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Execution vs. jail time

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POSTED: March 13, 2007 5:15 a.m.
Death penalty enthusiasts rally America’s unquenchable thirst for retribution against the morally inept, erupting in a frenzy with the increasingly high-profiled child sexual predation across the nation!
Who could possible suggest these monsters deserve any mercy whatsoever? Better yet, do unto them as they have done unto others? Justice in its purest form.
We accept this ideology without question and certainly, no remorse. “Punish the guilty as harshly as possible” is seemingly our national motto. Somehow this eases our sorrow for the victims of soul-wrenching criminal acts perpetrated against the innocent, but does it actually prevent crime?
Have we sufficiently delved into the minds of sociopaths, psychopaths, and anti-social personalities to discover the root causes of these persons driven to destructive behaviors?
Until we solve the quandary of genetic influences and social issues that create individuals with the propensity and intense desire to inflict harm upon another, crime in this nation will never be stemmed.
Crime statistics are staggering when analyzing graphs representing America’s current dilemma: holding the surge of lawlessness at bay. When did our country begin to face so much violence against our citizens that prisons are continually overpopulated and the quest for new prisons is a never ending funding issue? Better yet, why are we faced with this tsunami of offenders at all?
I can still remember when the small country town jails held a few wayward souls in one-room barred cells with an appointed sheriff, maybe a deputy or two left, in charge. Usually public intoxication or an altercation of some sort was the offense of the day. Of course, the capital offenses kept popping their heads up occasionally as well.  
Now, the prison industry has exploded into a multibillion dollar economic force.  The inmate population grows exponentially every year, with women outpacing men.  Now, that is incredulous. Women have historically been renowned for their nurturing skills, not inherent aggression. After witnessing the “catfights” on television, I must say I am dumbfounded. Where have we gone wrong??
Have we made new laws or are these people so desperately unhappy they are led to the path of crime?
Maybe there is an elephant in this room somewhere we have simply ignored for too long? Social scientists need to examine our cultural influences to determine what has gone wrong in America and we need to harness our resources to fix these social ills immediately. I certainly do not believe we have housed in our prisons several million people born criminals.
“To hang or not to hang” is not the question. Whether we choose to heal what is obviously a societal illness (maybe I just need to get my glasses changed again) or stand idly by is our challenge. Remember the insightful words of Ghandi: “Blessed people bless, and hurt people hurt.”
Because a majority of prison inmates will re-enter society at some point, criminals are in need of rehabilitation in progressively effective programs.
Simply punishing someone solely in the name of “justice be served” only further exacerbates the situation long term; unless of course (I do use that phrase a lot, I have noticed), you enjoy caging human beings for life and remember that you will be paying for it with your hard-earned taxpayer dollars.  
If you choose execution, the price is even higher with the lengthy mandatory court appeals, and all. (A New York prison bureaucrat once told me twhen I submitted a thesis in favor of the death penalty my freshman year in college.) The choice of course, is yours, as always.

Contact Bezanson at columnist@coastalcourier.com
 

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