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The Death Penalty - should Canada debate it?

Updated on April 15, 2012
Arrest of a monster.  Should he be executed?
Arrest of a monster. Should he be executed? | Source

Thoughts for discussion

The last person hanged in the UK was in 1964 I was seven at the time and remember reading the account of the hanging in the newspaper. It was, to a young girl, a horrific thing to discover about the world and many nights of heated discussion at the dinner table ensued.

As a child I came to believe, on my own, that the death penalty was wrong.

However, as I listen to the news covering the stories about henious crimes committed against children women and families I am aware of an escalating inner anger about the injustices of the crimininal justice system which defends the crimes and offer opportunities for the defendant to be let off his or her crime on a technicality.

Now, I have inner discussions about the rights and wrongs of keeping a person in prison who has committed brutal acts of violence against others, especially when those acts are to children.

In 1996 I became a prison counsellor at Wandsworth prison in South London. The prison was the execution site for many infamous cases including the hanging of the posthumously pardoned Derek Bentley. This one injustice validated my belief that no man or woman should be executed in case of injustice but what I am now wondering about those for whom there is no uncertaintly? Is the death penallty in extreme and certain cases really wrong?

Having worked in a prison and met men who have committed terrible crimes and seen genuine repentance and change, I am convinced on the one hand that the death penalty should remain a sentence of the past. Yet, when I listen to the tragic story of the little girl brutally murdered in Woodstock I cannot see why either the man and woman responsible for this should remain alive and treated with dignity and respect - they certainly had no respect of regard for the young innocent 8 year old girl they chose to torture and murder.

The question I have is, does capital punishment, the death sentence, make us equal to the murderer? Is execution for a crime - even such an appalling murder as that of little Tori Stafford - justice or an excuse for the baser and primal human instinct to triumph. Does execution solve the problem or does it further debase our society?

I don't know the answer and I think it is worth the debate. Once thing I am certain of though is that we must wrestle with many tough questions in order to improve and become the best we can be as individuals, as small communities and as a culture within a global community.

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    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      You're absolutely right, reform is definitely needed, there are so many loopholes, it takes a lawyer to drive through them!

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Hi Alexander Mark. If think the fact that death is final if there is a mistake in who is found guilty is what has leaned me towards not voting for the death penalty. I think reform is needed in the prison system and the judicial system also needs reforming. There are far too many instances of lawyers obtaining freedom for a heniously guilty person on a technicality.

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      This is a stimulating hub because many of us do not feel we could, "pull the trigger," ourselves. But I think the error in our thinking is that many people think execution is revenge, but in fact it is justice. And the real purpose of that justice is not punishment but safeguarding society. If a person is judged unredeemable and their actions have led to physical harm or death of others in the past, then it is purely a slightly more sophisticated form of self defense to execute such a person and I am all for it.

      The fact that there are mistakes in the justice system is tragic and we should do all that we can to avoid them, but we shouldn't let that deter us from taking appropriate action to keep people safe - and not to allow a person who is deemed unfit for society to mooch off our economy, even if it is a square box with bars they're living in.

      The only solution I can see is if there was a way to reform the person within the system, meaning that perhaps they can perform labor to the benefit of their fellow prisoners or even for society, but it would be a huge undertaking to make that economically feasible and in effect, we would be creating a prison society so I think that may be a bit too hair-brained.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks Walter - in my opinion, whilst I agree that sentences in some cases for crimes against chidren should be punishable by death - we must also act appropriately and not fall into the trap of barbarism which will beget more barbarism. The torture of political prisoners is a good example of injustice portraying itself under the cloak of justice.

    • profile image

      Walter 5 years ago

      I strongly believe that all crimes against children should be punishable by death. Long and brutal death, maybe even public.

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      My prisoners find peace and religiosity while still in the pen, it is how they act when let go which makes all the difference. Crimes against children are so far removed from crimes of passion or blunder; it takes real evil to brutalize kids. For those criminals they deserve a one way ticket. There are many good people in the world who needs help, assistance and grace to pick themselves up; criminals of the magnitude written about here deserve nothing but a quick sentence. When an action this heinous is committed, society needs to ask itself to prioritize assistance and rehabilitation. Psychology has proven child rapists and killer to be beyond human help. Send them packing…

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      hi Jellygateor, I am not sure if your figuers are correct re. execution vesus life imprisonment. I do think the whole justice system in Canada and the UK (I have not had U.S. experience) needs an overhaul and millions of dollars could be saved daily.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks Brett for your thoughtful reply to this debate.

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      I hope not. It costs the public far more to execute than it does to keep a felon in prison for life. Lizam1 asks, "What if it was your child?" and my answer to that is that the taxpayers as a whole are more important than one individual when it comes to running a country and spending money. That said, I'd be in prison, and my child's killer would be dead anyway, for the cost of my own bullet.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      It is a tricky topic. While the death penalty acts as a great deterrent and reduces crime, innocent people also get killed when the system gets it wrong. Is there a solution? Unfortunately not, just an ongoing battle between good and bad....

      Socially shared, up and interesting.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      I know I would want to kill them myself - and would that then make me part of the problem. I met a woman in the UK whose daughter had been murdered and although she hated the man who did this she used her energy to create awareness around safety for women estate agents. I am at the tipping point of the death penalty though for the little girl murdered in this story for both the male and female perpetrator.

    • RetailRich profile image

      RetailRich 5 years ago

      There are some people who are so evil, they don't deserve to live. Yes some people can change, but we must all pay for our actions. The question for me is, what if one of these butchers did something to your child?

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 5 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks for reading and commenting. As you say big question.

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 5 years ago from Canada

      Wow! What a whopper of a question Lizam1! If the world was black and white and our justice system was perfect the answer to this would be a little more clear cut for me. In my younger days I would have been in favor of a return of the death penalty. But now I've come to believe in the power of redemption and I see more shades of grey. So long as there is a chance that someone has been wrongly convicted I am against it.