Luckily, I am not the only one speaking out against the dangers and difficulty of the death penalty. It doesn’t take much investigation into the stories of Alan Gell or other innocent people wrongly sentenced to death or the multiple abuses by the State Bureau of Investigation to know that this is a kind of punishment which we are now moving beyond.
Besides creating an appeal system that costs more than any kind of incarceration, and its lack as a deterrent to crime, the death penalty is bad policy because it teaches us that taking life solves a problem of crime, that extinguishing a life mediates the horror of the first offense. This leads to a severe downward spiral, where people follow in the example set by our civil government: taking away life as a means of destroying something.
Where does this attitude of vengeance and bloody justice derive? Unfortunately, we trace it all the way back to the beginnings of the Bible, and the system of retribution established by the Hebrews thousands of years ago. This is the system that demanded “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” a verse repeated throughout the Pentateuch to show them how to live. This was the vision of a harsh and uncaring God, one that demanded a blood sacrifice from Cain and Abel, encouraged his followers to shed blood on the altar to him and later was used to justify capital punishment. This system was one that religious reformers afterwards, including Jesus Christ and Muhatma Gandhi, would come to refute.
This demand, perpetrated by Yahweh in the Bible, and continued now by our own state, is an affront on our good conscience and an institutional ill that deserves to be left behind. We applaud the State Medical Board, which has helped to handcuff the state from execution. We hope that bureaucratic tie-ups will continue to cripple this practice, and eventually lead us to a world where compassion, mercy and justice play out in a much cleaner and civil way.