By this time, I hope you’ve all heard of and joined the battle to stop the execution of Troy Davis. I don’t know where his fate will stand at the time that this is posted but I do know that I disagree with his fate resting in the hands of such a foul and uneven system. And once his case is decided, please continue to fight against capital punishment, a practice that has become far too routine in our prison system. So much so that we don’t hear of the majority of cases of inmates who are sentenced to death under the guise of protecting the safety and welfare of other citizens.
Before I ask you to support Troy Davis’s cause specifically or the battle against capital punishment in general, I want you to consider the purposes and limits of punishment. Are we to punish as deterrence? Is reform the goal?
Supporters of capital punishment operate under the flawed notion that death is the only thing that can stop some criminals and ensure that our society isn’t overrun with evil. That not only is death the only way to punish those guilty of certain crimes but it also deters potential criminals who do not wish to die. There is also the argument that justice demands we take the life of someone who has taken the life or lives of someone else. Those who laud our justice system’s ability to reform criminals may argue that the death penalty is necessary if and only if a convicted criminal has shown no potential for reform.
Isn’t it sufficient enough to lock those murderers and criminals convicted of other heinous crimes away for life? Aren’t we, by locking them away, in essence taking their lives away in a much less final and reversible manner? If the death penalty serves as a significant deterrence, then where is the evidence that crime rates are lower in states with the death penalty in place?
My prayer for Troy Davis is that his life isn’t taken in the most cruel and unusual of manners. My prayer for the rest of us is that we critically examine our prison system and the purposes of and limits we should move to place on punishment.