Thursday, January 04, 2007

Let's talk about the death penalty

Bluegrass Report: Death Penalty

Well! Here's a perfect can o' worms to jump into...

Note the dichotomy of the two views expressed in this story: that it COSTS the state a lot to sentence someone to the death penalty (true, and known for a long time), and that the death penalty is "inconsistent with evolving standards of decency", which has always been true, nothing "evolving" about the indecency of it, but overlooked when convenient.

So which is more important to us here in the early 21st century, at a point in history where this issue has been debated'll pardon the expression...death?

Is the cost-effectiveness of life imprisonment without parole more advantageous to the state than the decency issue?

I submit that the cost issue is also a time issue - that the costs to the state of multiple appeals is not only higher in real dollars, but is incurred in a shorter time span than the cost of maintaining a prisoner for life, and thus the average life-without-parole costs can be amortized over a longer time period.

That's really what this argument will come down to eventually, in fact to a certain degree already has: a cost-benefit analysis, and public decency, while spoken of often, will ultimately have little or nothing to do with it.

I remember a sci-fi story some years ago - don't remember the title and would appreciate help from anyone who does remember it - in which the main premise was that the death penalty could be imposed for nearly any infraction, even jaywalking, because the executed person's organs could then be harvested to improve or save the lives of the "law-abiding" citizens - thus, there was a societal benefit attached to every execution. And thus there were an awful LOT of executions.

We're not quite that far gone yet, it was fiction after all - but this story says a little more than I'm comfortable with about how much we may be headed there.

These things are never quite as simple as they appear, are they?