The Optional Death
The death penalty has been running into a lot of trouble in the US. Latest is that Oklahoma tortured a person to death. The history about why states can’t get the traditional drugs to kill people and what they are currently trying is interesting in a dark and twisted sort of way. But why do we need to be killing criminals anyways? Criminal punishment can serve multiple purposes: collective revenge, rehabilitation, restitution and deterrence (both of would-be criminals and for recidivism).
Killing a criminal certainly satisfies revenge and the deterrence of recidivism. Definitely not rehab. or restitution. Whether it effectively deters would-be criminals is up for debate, but there is no reason to think it any more a deterrent than life imprisonment. The death penalty and life imprisonment are also on equal footing for deterring recidivism, at least in theory. Which is better for satisfying revenge is also debatable and I’d guess largely depends on how much you value freedom vs life.
I personally come down against the death penalty, at least as it is generally handled. I can understand the desire for revenge for those that were effected by the criminal, but quite often those people are not the ones advocating for killing. For me, killing as a collective revenge doesn’t make much sense, especially when life imprisonment is the alternative. While prison escapes do happen, and the escapees do sometimes kill before being re-captured or killed themselves, these are not frequent events. Escapes are also a problem that can be fixed independently. Then there is the problem of executing innocent people. Finally, for me, killing someone does not allow for rehabilitation and restitution. So what do I think we should do?
I’m in favor of giving criminals receiving life sentences the option of choosing death. I’d even suggest that they could choose the method of their death within reason. OD on cocain, sure. Flying leap off a cliff into the Grand Canyon, well, probably not not? This would prevent the killing of someone who is innocent (unless they just wanted to be killed). It would be cheaper and more humane. It would allow those who do regret what they’ve done to try to do something to re-pay society and the victims. If this were combined with a reworking of our justice system to actually serve for the rehabilitation of criminals instead of profit for prison companies it would work even better.