On the Death Penalty and the Cycle of Violence

On the surface, “vengeance” seems like a great idea. Many people gain some form of primal satisfaction when someone “gets what coming to them” (I’m certainly not immune to this). There’s an issue, however, is when one savors that satisfaction and develops a thirst for it.


In the process a desire for punishment is developed and honed, which in turn becomes the framework used to declare and pass judgement. The crucial element to remember is that justice is not strictly about punishment, I dare say it should primarily be about rehabilitation. And doing this, such as forgiving (without forgetting) others – and by offering the opportunity for rehabilitation, we can rehabilitate ourselves as well. Form ourselves into beings of mercy and justice, rather than be fueled by bloodthirst and death.

The focus on the punitive is typically found with those who favor the death penalty, as is the idea of “teaching someone a lesson”. However what is also troubling is those who take the punitive *mindset* to restorative justice – thereby subscribing to the punitive constructs they may have been trying to avoid. Yes, recompense is essential. Vital. But much like how force should be applied in situations of self-defense, recompense and reparations need to be done in a proportional and measured manner.

Applying the idea of proportional and measured force to the death penalty you would think means to take an “eye for an eye” approach, however that certainly isn’t measured because of the finality involved. There’s too many variables in play for finality to be an option, such as the possibility of someone innocent or someone not of sound mine for execution to be an option.  And although there are those who favor the death penalty as a punitive “teachable” moment, the reality is those who commit capital crimes either aren’t aware of what could await them, are too desperate and consider death not their greatest concern, or they simply don’t care. And, outside of all of this, it strikes me as ironic that there are those who hold so much distrust about the government yet are fine with said government deciding who lives and who dies through the penal system.

A common theme that I speak of with others is “over-correction”; where when correcting a wrong someone slides over to the other extreme. We see that in so many areas within society, and I think there’s very real harm done within both the penal system and our social contracts when doing this. With the former we can go from having too lenient punishments to Three Strike laws. We see recreational drug users tucked away in a jail. Tell me, what benefit is there for that? Could such a person not receive *help*?Of course they can. Of course they *should*. But for that to occur we need to establish that not everything must be punitive, and restoration is possible. Rehabilitation is possible. That people can change. That we can change. That you can change. That I can change.

The over-correction that could occur here is to abolish all prisons, which I know some are in favor of. I’m a bit biased on this front as my father definitely needed to spend some time….”away” at a “facility”, which is why I would advocate for a reformation of sorts. Yes, house and sequester dangerous criminals, because protecting society is obviously a good thing. But we need to examine what it means to be dangerous, what it means to be “criminal”. And we need to examine our mindsets, and ensure that we aren’t out for blood.

We need to stop demanding the pound of flesh and start walking with people. And there needs to be an end to the death penalty, which does nothing but perpetuate the bloodlust and cries for vengeance that the punitive cries out for.

The cycle of violence needs to end, and it needs to end now.

Restoration and redemption is possible. The best of us, the least of us. If you can do it, if I can do it, so can others.

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