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Capital Punishment

.. uppose, further, that he is able to command respect from his fellow inmates. Is it not possible that such a person can prefer a life in prison rather than having to go out into our world to earn a living? To such a person it is conceivable that a prison sentence maybe more of a reward than a punishment. Deutsh said whether the death penalty is a deterrent, I think we must philosophically consider suitable punishments to incorporate into our criminal justice system that will serve as a deterrent for violent crimes, not only those crimes that now provide for the death penalty. Denver Archbishop Charles Chadput placed a statement on his Internet site last year, condemning capital punishment. Killing our guilty is still wrong.

It does not honor the dead. It does not ennoble the living, said Chadput. Frank Keating counteracted the Bishops statement by saying (he) hopes that I dont get driven into the sea because I am a catholic, for supporting the death penalty. Most Catholics would agree that murderers should die. How many people do we have to see killed before it is justified? he asked. The Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke on CBS Face The Nation on June 9 1997.

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The concept of an eye for an eye ultimately leaves us blind and disfigured. Psychiatrist James Gilligan has studied societys most violent people. The experience has left Gilligan discounting what he describes as the underlying theory pervading our criminal justice system. The theory of rational self-interest. This theory assumes that violent people act out of common sense, do not want to go to prison, and do not wish to die. According to this premise, Gilligan writes, All we have to do to prevent violent crime is threaten violent people with capital punishment. There are four things wrong with this theory, said Gilligan.

It is totally incorrect, hopelessly naove, dangerously misleading, and based on complete and utter ignorance of what violent people are really like. Gilligans theories are based on his experiences as Director of Mental Health for the Massachusetts prison system, Medical Director of the Bridgewater (Mass.) State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Harvard University Medical School. A heinous crime occurs and most people ask the inevitable question: Who are these people capable of such inhuman acts? According to Gilligan, they generally are ordinary people who often describe themselves as robots, zombies, nonentities, and even vampires. In a 1977 courtroom, convicted serial killer Ted Bundy said many things about himself. Among those descriptions were; Sometimes I feel like a vampire, and Im the most cold blooded son of a bitch youll ever meet. Murderers frequently mutilate themselves in prison, cutting their arms, swallowing razor blades, blinding or castrating themselves- because feeling something, even pain, is better than feeling nothing. People who wind up committing murder are often the survivors of attempted murder themselves, or of a child abuse that is so severe, that if they were not strong, they would not have survived.

David Berkowitz was the Son of Sam serial killer. The press at one time asked him why he killed so many people. He replied, I always had a certain fetish for murder and death. Berkowitz was jolted to kill when he found out a family secret. He was an accident, a mistake, never meant to be born. He had always been told that his birth mother had been killed during labor.

What he found out was it was just a lie to cover up the fact that his real mother did not even care about him. Once he discovered the truth, he vowed to find the woman that cast him aside. When asked by a friend what he would do when he found her, he said, Im not going to rob her. Im not going to touch her or rape her. All I want to do is kill her. Gilligans hypothesis is that the common underlying cause of violence is shame. Violent behavior only results when three other conditions occur: 1) The individual does not see himself as having any nonviolent means to gain respect or find justice. 2) The shame and humiliation are so overwhelming they threaten to destroy the persons sense of self.

3) The violent impulses stimulated in all of us by feelings of humiliation are not inhibited by guilt, remorse, empathy, or love. The character Hannible Lechter, as shown in this clip from the movie Silence of the Lambs explains it best. Rather than punishment, Gilligan said, one proven approach to reducing violence is education, especially a college degree. Several years ago, Gilligan conducted a study in the Massachusetts Prison system in which more than two hundred inmates, including those that were convicted murderers, earned degrees and were released from prison. So far, not one repeat offender has been found. Gilligan said We know that the single most effective factor which reduces the rate of recidivism in the prison population is education, and yet education in the prisons is the first item to be cut when an administration gets tough on crime. If our goal is to reduce crime and violence, we would benefit all law abiding members of society if we made college education available in the prisons. Gilligan said he is amazed by how inarticulate and incoherent many violent prisoners are.

They have never learned to express themselves. They have never had anyone to listen to them and take their thoughts seriously. If we can get them to talk about their life experiences, we immediately give them an alternative. If we can provide these men with an alternative to violent behavior, they will use it. The best way to get people to act like human beings is to treat them like human beings.

Gilligan acknowledges that some violent criminals are so severely damaged and dangerous they simply can never live out in society again. But the emphasis, he said, must be on restraining and quarantining, rather than punishment. Over time, even the most deeply damaged people can recover a great deal of the humanity that they have lost; even the deadest could be restored to some semblance of humanity if given a humane enough environment, said Gilligan. I now leave the decision up to you. I have given you both the pros and cons on the issue of capital punishment. If you choose to remember only one point of my speech tonight let it be this quote of human beings by Henry Ford.

None are good but all are scared. Even the most horrendous criminal is a human being with a soul, and that soul is scared..

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