Can we abolish the Death Penalty yet? - Illinois Legislature Bans Death Penalty

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by farraday, Aug 27, 2009.

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  1. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    But if they have no rights at all, then the solution for the overpopulation is simply: kill them all.

    There are several ways to do that, a regular toolbox for mass killings have been developed during the 20th century that could be put to use for such a program. In Germany, Cyklon B was used to great effect, and in only a few years, several million people were killed, so that is obviously a very quick and efficient way to deal with that problem. Of course, it could still be seen as somewhat expensive, after all, there are significant infrastructure investments that need to be made. But the Soviet Union and other Communist countries had remedies for that. In the Gulag, people worked themselves to death in Siberia. It wouldn't be very difficult to ship these...creatures (because those who have no rights at all are clearly not human, since all humans have basic human rights) to Alaska to do dangerous work out there to very little cost indeed. Or they could all be starved to death. That's really cheap, and you'd be rid of all of them in a matter of months. This method was applied in the Ukraine in the early 30s, in China in the early 50s and in Kambodja in the late 70s. Millions dead every time.

    All the above methods are seen as crimes against humanity, but maybe only soft-hearted liberals are concerned with such things?

    Or maybe the problem with your argument is that you are putting up a false dichotomy between the victim's rights and the rights of the perpetrators. Looking out for the former does not preclude denying the latter. Indeed, it could be argued that denying the rights of the convicted is to victimize them in turn, and one has to ask how that does the victim any good?
  2. farraday Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2000
    star 7
    ... STATISTICS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY, Mr 44.

    Half the population so half the rate of execution makes no sense whatsoever. Lets look at some actual facts, if you're okay with that. Since The end of world war two, Japan has sentenced 766 people to death, and carried out roughly 608 executions. In contrast to your claim, most of those executions were front loaded in the late 40s to 50s. Can you guess why there were a lot of death penalties carried out in Japan in the late 40s and 50s? Go on, I'll wait.

    While in 2008 Japan executed 15 inmates(a banner year) The US executed 37. However in 2007 Japan executed 9 and the US 47 and in 2006 it was 4 to 53. No one was executed in Japan in 2005.

    Now on to why your statistical point was absolute lies. First, Executions are not evenly spread out through the US. The entirety of New England = New York has not executed anyone since at least 1976 and in many of the states the Death Penalty is gone. That would immediately cut 30+million from the US's population. Beyond that you have a state like Texas, which on it's own kills more each year than Japan despite having 1/5th the population.

    Your attempt at statistical comparison is absurd.

    As for the comparison of someone dying in prison while innocence. You could, and perhaps should, make the comparison between manslaughter and murder. Negligence of simple error, both are a failure but atleast you're not actively seeking his destruction if he dies in prison.


    Now the state of our prisons is another issue which desperately needs to be addressed, but it's hard to see how it can be when you have people actively agitating to turn them into work camps where we can work people to death.

  3. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    So, like, again I'm just gonna throw out that question... are you SURE you're the same farraday posting on these boards from 2000-2005 or so?

    Because, like, my memory on your political stances is 180 degrees in the other direction. So unless you're secretly Christopher Hitchens (someone whose views are a bit more dynamic be he right or wrong on things), I think that's unprecedented.
  4. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    I have to ask you: do you have evidence that shows that convicted murderers are as rabid wolves as you make them out to be in prisons in other entrenched democracies across the world? Can you show that in the correctional officers in prisons in Germany, France, Scandinavia or the UK are also routinely subjected to assaults, rapes, and attempts on their lifes? Having a friend who has worked as such on a maximum security facility in Sweden, it is my impression that such is very far from the case. I'm aksing because without making a comparative study you cannot substantiate sweeping generalization you are making about the behaviour of convicted murderers.

    Indeed, if there is a difference between how murderers behave while in prison, maybe you should seek the reason for their behaviour in the American prison system rather than in the psyche of the murderer. Maybe, just maybe, people behave like animals when they are treated like animals, eh?
  5. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    That is taking it WAY too far. You are suggesting that I am for an American holocaust; I'm not.

    Convicted murderers who are given a life sentence deliberately took acts that lead to the death of another. They deserve no mercy, as they didn't show any to their victims. Keeping them alive and secure from the rest of society is expensive; and it's something that we who follow the law shouldn't have to provide for. If they are to live in prison, they should provide for themselves. It's not slavery; it's putting them to work in order to provide for themselves so that taxpayers don't have to.

    It does their next victims good, both taxpayers and their next murder victim.

    We all are considered to have a right to live; which is why such extreme violations are punished so severely. Those who deliberately step over that line cannot be allowed to do so again. If that means they have to be executed in order to secure the rights of everyone else, who didn't violate such laws; so be it. If these people don't wish to die, then they should be expected to be able to provide for themselves. I don't want people who committed mass murders to be able to eat and live at the expense of everyone else.
  6. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I'd think the relevant statistic, also, isn't the number of executions per capita, but the number of executions as it relates to the number of murders.... or even more ideally, to those convicted of murder.
  7. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    I'm just taking the "they have no rights" argument to its logical extreme. If they have no rights at all, then there is nothing morally or legally keeping the state from exterminating them.

    As for "it does their next victim good"...That is a very tenuous argument. It builds on the motion that every murderer will determinastically kill again and that is clearly a very sweeping generalization that can hardly be substantiateed by any evidence. If it can, I challenge you to produce them. AFAIK even psychopaths can, at times, be given therapy that at least makes them safe for other people. And societies based on the rule of law only hold people accountable for deeds they have actually committed, rather than for crimes they might maybe hypothetically commit in the future, the rationale falls.

    Now, there are people who are compulsive killers and will never stop unless they are locked up, but how many of those convicted of murders are among those? Do you have numbers?

    Finally, the notion that taxpayers should not pay for the penitentiary system is...novel, in my eyes
  8. farraday Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2000
    star 7
    I don't have the full statistics, but I would expect that in that regard Japan executes far more of it's murders than we do. I believe their murder rate is something like ten times lower then ours.

    Of course all of this is based on a silly digression claiming that a sentence to either death or 1000 years imprisonment has more to do with the size of the country then the justice system of that country. The comparison of 1k years in prison which is an aggressive outlier in their system is not equal to the death penalty, which is not nearly so much of an outlier in here. Most of the exercise in my mind is correcting the egregious math errors people sometimes make when trying to bolster their position out of sheer mental laziness. Math is a relationship of facts. Don't simply start making things up just so you can have number in your post.

    Since Gonk keeps asking I will respond, yes I'm the same person. It's odd you'd ask that in this thread though since this is a position I've not really changed all that much on. I recall arguing with Ender about the application of the death penalty to Saddam. I had, and have, no problems with the verdict, since my problem with the death penalty is not a moral objection to execution but an objection to the execution of innocents. The inherent imperfection of human justice combined with the absolute certainty of the execution ffo an innocent leaves no question in my mind as to if we can continue executions.
  9. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Mr44, I'm not saying the US is barbaric, nor would I call Singapore or Japan barbaric in a broad sense. Malaysia and Indonesia would be borderline. I'm saying that aside from the US, you have a serious overrepresentation of illiberal, unjust and weak states collectively setting the tone for the Global Capital Punishment Club, and that the US is educated, articulate, and well dressed doesn't alter the fact it's hanging out with rabble. See the point?

    Except that wasn't my point. For the reverse of your post here, you're trying to paint a picture that giving out life sentences is somehow more "well dressed" than sentencing someone to death for the same category of crimes. I'd answer that if it is, it's only marginally so.

    Neither are automatically so because they both represent the darker side of human thought and action and the correspnding result of such action. There's no functional difference between condemning someone to sit in a 1.8 meter room for 900 years for murdering 50 people than there is for sentencing someone to the electric chair for the same category.

    On one hand, it probably makes a segment of the population feel better to say that they only hand out 900 year sentences because that's obviously so much more civilized. But none of what we're discussing here is the result of well educated, articulate decisions in the first place. What you're basically saying is that you're more willing to lock your issues away out of sight instead of addressing the "why" behind the actions.

    I don't know if you've ever seen the movie "Johnny Got His Gun," which was also sampled by Metallica for their song One,[/] but as an anti-war film, it explores some of the same issues we've been discussing here:

    The protagonist, Joe Bonham gets his arms, legs, and face blown off by an artillery shell during the final days of WWI. Unwilling to personally address the horrors of war, and making what they view as the "more civilized" choice, the military high command keeps him alive by shuffling him off into a closest. The issue is that the decision wasn't made in reference to Joe's own situation, but made so that the decision makers could feel better about themselves.

    (the original novel explored the same concepts, but was less final in it's outcome, which made the themes expressed in the move much more powerful)
  10. Brett_Bass Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 4
    I was going to point out the exact same thing.
    :p

    The functional difference being that in one case, the convict is left to continue causing damage inside the prison system for incredible spans of time before dying, and the other one leaves said felon capable of causing damage inside the prison system for merely 'large' amounts of time before dying. Duration of time spent behind bars is the only effective modifier that I can immediately see. Just because one method of ending a predator's life in prison involves flipping a switch and the other doesn't in no way changes the fact that you're sentencing a person to spend the rest of his or her life in the prison system.

    EDIT:

    Danaan: I don't have any knowledge, either statistical or personal, with the correctional systems of countries outside the United States, so I'll have to look into that. I would be amazed if violent predators stopped being violent predators in other countries, but have no research to back that presumption up. All I can verify is that some things are decidedly oddball cultural quirks--such as prison rape in the 'States, which appears to be almost totally aberrant compared to other nations.
  11. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    I can think of a few fundamental differences. Convicted murderers still get fed, have access to television, books, comics, medical care and visitors. Convicted murderers don't actually spend their entire life in a 1.8 meter room, as at least once a day they will get to go outside and exercise. Convicted murderers have the opportunity to find God whilst in prison if they wish.

    Historically, state punishment has evolved. In the 16th and 17th century England, capital punishment was doled out for theft, poaching, homosexuality, pickpocketing and calling the sovereign nasty names. Mass executions were common to reinforce the long arm of the law. Unfortunately, because of the expansion of property related offences, the prospect of executing 80% of the population became a reality. A new paradigm emerged: incarceration and rehabilitation, the panopticon concept. From that emerged transportation and from that emerged the great convict nation of Australia. Capital punishment was reserved for the really heinous crimes.

    In terms of pure social contract theory, the reasons why the state exercises its rights to deprive its citizens of liberty has nothing to do with the population "feeling better about themselves". The state maintains social order with the threat of coercion. The state provides the means of maintaining an orderly society and in return reserves the right to deprive citizens of their liberty. Capital punishment just takes that concept one step further by the state reserving the right to deprive citizens of their life.

    Having innocent people die in jail is a terrible and inevitable reality simply because of the way that our criminal justice system operates. Is there any difference between an innocent person dying in jail after 1 year or 20 years and an innocent person being executed? No. The only benefit of serving a sentence over being executed is the possibility that if further evidence is discovered which exonerates you, then at least there is the prospect of release.
  12. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Why are the penalties for murder so steep? It's meant as a preventive measure more than anything. I am not making the implication that murderers will kill again; that more people will kill if the penalties are softer. George Bush got away with generating a war, which is why it will happen again... over generalized, I know.

    By condemning serial murderers or rapists with the death penalty, or having to earn their keep for life imprisonment; you make it harder and less desirable for people to go to jail. Some people can stand living in prison, but they should not be allowed an easy life after what they've done. We taxpayers should have the right to deny them room and board. Why should that be a right?

    I would suggest that people who are convicted have to generate their keep. Considering that they committed heinous crimes, they should be expected to at least carry their own weight if they are sent to prison. We taxpayers are supporting them; the provisions for life in prison isn't a right.

    This is probably the best statement I ever heard in regard to the death penalty. I have no objection to the heinous nature of execution when it is done on a murderer or serial rapist. My only concern is that the death penalty cannot be reversed and the criminal justice system isn't perfect. If the possibility of innocent victims being sentenced to death can be eliminated, then the death penalty would meet with no opposition from me.
  13. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Having innocent people die in jail is a terrible and inevitable reality simply because of the way that our criminal justice system operates. Is there any difference between an innocent person dying in jail after 1 year or 20 years and an innocent person being executed? No. The only benefit of serving a sentence over being executed is the possibility that if further evidence is discovered which exonerates you, then at least there is the prospect of release.

    And LOH, I'd say this this is the meat and potatoes of the entire issue. But it's also why I put forth the idea that one isn't automatically morally better than the other. Both have the same concerns due to the level that applies to either.
  14. farraday Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2000
    star 7
    I reject the postulate there's no difference between someone dying in prison and an execution.
    We will, for the time, set aside the issue of the atrocious conditions in our prisons and exaime it as a general issue.

    First, there's the question of death in prison. Is there a difference between someone sentenced to life dying in prison and someone sentenced to 5 years dying in prison? Both have been sentenced to a de facto life imprisonment, that is both have spent the rest of their natural lives in prison. However the intent of the sentence in the one case is not that the convict should de in prison, while in the other case(presuming no possibility of parole) it is.

    I would argue the intent of the sentence makes the difference, a situation which holds true for the case od the death penalty vs life with no parole.

    It is less clear since in both cases the intent is for the convict to die in prison, however the crucial difference overlooked is that a sentence of life is for the duration of your natural life, while a sentence of death precludes natural life. I suppose it comes down to Cicero.
    Aegroto, dum anima est, spes esse dicitur.
  15. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    Or how it can be gauged as a deterrant?

    ES
  16. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    Firstly, only to a degree. I'm more saying that amongst a club of nations that usually considers America a member, you stand among the barbarians. We, the world community, made a decision about a standard we wanted adopted and recalitrants and the US rubbed shoulders on this issue. I'm not saying we're better, I'm saying we're in agreement and you are keeping what kind of company in contrast?

    Don't turn this around, Mr44, because the prospect of being in the same boat as some states isn't a pleasant one.

    Secondly, there is a very important difference which is both functional and deeply philosophical difference between captial punishment and life imprisonment, and I assume we're not discussing reversing wrong verdicts but rather on a conceptual level. The state provides and ensure liberty through the legislative, judicial and executive arms of government. It is a condition of the social contract that to breach the rules set forward by the people via these organs of the state, that liberty can be deprived. At no point does the state hold a right over life, and let's face it, without something to exercise a right against it's air, empty. If the state can't control who is born, except in that other captial punishment state China (and how liberal is the one child policy?), why can it decide to take away life?

    It can't. It doesn't provide life. It does facilitate and ensure liberty. Which therefore gives it the right to revoke liberty...

    ES
  17. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    How do you define the "world community", and how are you claiming that they "made a decision"?

    If you go simply by nations (one nation, one vote), then you are essentially saying that the Vatican (population 900) should have equal weight as China (population 1.3 billion) or India (population 1.1 billion). If, instead, you weight each nation by its population, the US is not out of the mainstream, as at least half of the world's population live in nations with capital punishment.

    Kimball Kinnison
  18. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 8
    Which is why we look at it in real terms?

    ES
  19. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    More of this, please.
  20. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    But that's a dumb comparison. The discussion about capital punishment is to a large extent one of morals/norms. And here you are saying that the US is in the mainstream of nations worldwide, without mentioning that the norm among nations worldwide is actually dictotarship that regularly commits crimes against humanity. And you feel that's good company for the US to keep?

    If you compare the land of freedom and justice with other countries that embrace the same fundamental values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, you will find the US is just about the only country still using capital punishment. Doesn't exist in Europe any more, for instance.
  21. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    Ok, that is a utilitarian argument. I.e. the no-mercy punishment serves a purpose as a deterrent. But that's easily verifiable. When you compare the US to comparable nations that does not have the capital punishment, which case seems to stand out as working better? How does the murder rates compare? AFAIK, without being a student of this particular field, it seems to me that the US always tops the lists for highest murder rates AND highest rates of executions among entrenched democracies. And that tells me that capital punishment patently is not working as a deterrent. If it was effective, murder rates would be exceptionally low in the US.

    Because people have a right to live and not die of starvation, mabbe? Doesn't the state have a responsibility to protect ALL it's citizens?


    Let me just add an anecdote to the discussion for you and others who defend capital punishment based on utilitarian arguments. Here in Canada, I saw a piece on the news a few months back. It concerned a convicted murderer who had been released after serving his time (he didn't even get a life sentence - guess that was because he wasn't a serial killer). While in prison he realized his wrongs and started feeling terribly guilty over what he had done and when he came out, he dedicated the rest of his life to crime prevention, to see to it that no young people would ever chose the same path that he had once done. He wold never be able to bring his victim back from the dead, but by working in this way, he might just have been able to steer off some high risk youth from a very destructive path. So it can reasonably be said that he potentially did society a great service by preveting future murders.

    Had he been executed for his crime, he could never have done that. If he had been executed, he would have been prevented from stopping further murders. In this case, then, it seems clear that the greatest social utility, the greatest good for society, was to let him out of prison to help prevent further murders.

    Now, how can you be sure that there are muderers in the American pentintetiary system who could not be turned around in the same way, but are kept away from playing such a constructive and socially beneficial role by the capital punishment?
  22. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    How do you define those terms, though?

    My point is that using the number of nations to eliminate the death penalty introduces artificial biases to the discussion.

    For example, Europe has (IIRC) 45-50 nations and approximately 10-11% of the world's population. The US, on the other hand, consists of 1 nation, but 5% of the world's population. What you are doing is saying that Europe's 11% gets 45 votes in this sort of matter, while the US's 5% only gets 1 vote. Twice the population gets 45 times the vote? That is completely disproportionate.

    What makes Europe's 11% of the population so much more of a moral authority that they deserve such a disproportionate voice on a moral issue?

    I'm not saying that Ender's conclusions are wrong, only that his arguments in support of those conclusions are meaningless and arbitrary.

    Kimball Kinnison
  23. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    That's where life in prison with the possibility of parole has its benefits. However that doesn't change the fact that it costs much to keep people locked up and secure from the rest of society. They should not expect to have the state pay for their meals and security; they should work for it.

    Although the justice system may still have some flaws that should be corrected first, we have more convicts than prisons. We need to build more prisons in a time where we don't have the funding to do so. Where is the money going to come from? At least one thing to that end is to make convicts self-sufficient instead of being another drag on society.
  24. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    My point is that using the number of nations to eliminate the death penalty introduces artificial biases to the discussion.

    What artificial biases?

    Your retort remonds me on paper of the argument that you can't get from point A to point B because, by looking at it, you can never actually reach point B. No matter how you try to rach point B there will always be some sort of tiny, microscopic distance between you and point B. So on paper reaching point B is impossible.

    But you go out into the real world and you can reach it just fine for what you're trying to accomplish a trillion -1 times out of a trillion.

    Are we truly to say that from a viewpoint from a hypothetical nation that is looking for the best example of how to handle the question of the death penalty, all other things being equal, it should count the policies of Somalia as equal with that of France? Are we saying both nations would have the same level of qualified advice to give on the matter?
  25. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    It introduces artificial biases by giving some populations a disproportionate weight in the discussion. As I pointed out, it gives 45-50 votes to Europe, when Europe only makes up 10-11% of the world's population. (Put in a different perspective, Europe has 45-50 nations out of the 194 in the world. You are therefore giving 10-11% of the world roughly 25% of the weight in this matter.)

    Pointing merely to the number of nations to eliminate the death penalty does give Somalia (population about 10 million) equal weight with France (population 61.5 million). Both of them then have equal weight with the Vatican (population 900), the US (population about 350 million), India (population 1.1 billion) and China (population 1.3 billion). It is a clearly disproportionate argument which artificially inflates the actual support for elimination of the death penalty.

    Kimball Kinnison
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