The death penalty discriminates again the poor


Dear Sir,

As our criminal elements continue their unrestrained murderous rampage, some politicians have advocated enforcing capital punishment even though widespread contradictory evidence regarding its efficacy as a homicide deterrent exists.

The term ‘ capital punishment’ is an oxymoron. There can be no punishment in death. Pieces of us begin to die soon after we are conceived and after birth we all begin the inevitable journey towards what we call death. Punishment is designed to teach, but the dead can learn nothing! If you really want to punish people, keep them alive and have them atone for their sins the rest of their lives by working for the betterment of the ones they have wronged. That would be a far more powerful deterrent than the barbaric hanging of our misguided fellow human beings.

Some people argue in favour of capital punishment by focusing on the ancient, defunct ‘eye for an eye’ principle of requital. If this argument had any merit then convicted murderers would be executed by the same means that they killed their victims but even our vengeful rancour enjoys civilised parameters.

Despite facts to the contrary, deterrence remains the strongest argument in favour of capital punishment. Deterrence, the unemotional justification for capital punishment, seeks to circumvent the issue of vengeance, after all, God said that vengeance must be left to Him.

Research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment and such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming.

In an ideal community, forgiveness and the hope for redemption are guiding aims. Protection of the innocent requires that criminals be isolated, perhaps permanently. Just punishment is appropriate, but love never gives up even on those who show no love.

Statisticians have pointed to the disproportionate infliction of the death penalty on the poor and uneducated and a failure to take into account the destructive life histories of criminals that may have damaged their humanity to the point that it is unfair to hold them fully accountable for their wrongdoing. In other words society should accept some culpability.

Although we know that life imprisonment without parole is just as good a deterrent as capital punishment, the strongest argument against capital punishment, is its irrevocability and the risk of killing an innocent person.

Our murder rates continue to accelerate and the state of our economy reflects  an inverse relationship with the crime rate. The cumulative effect of all this is an unofficial grumbling suggesting that the vox populi favours the death penalty. But public opinion is often uninformed and sometimes perfidious. Case in point: In California a field survey carried out several years  ago, showed that 82% approved of the death penalty. However, when asked to choose between the death penalty and life imprisonment plus restitution, only a small minority, 26%, continued to favour executions.

It is evidentially and spiritually wrong to execute anyone. It is also discriminatory, as in The Bahamas, we do not hang women and white people, only poor black men. I believe that elected public officials must disregard political designs and lead by moral example. After all, we are a Christian nation.


Jerry Roker