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An Interesting Take on Life Without Parole
I am shortly off to vote. In California there is a proposition 34 which repeals the death penalty and replaces it with life without parole. This is a position I have personally held for as long as I have been reasonably thoughtful, at least 55 years. So I will vote for it. Late last week I found this bit that did make me think.

There are those who do deserve to be removed from society in a permanent manner.

Killing those people would do it but I think it says something about a society that would allow that. It is much like the argument I have against violent revolution, the violence admits that violence is allowed. The political argument is much more complex than that but both the social and political view I have is that one should result to violence only in the immediate and when things can be thought out violence cannot be accepted because it allows the other to use it also.

So life without parole.

Then I read this article. I have long recognized that socio/economic conditions are a greater cause of crime and violence than the flaws of an individual. There are some who's mentality is so twisted that society cannot accept them I do not consider those. Sometimes the scars of socio/economic conditions are so great that one will never change and for them life without parole is a reasonable alternative. But what about those who after years of reflection have realized and overcome those scars. Should they suffer the same fate as those who must be removed from society permanently.

A difficult question that hopefully will be taken up at some time. A simple end is life imprisonment with parole after a certain time possible. That can possibly come later.

For now I vote against the death penalty.
I think we get into trouble whenever we try to characterize any group as all one way or another. Do you lock up a guy for life who shoots up a movie theater if that same person is perfectly sociable when properly medicated? What about a murderer who rehabilitates himself? How do you even know when someone is rehabilitated?
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I am pro-death penalty through realization.

I realize there is not yet a clear and effectual method of rehabilitation.
I realize that keeping someone alive in prison for life is a costly exercise.
I realize that a life in prison can be torturous for that person.

To me, it is at this time, better for a society as a whole for certain criminals to be put to death. Not because I delight in vengence, but because all societies have limited funds, and all societies have individuals who do not damage society that could benefit from the money we would otherwise spend on keeping a violent rapist alive.

So, I would prefer that a violent rapist is killed, quickly, without fanfare, and then for the money saved to go towards the public good - soup kitchens, our NHS or else.

I think the rates of killing an innocent person are so low that it is perfectly acceptable - much in the same way that we accept a 30mph speed limit, knowing full well the number of direct deaths caused by this.
TE, oddly enough I had dinner tonight with 4 old friends all of whom I have known for over 45 years. Two are like you in favour (why does my stupid machine force British spellings?) of the death penalty, but all voted against. The winning argument for those two was that the cost was too great. Repeated studies in California have shown that life without parole was cheaper than death.

Two arguments against the death penalty that I cannot ignore are the cost, although one can argue that speeding up the process could reduce that. The over riding argument is that the death penalty is very differentially applied to minorities and the poor. People with resources can avoid it. This basic unfairness cannot be removed without serious social changes that are far from being near. Note I ignore those who are falsely accused and convicted, who are overwhelmingly poor or minorities.
Then there is something drastically wrong with the method of killing. We kill cattle at a great rate in both our contries and it is not that expensive and supposedly 'humane' in nature.

Where does the cost come into it? I do not like how the US have people on death row for months and years, maybe it is the constant re-trials and this separated 'death row'.

An example, a guy waited for a mentally handicapped kid to get off a bus after his day at school, and proceeded to kick him to death. There is no justification for that. He should have been disposed of within the week of his guilty verdict.

Homicide would not automatically have the chance of the death penalty in my useage, I understand that sometimes you do need to kill a person - and that sometimes a killer can be a perfectly functioning memeber of society but for one slip up.

I would have it for mindless and utterly avoidable crimes. Violent rape would top the list, murder as I have described in the above instant would result in it also.

I can understand voting against it on the money front.
This may be an annoying bump to some but tough.

I was reading some stuff on people on California's death row today and came across a discussion of a Kevin Cooper, innocent according to some. To the extent one can determine by an internet search this may or may not be true.

It did remind me of something. Rose Bird was chief justice of the California Supreme Court for 10 years but was removed from office in 1986 by a vote of the public. My memory is that I did not vote on that issue because I was basically neutral. Ms. Bird was adamantly against the death penalty, as am I. But her decisions based on that fact were skewed. She made bad law as a justice to avoid sending people to death row.

There is a difference between being against the death penalty and being in a position of power and altering legal decisions in a damaging manner. The latter is unacceptable. I did not vote for or against any of the judges up for confirmation.

One can argue that this act helped the last fascist governor of California (George Deukmegian) to appoint 3 judges to the state supreme court but sometimes you have to accept those risks.
Just to confirm my thoughts on your position JohnH, would you approve of the death penalty if we could determine to 100% accuracy that someone was guilty of a crime?

Where would the cut-off be for the crimes committed? (i.e. petty theft, grand theft auto, actual bodily harm etc)
TE, the short answer is no I would never approve of the death penalty. Society admits by committing murder that murder is acceptable, I cannot agree that social murder is acceptable.

Oddly, of course, if one of my children or another close to me was severely harmed by an individual known to me I might be capable of murdering that individual. As I have said here before moral behavior can be complicated.
[url=]JohnH wrote:[/url]Oddly, of course, if one of my children or another close to me was severely harmed by an individual known to me I might be capable of murdering that individual. As I have said here before moral behavior can be complicated.

I agree generally with your conclusions on the death penalty, though mine still lean more toward avoiding the execution of innocents than any absolutist statements against putting down those who "need killing." (Quotes mine -- not putting that phrase on you, John.) That said, I said "still" and I'm always (er, usually) on the look-out for grist to run through the old thought-evolution mill.

Appeals to complication tend to catch my eye because lately it's kind of a mantra of mine: any system of thought that fails to take complication into account is generally doomed to failure (failure to impress me, mainly -- popularity is another matter). Your admission that, your principled position on the matter aside, you'd consider yourself capable of murdering an individual under some kind of personal vigilante-type circumstance hints not only on complication, but also what I consider a prime reason to avoid the death penalty.

I, too can easily see myself doing this under such circumstances. So this leads naturally to the "what if everyone did it?" question, the answer for which is, of course, that it would really, really suck. That's an important question to ask because it can really cut through a lot of rationalization quickly. Don't think you littering is a big deal? What if everyone did it? Oh yeah.

In the case of offing someone for a Heinous Crime it can be easily demonstrated that there are so many variables that you'd never get everyone to agree on the proper criteria for it. And thus, the kill threshold would be much, much wider than most would appreciate if "everyone" did it. Without even really contemplating those details, it's clear that a better rule is that "no one" can do it. And by no one, I mean that naturally includes our social institutions, because they are subject to the same variability that drive us all.
Cynic, You made my argument against the social use of the death penalty in a much more thorough manner than I have, thank you.

You also point out correctly that no one can allow behaviors to themselves exclusively. Allowing that behavior to oneself allows it to all. If the second part can lead to bad things in general than one cannot allow that behavior to oneself.

I only posited the possibility that I could kill as an outlier position. I do not think it would occur except under duress and in the heat of a moment.
I want to not be in favor of the death penalty, but there have been far too many instances where I think it is completely appropriate. I do think though that we fall miserably short in the measures we currently take - or more so, do not take, to insure we are executing someone who is without a doubt guilty of the crime for which they've been convicted. Over time I've become more reluctant to be in favor of it for even most who qualify under current laws, because we've been wrong in enough convictions to make me seriously question such a final decision.

ETA - I realize how bad it sounds to say I 'want' to be in favor of the death penalty, but what I mean is that it is something that I have ultimately supported as a means of punishment when there is irrefutable evidence of guilt in certain circumstances, though I also recognize the reasons the opinion that it is punishment is debatable.
The reasoning that I myself would be capable of murder in a certain situation is precisely the reason why I think it should be the courts that carry it out.

Most would accept that a rational person could be driven to kill, so why should that risk be taken for those otherwise decent members of society to become criminals?

My opinion is it is better for the law to clearly state the consequences of your behaviour, and then for your death to result, than for a victim of the crime to feel the need to strike out and kill.

Secondarily, my thought on the violent rapists is that it doesn't appear to be a one off crime - they are repeat offenders - so why put more people through that? Why have people pay to keep these people alive when we struggle to care for the more vulnerable members of society due to lack of funds?

Now that second part some would argue could be rolled out for the handicapped - but I would say it is those that have a detrimental effect on society that my above statements would be held for - to me, the handicapped seem to bring out the best in people, and help build community.

So I am left unable to understand the no murder in any circumstance position. I find Pacifism a terrible position to take - it may work for a group, but it doesn't work for the individual.
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