Friday, June 21, 2013

What’s So Inhumane About the Death Penalty?

An argument in favor of capital punishment…albeit, with a few caveats.

If you absolutely HAD to place me somewhere on the political continuum, I suppose you’d have to lump me in the left-of-center category. That said, there are still a whole lot of planks in the liberal platform that I’m not necessarily in support of, like legalizing every drug known to man (as we all know, the only reason methamphetamine and heroin causes social problems is JUST because they’re illegal and they in no way, shape or form encourage people to do violent, unreasonable or unlawful things) or scaling back military spending (you know, not that the military is the number one bank roller of future life saving medical technologies and consumer-grade stuff that will shortly make our lives easier and shit.) But perhaps the one area where I stand out most vividly amongst most United States leftists is my stance on the death penalty…which is right next to the switch, if they’d let me.

Imagine, for a moment, that instead of blowing his own worthless brains out, Adam Lanza had been apprehended by police officials. The question from there is simple; what is the most fitting punishment possible for an individual that just brutally gunned down two classrooms of first graders?

Yeah, I can see how “life in prison” would be no picnic, but in the case of figures like Lanza -- highly visible figures that, if left among the general prison populace at any super max in America, would wind up gutted alive in milliseconds -- their lifetime prison sentence would actually be pretty livable, compared to what lesser criminals have to go through. Lanza, had he not taken the Adolf Hitler route, would likely be sitting in a room-temperature, hyper sterile cell right now, all by himself, in a room with a nice bed (which is way better than my futon), some clean clothes, some solid reading material and hell, maybe even a TV with a cable hook-up. Shit, they let some prisoners have Playstations, so he could feasibly be playing “Call of Duty” online right now. He’d get three warm meals a day, ample opportunities to exercise under  a guard's watch (so that some Jack Ruby-type doesn’t try to douse him in boiling cooking oil while nobody’s looking) and more or less free health care -- all fringe benefits of being a lifer that ordinary, non-murdering people like you and me aren’t guaranteed in the slightest (unless O.J. is secretly an admirer of the blog, of course.) Yeah, I suppose there’s some sort of punitive element in the fact that he would have to spend the remainder of his days thinking about how his life could’ve turned out differently, but let’s face it -- there’s no way that creepy little shit was ever getting laid, holding a steady job or becoming a productive, independent citizen on his own, anyway.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it costs U.S. taxpayers a good $34,135 a year to house just ONE prisoner, while California’s Legislative Analyst (a nonpartisan office) said that it costs the Golden State almost $50,000 a year to house inmates in state prisons. A breakdown of their annual cost projections are listed below:

Security costs = $19,663/year
Health care costs = $12,442/year
Prison operation costs = $7,214/year
Administrative costs = $3,493/year
Food, clothing and “activities” costs = $2,562/year
Rehabilitation costs = $1,612/year

So, yeah, we’re more or less spending what it costs to purchase a brand new Lexus every year on every single scum-sucking, low-life criminal in the nation’s justice system. And yeah, I know that not all of them are really guilty, and a lot of them have some psychological baggage that made them likelier to be nefarious criminals, but most of them are STILL shit heads that aren’t innocent, and while they’ve no doubt had crappy lives for the most part, absolutely NO ONE is forcing them at gun point to yank copper out of buildings, rob liquor stores or sell methamphetamine out of the trunks of their Yugos. They choose to do the crime, and now they’re doing the time. Even an utter mongo can understand that “risk/reward” dynamic, including pathological antisocial miscreants like Lanza. You can blame as many psychiatric conditions and social problems as you want, but that still doesn’t exonerate individuals of the like from consciously doing things that they know are socially impermissible for personal gain. As Mark Kleiman, one of the best criminologists on the planet recently said, the primary root of crime in the U.S. is just one thing: bad decision-making on the part of individuals that ought to know better. So why don’t we penalize bad individual decision-making as extreme as Lanza’s with the most severe legal reprimand we’ve got?

Housing prisoners in general population cells is expensive, but housing death row inmates is about three times costlier -- thanks, primarily, to appeals costs. In the United States, the average inmate on the Green Mile spends FIFTEEN GODDAMN YEARS waiting to get killed, which ultimately results in a state burden of $1.3 million per individual death row prisoner. But, let’s imagine that Lanza was given a life sentence and shipped out to a super max. He was 20 at the time of his crime, and the average life expectancy for a male in America is, give or take, about 70. That means he’d be in jail for fifty years, at an annual cost of $45,000 (easily.) Well, you know how the multiply button on calculators work: we’d either gas the bastard at a price tag of $1.3 million when he turned 35, or shelter and coddle him until he dropped dead from natural causes, at a taxpayer cost of just $2.25 million. By the way, that last estimate is a really conservative figure, since the ACLU tabulated the annual cost of housing prisoners over the age of 50 in the U.S. prison system at about $66,000 per year.

You may think you can win me over with a couple of platitudes about morality. “Well, if we kill the guy that killed somebody else, how does that make us any different than the killer to begin with?” For folks of the sort, I’ve already formulated a response: because assholes like that DESERVE to die, that’s why. Granted, I believe that the threshold for capital cases should be extremely narrow, and the evidence better be absolutely staggering, but in the case of admitted mass murders like John Wayne Gacy and James Holmes and Jeffery Dahmer and Timothy McVeigh, I say a simple lethal injection isn’t a just enough punishment.

Do I want some sort of primitive, Code of Hammurabi shit as U.S. legal code? Absolutely not, but in extreme circumstances -- acts of mass death alike the Sandy Hook shootings -- I think the death penalty isn’t only fair and reasonable, it’s pretty much the only moral decision to go with. Individuals of the like have absolutely zero regard for human life, so why should we treat their pathetic, worthless lives as if they had any value, either? “Treat others as you would wish others to treat you,” so goes the Golden Rule. I think by the time you put a bullet in your 22nd kindergartner’s skull, you’re pretty much declaring that civil law is something you don’t have much of a regard for. In that, why should we abide by the same rule of law you so blatantly disregarded when it comes time to assess your crimes, muchacho?

I am an extremely lucky person, that’s never really been the victim of any crime. I have, however, talked to quite a few people that have been the victims of violent crime -- we’re talking serious stuff, like rape and armed robbery. And you know what? The day they were assaulted and victimized, they died a little themselves. Their minds will never be able to fully recover from what they went through. Their lives will constantly hark back to that moment of victimization, a single point in time that takes over every waking moment of their conscious experiences. The fact of the matter is, they’re not just victims that one night they were robbed, or shot, or assaulted, they will be victims of that incident for the remainder of their lives. And remember, we’re just talking about non-capital crimes here, the kind of shit people only serve 10 to 20 for. Now, let’s amp that suffering and perpetual torment up to about a billion, because that’s what the parents of those kids at Sandy Hook will be going through until the day they die. Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen “M,” too, and I know full well that eliminating the individual responsible for your grieving doesn’t bring your kids back from the dead, nor does it really alleviate any of that hurt you will be feeling for the rest of your days. But at the same time, there’s a definite justice that arises from seeing such purveyors of violence and mass death taste the fear that their victims felt, to feel, albeit momentarily, the insufferable anguish their victims and their victims’ loved ones will port about for decades to come. When you send shit bags like Ted Bundy and Jared Loughner to the gallows, that’s more or less the only time they will EVER sympathize with the people they killed, maimed and butchered. For a few minutes, they too, will know what it’s like to be a victim, to be a person that has their life involuntarily taken from them. They have to look their victims in the eyes, and they have to suffer in front of the people whose lives they’ve completely ruined. And then, they have to experience the same thing they put their victims through -- only theirs comes in a much more sterile, painless and respectable process.

And if there’s anything unjust or immoral about that, I’m just not seeing it, folks.

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