The Death Penalty - for or against?

Capital punishment should

1. be abolished. I am against the death penalty.
23
23%
1. be abolished. I am against the death penalty.
23
23%
2. be used under martial law only (only war-related).
1
1%
2. be used under martial law only (only war-related).
1
1%
3. be used only when it comes to extreme crimes.
10
10%
3. be used only when it comes to extreme crimes.
10
10%
4. be used for all (no spec. circum.) 1st degree murders
4
4%
4. be used for all (no spec. circum.) 1st degree murders
4
4%
5. be used for more than just 1st degree murderers.
7
7%
5. be used for more than just 1st degree murderers.
7
7%
6. Don't know/neutral
2
2%
6. Don't know/neutral
2
2%
7. Other
2
2%
7. Other
2
2%
 
Total votes: 98
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby serene mistwood » Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:39 pm

I didn't consider the fact that you and others would get all upset over the use of that label. I didn't really mean it as an insult, since I am typically labelled as one
.

I wasn't insulted Alice. Please don't overestimate your power or prowess to affect people. Its just a debate.

Now, skipping some stuff in which you argue against someone that wasn't posting (someone accusing opponents to the death penalty for not being considerate towards the feelings of the victims or their families)...


Actually, retribution for the victims family has been mentioned a number of times in this thread and is an important issue in almost all of these for/against the death penalty debates.

Why are violence and reason opposites? The opposite of reason is unreason/irrationality. And the the opposite of being a person prepared to being violent would be to be a pacifist.


I didn't say they were opposites. In the words of Ghandi “ Violence is essentially wordless and it can begin only when thought and rational communication have broken down. Any society that is geared for violent action is by that very fact systematically unreasonable and inarticulate.” You can add satyagrahi to my label if you like, I promise I won't be insulted.

Not being from the US, I don't see how a justice system not working well and the death penalty as being necessarily linked.


Well, there is a plethora of research and academic papers on the subject. Both Tertonius and I did reference a few to back up our more educated arguments which were based on informed opinions and evidence.

Fair enough. I'd say that calling something 'uncivilized' and 'barbaric' is not a real argument, but your feelings on the matter are clear.


I would say it is as valid an argument as you wanting a criminal dead because of your own personal and highly subjective/emotional feelings and reacton after the death of a family member. I know its easy to dismiss an argument based on often what may be labelled as subjective issues (which I don't believe being *civil* is anyway completely) , but, you did exactly the same. Lets not be a hypocrite now.

So... it may be easy to correlate the two, and equate the death penalty with barbarism and injustice. But is this really the case?


Yes, it really is that simple. To introduce a lack of dental floss into the argument is just another of your ridiculous analogys.

I disagree. A lot of punishment is supposedly 'corrective', 'educative' and preventive. Some people are put away for a long time, because they are a danger to others. Some people are given a punishment in the hopes that it will steer them in the right direction. There are many considerations that play a part. The 'retributive' part is one of the more controversial ones, these days.


The 'legitimacy' behind retributive acts lies in it's proportionality


I disagree too (obviously). The retributive theory of punishment holds that punishment is justified by the moral requirement that the guilty make amends for the harm they have caused to society. It has nothing to do with proportionality. Some retributive theories hold that punishment should never be imposed to achieve a social objective (such as law-abiding behaviour in the future by the offender as you seem to think), while others allow social objectives to be pursued as secondary goals – which I would agree with - as true retribution of the kind you seem to require and support relating to proportionality, in the case of the death penalty, is purely illusory and fabricated.

Nobel Laureate Albert Camus wrote, "For there to be equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life." (Reflections on the Guillotine, in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death 1960)

We are obviously at polar opposites on this issue, and any further argument would be circular now – so, I will agree to diagree 100% without any sway on this one.
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby Tertionus » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:12 pm

Glaucon wrote:Btw... forum posters must be representative of very non-influential groups, given that most chose the first option, which isn't the case in any country I can think of (since nearly all have the death penalty under martial law).


Generally, the trend is toward a lack of support for the death penalty. The older a person is, the more statistically likely they are to support the death penalty. Which has been the case since abolition in most countries, causing a downward trend over time.

I suppose it would be safe to assume that many people in a forum for a virtual world RP genre would be around 30, or less. So it makes sense.
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby Rob » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:32 pm

Lets look at why there is punishment.

-retribution
-prevention, deterrence
-re-socialization (if possible)
-ensuring people do not take the law into their own hands

An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. When we kill those who have committed murder we are as bad as they are. Legalized killing of it's own citizens as punishment is unworthy of any civilization.

Fact: States Without the death penalty have had consistently lower murder rates. Not to much of a deterrence this death penalty.

Harsher punishment makes for lower crime rate? I don't think so. If you ask me, it's the other way around. If i look at crime rates here in the Netherlands and the punishments we have, i say we are doing very well. We have been one of he safest countries for a long time and contrary to what some fear mongers would like us to believe that is still the case. My fear is that people are going to let themselves be convinced by fear mongering politicians who scream without base or fact that punishments should be much much higher. The vast majority of judges here is very much against the introduction of higher punishment for all crimes. According to them that simply is no solution.

I consider our level of punishment very low in comparison to other countries. Yet, we have had 163 homicides in 2011 on a total of 16847007 people. In the US in 2010 there were 308745538 people and 12996 homicides. So that's 1 in every 103355 inhabitants versus 1 in every 23757 inhabitants. You can be for or against, but that clearly shows having the death penalty does not lead to a lower homicide rate.

Sure, you can say you want retribution and claim the death penalty is a legitimate form of that retribution, but you can not ignore the fact that it simply does not work. I am a father, i understand the emotions involved. Child abuse, rape, murder, it makes my skin crawl. I would love to get my hands on the s.o.b. that dares hurt my child, i would kill that person easily but, however understandable that is, that is not the right way to look at it. What if i kill that person, do i in turn need to be sentenced to death? Where does it end?
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby Alice McConnell » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:07 pm

@ Serene: I thought I was being polite and not offensive towards you, but either the subject matter or maybe that perceived slur about 'left wing liberals' (as I said before, not meant as an issue, since I am one) has caused you to to persist in snarky language with slurs, so I won't bother with a full response (you already stated you didn't want to debate further with me, so why bother, anyway?). It isn't a good subject matter to debate, perhaps, except when doing it with people that don't immediately consider those that have a different opinion 'uncivilized'. Can only be seriously debated with people willing to suspend their moral and political judgements for the duration of the discussion, when it comes to replying to their opponents.

Just one thing (skipping all the authority arguments and the nobel prize):

I disagree too (obviously). The retributive theory of punishment holds that punishment is justified by the moral requirement that the guilty make amends for the harm they have caused to society. It has nothing to do with proportionality. Some retributive theories hold that punishment should never be imposed to achieve a social objective (such as law-abiding behaviour in the future by the offender as you seem to think), while others allow social objectives to be pursued as secondary goals – which I would agree with - as true retribution of the kind you seem to require and support relating to proportionality, in the case of the death penalty, is purely illusory and fabricated.


It DOES have to do with proportionality, since the 'moral requirement' is based on it. Maybe this has become obscured in our utilitarian, 'merciful' society with it's focus on the 'general' good and the state as the principle agent in the pursuit of 'the good', but to those considering wrong and right before there was a state able to serve as a reliable focus, when it was also very much about individual judgement (and action), the proportionality of it all mattered a great deal. That is why moral philosophers like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, as well as more modern natural law thinkers (and even 18th century 'sentimentalists') delve into the question of what is proportionate and what is not, and what makes it so.

And no, you didn't understand much of what I said, since you said: "Some retributive theories hold that punishment should never be imposed to achieve a social objective (such as law-abiding behaviour in the future by the offender as you seem to think)". I think I made it very clear that I was saying just the opposite: it isn't about 'preventing' future law-breaking/murders, a point that Thyri made as well. Essentially, my position is 'deontological', which means it isn't about achieving something for the future (which would be true for a 'consequentionalist' position), but it is about the past. Punishing a murderer won't bring the person he/she killed back. But a murder left unpunished is a 'wrong' in the moral 'arithmetic' of society. It cries out for 'righting', which means punishment/retribution. As you say, 'benefits' such as future prevention by deterring future criminals is just secondary (while one can debate the effectiveness, no one can deny that there is not at least SOME deterring effect there).

And OF COURSE there has to be an element of proportionality. Without that, it could not be called justice, but it becomes arbitrary/blind revenge. Even when people take 'revenge' for themselves (which can be justified depending on the circumstance - say, the presence or lack of a any justice system at all, even though you would probably disagree), they could only claim any sort of 'rightness' or justice relating to their actions IF what they did was somewhat proportionate/suitable given the 'offense'.

If you come home early, and you catch your partner sleeping with someone, it is proportionate to scratch the paint of his brand new car. Not that it is legal or that it will get you anywhere, but it is justifiable. It would not be justifiable to set blow up the house with him (and maybe her) still in it, because it would be completely out of proportion. Similarly, it would not be justice to send someone away for life over parking in the wrong space. And similarly (as I see it), it is not proportionate to send someone to jail for a few years over a premeditated and unprovoked murder.
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby Alice McConnell » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:42 pm

Ah, Rob. Good post (and pleasantly low on moral indignation). Agreeing with a good deal of it (good summary of the case against capital punishment), but let me highlight my disagreements:

Rob wrote:An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.


That is true. It leads to vendetta's and vicious circles of retribution. But not when it is handled by a properly functioning justice system (which is kind of the point of those systems). And I am not against the justice system 'adding' some 'mercy' and 'forgiveness' into their deliberations. Not every 'killing' needs to end in a death penalty, as I see it.

When we kill those who have committed murder we are as bad as they are. Legalized killing of it's own citizens as punishment is unworthy of any civilization.


That is opinion. One shared by most, here, but just an opinion. I don't believe it. And again, I don't believe most people really believe it when they consider it. If you kill someone in self-defense, you are NOT automatically 'as bad as they are'. Same thing with a soldier killing during a war. Clearly, not every 'killing' is the same as every other killing, ethically speaking. In essence, I don't see an essential difference between a soldier shooting an enemy soldier and someone carrying out a death sentence.

Fact: States Without the death penalty have had consistently lower murder rates. Not to much of a deterrence this death penalty.

Harsher punishment makes for lower crime rate? I don't think so. If you ask me, it's the other way around.


Harsher punishments do not seem to help prevent crime, I agree. But is it not having the death penalty the cause? Or is it just that there is another underlying cause that influences both the likeliness that a place will choose to have the death penalty and the general level of violence in that same location/state/country? I don't honestly think that the death penalty as opposed to prison sentences only 'helps' repressing violent crime, but I don't honestly think it makes it 'worse' either. So, your 'the other way around' seems to me to be stretching it.

My fear is that people are going to let themselves be convinced by fear mongering politicians who scream without base or fact that punishments should be much much higher.


Maybe the fact that they want harsher punishments ISN'T because they feel it will deter crime. Maybe they want them because they feel that when relatively light punishments are given, justice is not served.

Sure, you can say you want retribution and claim the death penalty is a legitimate form of that retribution, but you can not ignore the fact that it simply does not work.


If lowering the rate of crimes is the goal, then you are right, it doesn't work. But that is not what it is about.

I am a father, i understand the emotions involved. Child abuse, rape, murder, it makes my skin crawl. I would love to get my hands on the s.o.b. that dares hurt my child, i would kill that person easily but, however understandable that is, that is not the right way to look at it.


Isn't it? I think it is. Sure, it is not the ONLY way you should look at it, I agree. But this way of looking at it, your emotions, are perfectly legitimate, even if some would call them 'base' or 'uncivilized'. A justice system that doesn't take those emotions seriously isn't serving the people it is supposed to serve.

I am dutch too, I know the justice system well too. I have often defended it. And I know how people working in the legal system think. They are happy to acknowledge the 'emotions' involved in public, but most of them tend to not pay much attention too them, shaking their heads about the 'Telegraaf-headlines' (a kind of tabloid). They feel strongly that right wing politicians pushing for harsher punishments are 'getting it wrong'. And they are, when you look at things from a 'crime prevention' perspective, as research keeps showing. But that is not the only possible perspective. I feel many involved in the legal system have a big blind spot when it comes to 'retribution'. For many, it is a bit of a dirty word. They aren't happy at all about new laws that aim to give victims the right to speak in court, and so forth.

What is happening (and has been happening for a good while now) in the Netherlands is that most judges and people working in the legal system keep looking at things from their bird's eye (utilitarian/greatest good for the greatest number) perspective. But most voters (well, a majority, at least) just don't look at it from that perspective. They look at it from my 'baser' perspective. And so politicians play on that, and win votes with it (some even calling judges a group of 'liberal left wing elitists' and so forth). And under pressure of public opinion and right wing political majorities, judges have been handing out 'harsher' sentences... and laws are underway that force them to go even further.

I do feel a bit sorry for them. From their perspective, harsher punishments make no sense at all. But that is them being 'out of touch' with general opinion. They may be hoping that 'the well-meaning liberal left' will win the majority again, but as long as left-wing politicians share this perspective, I fear they are not going to win big (though that won't be for a lack of my vote... one of those liberal parties gets it, even if my stance on capital punishment is one they would not get at all).

What if i kill that person, do i in turn need to be sentenced to death? Where does it end?


Well, that would likely be where the 'element of mercy/forgiveness' comes in, as I said above. But yes. If a father were to do something like that, he would have to face the consequences (a price that such a father might be willing to pay, perhaps).
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby Caranda » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:21 pm

Any opposition I have to the death penalty is practical not philosophical, namely:

- the risk of putting an innocent person to death

- I'm not convinced that life imprisonment with no chance of parole under strict conditions is not a worse punishment than death
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby Manon Seid » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:54 am

I am curious...if the argument one death deserves a death, hence someone who kills a person deserves to die too - what do you do about people like Anders Behring Breivik who went to an island and killed so many people its totally insane. You kill him 77 times back? How do you (the ones for death penalty that is) measure out due punishment then?
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby serene mistwood » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:51 am

@ Serene: I thought I was being polite and not offensive towards you, but either the subject matter or maybe that perceived slur about 'left wing liberals' (as I said before, not meant as an issue, since I am one) has caused you to to persist in snarky language with slurs, so I won't bother with a full response (you already stated you didn't want to debate further with me, so why bother, anyway?). It isn't a good subject matter to debate, perhaps, except when doing it with people that don't immediately consider those that have a different opinion 'uncivilized'.


Blah blah blah. I have lost count how many times you do this to people in arguments on these boards. You accuse others of what you yourself indulge in then act like some kind of victim when someone returns your own snarky and sarcastic responses. Well done. No wonder hardly anybody debates in depth with you here very often on a one-to-one basis that lasts more than a few posts. I won't bother again. I should have left the debate after your "snarky language with slurs reply" to Teritonus. A lesson learnt.
And I don't consider those with a different opinion to me *uncivilised* - unless they are vocal supporters of violent, barbaric and legal murder. So yes, I consider that an *uncivilised* opinion.

Can only be seriously debated with people willing to suspend their moral and political judgements for the duration of the discussion, when it comes to replying to their opponents.


You really need to practice what you preach if you wish people to take your arguments seriously.

I am always a bit surprised at how 'forgiving' the parents of a child that was killed can be, when interviewed on TV. Maybe they say what they feel they ought to say. Maybe they don't really mean it when they such things as 'wishing the murderer luck' and such. Personally, I'd want him dead.


Just one example of many where you are completely unable to suspend your own moral and political judgements in disussions. I could bullet point countless others. The thing about cheap shots, is that they usually miss their target completely and backfire.

And no, you didn't understand much of what I said, since you said: "Some retributive theories hold that punishment should never be imposed to achieve a social objective (such as law-abiding behaviour in the future by the offender as you seem to think)". I think I made it very clear that I was saying just the opposite: it isn't about 'preventing' future law-breaking/murders


And I understand perfectly what you are debating. It is you that does not understand. If punishment should never be imposed to achieve a social objective, then that punishment does NOT include prevention, eduction, rehabilitation etc. ( the law abiding future behaviour). Which is EXACTLY what you said. So there was really no reason to wax lyrical about being deontological – I had already perfectly deduced your stance. There are two very important points, namely the due process of law, and the theory of retribution, that you simply and clearly don't or won't comprehend.

But a murder left unpunished is a 'wrong' in the moral 'arithmetic' of society. It cries out for 'righting', which means punishment/retribution


You keep repeating this verbosely in every argument – but no one is disagreeing with you. Not one person. (except perhaps Tert who has concerns (and rightly so) about retribution) The only disagreement is that state execution is the answer. It isnt.

Manon Seid wrote:I am curious...if the argument one death deserves a death, hence someone who kills a person deserves to die too - what do you do about people like Anders Behring Breivik who went to an island and killed so many people its totally insane. You kill him 77 times back? How do you (the ones for death penalty that is) measure out due punishment then?


You can't Manon. An "eye for an eye" punishment system is an illusion. It simply cannot exist in an equitable and indiscriminatory manner in any way, shape or form.

Alice gave us a perfect example of this contradiction

Take a life without cause (such as self defense), and you owe a life.


And I am not against the justice system 'adding' some 'mercy' and 'forgiveness' into their deliberations. Not every 'killing' needs to end in a death penalty, as I see it
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby Alice McConnell » Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:43 am

serene mistwood wrote:Blah blah blah. I have lost count how many times you...


No point in continuing the debate between us.

Caranda wrote:Any opposition I have to the death penalty is practical not philosophical, namely:

- the risk of putting an innocent person to death

- I'm not convinced that life imprisonment with no chance of parole under strict conditions is not a worse punishment than death


The first one is a very strong objection, I agree. But with a good and fair justice system, I'd guess that the chances of someone being convicted and put to death for a crime they did not commit would be very very slim, especially given the advances in forensic technology. Of course, some of the reason that some people were found innocent who were first found guilty over the last decades had to do with the introduction of new technology/forms of evidence. But as science progresses, I'd expect that the accuracy of the justice system would too, over time, so... hopefully, fewer wrongful convictions. And if the chance of an innocent being convicted of a murder becomes really really slim, I think this practical objection becomes a 'theoretical' one.

As for life imprisonment being worse than death... I think it isn't, in the eyes of most criminals (since most would prefer to stay alive, even if in prison), and I don't think it is in the eyes of most people.

Manon Seid wrote:I am curious...if the argument one death deserves a death, hence someone who kills a person deserves to die too - what do you do about people like Anders Behring Breivik who went to an island and killed so many people its totally insane. You kill him 77 times back? How do you (the ones for death penalty that is) measure out due punishment then?


Well, you can only kill him once. That is the problem with mass murderers... the punishment can never match the crime. Even if you were to get 'medieval' and add torture, it would not come close to matching the the crime.

Of course, Breivik is a good example of someone I'd say would qualify for the death penalty. But Norwegians being Norwegians, they would be the last people on earth to do such a thing.
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Re: The Death Penalty - for or against?

Postby All Sunday » Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:45 am

Seems to me that people are rather afraid and hide behind what they have been taught about how everybody makes mistakes... there should be a chance for redemption ... religion wouldn’t allow so... and bla bla.
I'd like to keep a part the reason a person is condemned to die from the right to kill him once has proven of guilt. I don’t think making a list of reasons why this people should/shouldn’t die make a difference.
I’d also like to keep out the religious... philosophical... moral aspects and maybe look towards the more ethical personal ones.

But there are peòple out there that deserve to die and while it is easy for someone who had not to deal with a monster in their life to think so a victim or a relative has his right to decide what he wants to do about the damaged that has been caused.

I think it’s an easy way out when you simply say “We shouldn’t kill people” like if that were the absolute truth.

There is a right to kill... circumstance... reason that points in that direction and is not one I agree often with but sometimes that right is there and should not be ignored simply because of what society teaches us (we see how wrong society is).

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