(alternatives to) CRIME and (capital) PUNISHMENT

In my earlier commentary, The Right “Right to Life,” I strongly disapproved of capital punishment, citing vengeance as the only possible justification for its use by the State. Capital Punishment does not remediate, rehabilitate or restore. It does not serve to punish the convicted felon, death for such criminals as convicted of a capital offense is relatively rapid and pain-free.  It has absolutely no deterrent effect on other persons, as the sentence is carried our in private, unseen by those inclined to commit capital offenses. It provides no “closure” to those who will ever remember the faces, voices, personalities and bodies of those murdered, and it will restore to the State no secrets lost, nor undo any treasonous act.

Capital punishment is only an act of revenge, the approval of which is an immature, primitive and churlish response of an undeveloped conscience and retarded intellect.

Let’s talk about REAL punishment. Let’s discuss the propensity of Jurists to define for the body politic what are the conditions under which punishment violates a convicted felon’s rights under the US Constitution:

Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Ratified 12/15/1791.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

First, it is important to note the simplicity of the Eighth Amendment. Twice the term “excessive” is used, conditionally, by which the Framing Fathers acknowledged the escalating severity of criminal behavior, or put more succinctly, the notion that the punishment should fit the crime.  Bail may not be “excessive,” extended as it is to those presumed innocent, nor can excessive fines be imposed on those found guilty of criminal activity. In the first case, the Framing Father’s were aware of the burden placed on both those charged or indicted and their families by the common English practice of incarcerating, at public expense, not only the arrested, but often their family as well.  In the second case, The Framing Fathers were well aware of the use by English magistrates of excessive fines to seize and transfer property, to dispossess tenants from land and home, and to imprison “troublemakers” and social misfits through the use of fines exceeding the capacity of the convicted to pay.

The Eighth Amendment dealt simply with these offenses against citizens, leaving to the discretion of Jurists the reasonable definition of excessive. It is reasonable to infer that the Framing Fathers understood the nature that the punishment for criminal behavior was also conditioned on the nature or severity of the crime. To these men, “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” surely meant an end to physical torture. not corporeal punishment, but torture inflicted in retribution of any transgression. Further, they no doubt had in mind prohibiting the practice of keel-hauling, public flogging, and other punishments that caused physical harm. The notion that to deny a felon such as the comforts of “home,” social interaction with other felons, receipt of contraband and connubial visitation would never have occurred to the Framing Fathers to be in any form or fashion, cruel and unusual punishment.

Our system of criminal justice is deeply rooted in the tradition derived from both Roman and Anglo-Saxon Law, a modern interpretation of which is found in the vernacular phrase, “Do the Crime, do the time.”  Criminal Justice in American has three major components, determining criminal behavior, convicting criminals of that behavior, and punishing criminals appropriate with the severity of the crime.  The greatest impediments to these components are, of course, lawyers and judges.

The varying notions of what constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” is a reflection of the  cultural divide, what some would call class differentiation based on socioeconomic values, which exists in America today. For example:

Say I took a screwdriver and pair of pliers to a Jurist, to all most any jurist in America, but for illustration purposes,  say a particular current US Supreme Court Justice. I believe that within an hour, I could have them telling me any secret they knew. I do not believe this would be true of all of the sitting Justices, but it certainly would be true, in my opinion, of a majority. As a corollary, any of them who I treated this way, any one of them who talked, would for the rest of their life feel guilt, live in fear of having the same experience repeat itself, have vivid nightmares and sweaty palms, seek psychotherapy, and from the day after, and evermore, constantly relive the horror of the experience. More over, when given the opportunity, they would project that horror into the lives of every other citizen, and certainly rule in favor of banning screwdrivers and pliers.

Now, say I took a screwdriver and pliers to one of the good ol’ boys I know in North Georgia who hunt and fish, log and clear the land, live an authentic life. I believe that most of them would, after a day or two, tell me all the secrets they know.  As a corollary, almost all of them would feel shame, accept that the experience was over, internalize their feelings, and would, within a relatively short period of time, return to the life they know so well. Their thoughts would not be on the horror of their experience, they would not project fear and weakness, their hidden thoughts would most likely reflect a hope for a time and place to meet me once again, and even the score.

Now, say I took a screwdriver and pliers to a hardened urban gang-banger. The chance of having that person talk within a day or two are, in my opinion, about equal to a coin toss. What is pain to a human being who lives experiencing pain everyday, who is surrounded by pain everyday, whose very existence feeds of the pain of others? If they didn’t talk or if they did, their thoughts, if they could be called thoughts, would be of anger and gratification. They would want to take my screwdriver and pliers and use them on me, not to make me talk, but to make me die.

Hyperbole, you say? You are clearly from the same class as most modern American jurists. You no doubt believe sociology is the science that should most inform penal practices and codes.

My point is simple. Punishment, like pain, can be tolerated differently by different humans. Punishment is the only purposeful result of a criminal conviction. Rehabilitation, re-education,  socialization, behavior modification are not the appropriate result for a criminal conviction. It is the fear of pain, the weakness of character, the Euro-American nature of modern jurists, and of most of academia who study criminal behavior, which  have led to accepted “necessity” of Capital Punishment.

To the majority of Americans, life in prison, even a life sentence, means talking, walking, watching TV, having sex, enjoying contraband such as drugs, cell phones, cigarettes, marital visitation, family visits, free medical care, free food, educational opportunities, clothing, laundry, and of course, parole and probation.

Capital Punishment is morally wrong. For a Christian, supporting or condoning the use of it is a sin. It was viewed by the Framing Fathers as a punishment of the last resort, as they clearly understood its use as a violation of the rights and privileges with which the Creator has endowed all of us, all human beings, world-wide.

Capital Punishment is civilly wrong. It does not restore the victim, remove the victim’s family’s memory or pain and suffering, it does not heal the wound or the heavy heart.

Capital Punishment is criminally wrong. It does not punish the crime, in point of fact, it removes the criminal from punishment. It does not deter, prevent other criminals from heinous crimes, it does not make an example of the criminal executed, or serve to educate the public on the value of human life.

Capital punishment is patently unconstitutional. Much literature reflects the uneven and discriminatory application of capital punishment; current literature reveals its common application to citizens later found to have had no part in the crime. Innocent citizens have been murdered by the states, only later to have received posthumous apologies.

Capital Punishment is stupid and counter-productive. As practiced in America today, under the guidance of soft skinned, weak-minded,  pseudo-intellectual jurists, there is no relation between any crime and punishment, most certainly there is no cause and effect relationship between the time of criminal behavior for which the death penalty is demanded, and the time some black-robed, teeth gnashing, gut wrenched, pasty-faced, pointy headed intellectual judge allows the execution to be carried out.

What must be done to rectify this abhorrent miscarriage of American virtue? What must be done to insure punishment for crime?

It should be clear to all from my comments that I am no enthusiast of the current state of American Jurisprudence. The commentary is not about the tragically needed and constitutionally demanded reforms of that system, but rather, it is about Punishment. In Georgia, punishment is influenced and affected by two areas in desperate need of reform, The Criminal Code, and The Department of Corrections. Two branches of our incredibly fragmented state government, the Legislative and Executive, are thus involved in determining the nature and length of Punishment,  along with the Judicial Branch, which, in Georgia is an amalgam of the executive and judicial functions. If this seems confusing, you should see, no really you need to see, the Organization Chart of Georgia State Government.

Would anyone reading this not agree that the Death Penalty as implemented in Georgia has absolutely no demonstrable effect. Neither you nor I can cite a single example of someone not being murdered as a result of any criminal’s consideration of the inevitable result of their act of murder being a death sentence. I admit that such an assertion is facetious but it is not fatuous. The point it makes is first that deterrence  is impossible to measure, and second, that criminal behavior is unlikely to be affected by rational thought involving the consideration of crime and punishment.

Deterrence only occurs as a result of an absolute knowledge that an action will be followed an undesired result. The finest example of this hypothesis is MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, best attributed to the scholars at the RAND Corporation. Deterrence works, apparently, on a global scale, how can it be made to work on a “penal” scale?

Here is how deterrence can work, would work, without the interference of Jurists whose most important decisions are made weekly in “club” selection for their golf game at their private enclaves. The experience of imprisonment must be made to be intolerable, and this is only possible if we agree that prisoners must be isolated from society, including contact with each other, the outside world, and all but a few well-trained para-professionals.

Life without parole should mean life without society, life without companionship, life without any but eternal hope. Such criminals as are convicted of “capital”offenses and sentenced to life without parole should enter a facility where they will, in all but flesh, cease to exist.  23 hours a day in a 6’x8’x16′ cube, 1 hour a day to shower and exercise, 1 day a week to shave. 1 hour a month of audio-video visitation. That is punishment that no criminal, no sociopath would want, or long tolerate, and it would be for the rest of their life. What I propose is not cruel and unusual, it is fitting and necessary to serve justice, and to serve as a deterrent of criminal activity.

More importantly, all persons convicted of major crimes would serve 3, 5, 10 or 20 years under the same conditions. When a criminal is sentenced for 3 years, he or she would literally “go away” for three years.

I will further comment on the nature of penal confinement, behavior modification and deterrence in another commentary.

To summarize, supporters of the “death penalty” want to spend time and treasure to mollify Jurists who have no idea of what real punishment entails. They want to wait years only to give the felon a free pass from worldly pain. I want to punish these same reprobates by humanely confining them away from all of the rest of humanity. I want their family, their friends, their fellow gang-bangers and  criminal associates to understand what the felon has taken from the person they killed, a life, and what the felon no longer has, a life.

That, you sniveling do gooders, you pompous progressives, that is real punishment. You know it, and you are horrified by it. But it is the rare instance of all you ACLU denizens, you liberal thinkers, having the same fears as the common human in America. Neither group can imagine living out life, or even spending one year alone. I’ll bet you’ll fill out your 1040 a whole lot more accurately if you were faced with REAL PUNISHMENT.

For the rest of you readers, conservative, church going, supporters of the Death Penalty, simply ask yourselves, “Does the punishment described above fit the crime? Wouldn’t it be more just to use the murder of one to prevent the murder of others? Why not resolve to reform a broken, ineffective and costly system with one that accomplishes better results, and conforms to the teachings of Jesus, Christ. Go on ask your self: “Would that murderer be better off dead than alive?” Of course he or she would be better off dead, and that is the problem with our system of Capital Punishment. The death penalty is the ultimate “GET OUT OF JAIL” card. Think about it. Which is the greater punishment, the greater deterrent, which will protect you and those you love the best? Swift and painless execution, or a the remainder of life in solitary confinement, no TV, no cable, no music, no conversation, no visitors.  Which would you prefer, death or an absence of everything that gives life meaning? Which frightens you the most? Which would affect your behavior, your choices, that is which consequence would most affect those choices?

I knew you would agree. Let’s start together to campaign for REAL punishment, for real reform, for an end to living in fear of some sociopath harming those we love. Let’s put an end to Capital Punishment, and start Punishing Criminals.






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One Response to (alternatives to) CRIME and (capital) PUNISHMENT

  1. John says:

    Interesting. How does a society re-educate someone with the emotions needed to change behavior. Why does someone kill another human? What need or void did it fulfil for that person. What can be done to stop it? Herein lies answers that this society may never discover. Too often we try to treat everyone the same, education, work, when really there is no “system” that works for everyone.

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