Just heard NM Gov. Bill Richardson on Maddow explaining that one of his reasons for opposing the death penalty is that prison conditions are so awful in his state that imprisonment is actually a worse punishment than death anyway.
Well, Im glad he opposes the death penalty, I guess; but this has got to be the worst argument ever for doing so.
It’s one of those “revealing” moments, I’m not sure what else to call them…. when somebody opens their mouth and unintentionally reveals an unpleasant truth about the way things really are.
I’ve long thought that it would be more kind and more honest if the state offered euthanasia as an alternative to a prison sentence. Richardson simply says explicitly what the prison system quietly communicates by the fact of its existence; ‘there is a universe of pain waiting for those of whom we disapprove’.
My problem with the death penalty isn’t that it’s cruel; it’s that it’s irreversible.
Human beings make mistakes and I think the state is particularly prone to make certain types of mistakes with depressing regularity.
A worse argument for abolishing the death penalty would be “we just ought to be nicer to murderers.”
There always is a shifting rationale for it. They go from “deterrence” to “expression of collective outrage” to “they deserved it” to “would you rather we take care of murderers on your dime?” right back to “deterrence” without a 2nd thought. Funny thing is, clearly the deterrent effect, even if it were justified (which it is not) is just not there, otherwise there’d be a lot fewer murders.
The only just reason for deadly force is in self-defense, administered by the would-be victim.
Foucault makes a similar point in, I believe, the History of Sexuality Volume 1, where he observes that death offers a release from the power of the state. A dead man can’t be ordered about and forced into a specified regimen, which poses a problem for the state.