something to do. I think it's a great idea, and one that's vastly underused.
    But it doesn't work and it clearly is a form of slave labour, America basically needs it for a lot of things. In fact screw Mexicans stealing peoples jobs, i think its prisoners over there stealing most of the jobs. Lots of manufacturing happens in prisons because its cheap over there and they can sell it for a big profit. No wonder many companies want to make stuff in prions. Also do you see any jobs accepting prisoners because they did that job in prison. They don't touch them like a barge pole.

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Althea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xercies View Post
    But it doesn't work and it clearly is a form of slave labour, America basically needs it for a lot of things. In fact screw Mexicans stealing peoples jobs, i think its prisoners over there stealing most of the jobs. Lots of manufacturing happens in prisons because its cheap over there and they can sell it for a big profit. No wonder many companies want to make stuff in prions. Also do you see any jobs accepting prisoners because they did that job in prison. They don't touch them like a barge pole.
    Alright, maybe it needs tweaking so that it's not used by companies. I dunno, but it's at least a basis of a good idea.


  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xercies View Post
    In fact screw Mexicans stealing peoples jobs
    The terminology used here seems to imply that Mexicans aren't people.
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    Network Hub Taidan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    The terminology used here seems to imply that Mexicans aren't people.
    I think the phrase he was looking for was "screw Mexicans stealing real peoples jobs".

    Fun fact: I have never met a real Mexican. Only fake ones.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    The terminology used here seems to imply that Mexicans aren't people
    Its a terminology that a lot of other people would use and in that context that is what i was trying to relate to. I have nothing against Mexicans.

    Ooo that made me feel like a PR person just then :)

  11. #11
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    I like Rev Stu's idea:

    http://wosland.podgamer.com/?p=11819
    So how do we square this tricky moral circle? Well, like most things it's pretty simple if you're prepared to adopt a radical and rational solution. Every nation on Earth should hand over the decision on capital punishment to a referendum of its electorate. There should be a free vote, on any and all aspects of the issue right down to the method used and whether the condemned gets a last meal or not. But there's a small twist.
    Supporters of the death penalty argue either directly and openly or by unavoidable implication that a few mistaken executions are a price worth paying, either for the deterrent effect or the principle of judicial vengeance. So the only reasonable thing to do is to make them face up to the reality of that situation, and to do that in the only meaningful way possible.
    The names of everyone who votes "Yes" to retaining/restoring capital punishment must be recorded and entered into a lottery. On the first of every month, one name (or more, determined as a proportion of how many people that nation or state executes in a typical year) will be drawn at random and executed on the last day of that month by the nation/state's chosen method, with no exceptions or appeals.
    After all, if you're willing to accept the state killing of innocents, you have to accept that one day it might be you (or your son or your daughter or father or mother or brother or sister) who is the innocent in question. Because everyone who's ever been wrongfully executed was someone's son or someone's daughter, and why should you be magically exempt? If the random sacrifice of the innocent is a price worth paying to kill murderers, you must be prepared to pay it yourself.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deano2099 View Post
    I like Rev Stu's idea:
    The humor of all the legislation and policy that backs all this harsh punishment is that it is always enacted by those who are looking to control other people. Never would they themselves ever imagine the law being applied to them. Like the Three Strikes laws... or, y'know, this.
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    The thing that I find strangest about the death penalty is all the tinkering that goes into the methodology, e.g. whether lethal injection is truly painless. If you've accepted that a person needs to die for the good of the state, why not just use a firing squad or guillotine - it's quick, cheap and effective. I think the continuing debates about the morality of certain methods of execution betray that even pro-capital punishment advocates are still uncomfortable with the practice if not the theory.

  14. #14
    Network Hub Hanban's Avatar
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    I am staunchly against the death penalty. Nalano lists the relevant concerns better than I would have.

    To me what I think it boils down to is simply the intention of court rulings. Are they to mete out 'justice' or are they for preventing crime in society. If the latter, then I do not see any reason for the death penalty to exist.
    Last edited by Hanban; 18-11-2011 at 11:04 PM.
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    Lesser Hivemind Node DigitalSignalX's Avatar
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    I'm against the death penalty for all the logical reasons posted previously. However I still also want to be able to kill people myself if I feel my home or family is being threatened. It's seemingly at odds, but I'm also very pro-gun provided there is proper training and background checks. It makes me wonder if I'm being hypocritical since I'm also pro-choice on the abortion issue. Some would argue it's all murder in some form. Thankfully the world is gray.
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  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DigitalSignalX View Post
    I'm against the death penalty for all the logical reasons posted previously. However I still also want to be able to kill people myself if I feel my home or family is being threatened. It's seemingly at odds, but I'm also very pro-gun provided there is proper training and background checks. It makes me wonder if I'm being hypocritical since I'm also pro-choice on the abortion issue. Some would argue it's all murder in some form. Thankfully the world is gray.
    Gun control is a whole 'nother can of worms, but from a purely pragmatic point of view, guns have a deleterious effect on a macro and micro level. High gun ownership rates don't correlate with low crime rates and, statistically, the person most likely to be killed by your gun is you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    1) Prevention & Deterrence - Harsh punishments have little effect on crime levels because potential criminals don't expect to get caught.
    Depends very much on the criminal, and the crime (and, obviously, the two are linked). With the sort of violent crimes that the death penalty might be used for, a great many offenders are unlikely to have formed any kind of idea of the risk involved. So I'd say the issue's even more one-sided than you suggested.

    4) Rehabilitation & Recidivism - Put anybody in federal or state penitentiary, and they're far more likely to end up returning after release, no matter the original crime. The original ruling matters more than any subsequent punishment.
    I think there's quite a few caveats around this, particularly the last statement given that there plenty of punishments that don't involve entering the prison system (and, indeed those that do enter the prison system often re-offend - of course, that's not talking about why certain people are chose to enter the prison system and others not).

    It's worth considering the kind of individuals that are prone to violent behaviour, and how there really are risk factors that can be deal with. Substance abuse comorbid with psychoses is fairly good example.

    If the UK is looking for examples, let us hope they take the American system to heart as a case study of how harsher rulings do not work.
    I don't really believe that there's any genuine debate about such things over here, and whilst forensic psychology isn't nearly as popular in the courts in the UK, it's fairly well integrated with Justice and the prison system so there's that aid. Lone e-petitions don't mean much.

    For me there are other, perhaps less pragmatic, concerns. I'm not happy with the state having that power, simply because the concerns of the state change constantly. I'm not happy with either with any individual, or indeed a people, having those killings be by them or on their behalf.
    Last edited by Zetetic; 19-11-2011 at 12:56 AM.

  18. #18
    Lesser Hivemind Node Keep's Avatar
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    Controversial opinion coming up: I'm actually not all that worried about the idea of an innocent person being punished in circumstances where you could reasonably mistake them for the guilty party.

    Mind, I am where the punishment has an irreversible effect on that person's ability to improve their lot.

    In fact, I'm against any punishment having such an effect on anyone, no matter how guilty.

    So death penalty is a no for me.

    But public beating or corporal punishment? Are they actually more inhumane than locking someone away from society altogether, or trying to devise a least painful way to murder them?

  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic View Post
    Depends very much on the criminal, and the crime
    Statistically speaking, there is no strong correlation between sentencing and crime deterrence. Prison stops crime through incapacitation, not deterrence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic View Post
    I think there's quite a few caveats around this
    Statistically speaking, it's generally the case: Federal and state prisons have exceptionally high recidivism rates. In the case of, say, the relatively violence-free crime of drug possession, the recidivism is strongly correlated to incarceration in these prisons, rather than the crimes themselves. The person becomes largely unemployable and emotionally destroyed. As it turns out, housing somebody with a society of hardened criminals does not in any way prepare them to deal with the real world when they come back out again (who knew, right?).

    Prisons create convicts, not repentants.

    I speak largely on the macro-scale and stick to pragmatism mainly because any time morality is injected into these discussions, they devolve into tit-for-tats.

    Quote Originally Posted by Keep View Post
    Mind, I am where the punishment has an irreversible effect on that person's ability to improve their lot.
    Every time you hear of somebody doing any substantive portion of a prison term for a crime he did not do, it is always a horrible tragedy. Make no bones about it: The state has destroyed his life.
    Last edited by Nalano; 19-11-2011 at 01:11 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    Statistically speaking, there is no strong correlation between sentencing and crime deterrence. Prison stops crime through incapacitation, not deterrence.
    This is a gross over-generalisation. The process of risk assessment differ considerably between individuals, and as I said crimes. This is hardly surprising given the great variety of criminals and crimes; you'd be hard pushed to suggest there's a trivial psychological definition of a crime, which would indicate that the process governing criminal behaviour may be rather disparate.

    A very well-publicised example of deterrence having a considerable effect on behaviour of a massive number of individuals would be the introduction of the Road Safety Act 1967 and subsequent decrease in road deaths; but it may be noted tat the behavioural changes have not been maintained as the decades have passed.

    Don't get me wrong, deterrence is a relatively weak tool. But it's not utterly inconsequential. However, violent crimes of the relevant kind and the death penalty is case where there's little well-produced evidence for a deterrence effect. I was agreeing with you, broadly, but noting that the issue is more nuanced.

    Statistically speaking, it's generally the case: Federal and state prisons have exceptionally high recidivism rates.
    Right, and I'm suggesting that there might other factors that interact with this. You, known statistically speaking. A fairly well-known study is Walker et al. (1981) - effect of prison (vs. probation or fines) interacts considerably with whether or not you're a first offender or already a recidivist. If you're a first offender, so suggested the study, prison may be more likely to prevent you re-offending.

    The current state of the United States' prison system - which is exceptional as you say - makes it unhelpful for generalising to other countries. There's also a great difficulty with taking criminals as a single, homogenous cohort - it's dominated by multiple-offence repeat offenders for one thing, so you end up losing any possible effect on first offenders if you don't examine these factors.
    Last edited by Zetetic; 19-11-2011 at 01:42 AM.

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