― Robert A. Heinlein
During my college years I believed everyone was redeemable, and I was vehemently against capital punishment. Now, although I am having second thoughts on the "redeem-ability" of all mankind, I am still against capital punishment. I do believe that certain people display such evil, that their removal from society would make our world a better place. The problem is, legally sanctioned murder is still murder, and even if you believe in punishing the guilty, how do you reconcile killing those that have been mistakenly convicted.
According to The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, between 1976 and 2015 over 1400 people have been executed in the United States, and since 1973, 156 people have been exonerated from death row. That means for every ten men executed, one has been found to have been incorrectly convicted. Our system is not infallible, and once an execution takes place, we have no ability to correct our mistakes. As much as we try to rationalize that a jury found them guilty, each time we execute an innocent man, we are justifying murder.
It seems that this justification takes a bit of the humanity out of those who sanction it. Last week the state of Arkansas was trying to execute eight prisoners in an eleven day span because the drugs they need will expire at the end of this month. Ultimately the executions were slowed down, but how can we decide to rush a man's death due to an expiration date?
There is no doubt that our prison system needs to be fixed. There is overcrowding, underfunding and too many early releases in order to "make room." Criminals have oft times been released or escaped only to commit their next heinous crime. Ted Bundy escaped twice and committed several more murders before finally being executed. Capital punishment, however, can't be the answer. It is similar to hitting your child to teach him not to hit his friends. Killing an individual to prove that killing is wrong seems like the height of irony to me. There must be a better answer.
In my college days I would listen to folk music and be encouraged to change the world. Phil Ochs wrote a song entitled Iron Lady that changed the way I saw the Justice system. One stanza in particular resonated strongly with me.
Stop the murder, deter the crimes away
Only killing shows killing doesn't pay
Yes, that's the kind of law it takes
Even though we make mistakes
And sometimes send the wrong man to the chair
One of the books that I read/reviewed this week had a similar effect on me. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption introduces us to Bryan Stevenson, a man who continues to fight against a system that he believes is flawed. This was the only book that I read/reviewed this week, because it put me back on the road of researching Capital Punishment and the need for change in our justice system. I will be back to two books next week, but for now...back to research for me.
As always a complete review of this book follows this blog.