When I was young and passionate I was all in favour of capital punishment. Why should killers be shown mercy and compassion when they had shown neither to their victims? Why should they continue to live a full life after depriving others of theirs? Why should society be concerned about their wants and needs when they had already turned their backs on society’s fundamental rules and expectations? Above all, why should these people be given the opportunity to get back into the outside world to possibly kill again? After all, and you can carve this in stone if you like, executed killers never re-offend.
Historians and analysts have told us time and again that the threat of capital punishment has never been a deterrent to committing a capital crime. But how do they know that? Simply because killing has continued to escalate? Surely, with the population explosion, this would have happened anyway? For all we know, the figures could be much worse than they already are, if capital punishment had never been introduced at all. Any analyst worth his or her salt can ‘manipulate’ figures to fit whatever argument they care to promulgate. Politicians, for instance, do this every other day. Anyone wishing to pursue the ‘no deterrent’ argument had better come up with something more than a list of figures if they wish to convince me. Figures can (and do) lie.
I recall reading a prime example of this many years ago. The Police Chief of a major US city released a press statement claiming his department had reduced crime in the area by 20% in less than twelve months, and that the ‘figures’ would bear this out. And they did – at first. There had been around fifteen thousand felonies perpetrated the year before, but that number had been reduced to about twelve thousand a year later. Closer examination of the details, however, revealed that the crime of ‘marijuana possession’ had been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanour during the interim. Anyone charged with that particular felony the year before could only be charged with a misdemeanour this year. Eliminate the actual offence and you automatically have less crime – on the books at any rate. Just like that. Of course, the crime rate had not really dropped. Just as many people were smoking grass as before, but it was no longer a felony to do so.
Having said that, I hasten to add that the ‘deterrent’ factor was not the reason I changed my mind about capital punishment anyway. Neither am I one who believes that all life is precious. All life is most definitely not precious, regardless of what your Bible or your preacher might tell you. There are individuals on this planet who have, by their own actions, forfeited their right to live. They deserve to be done away with. I refer to the following: mass murderers, serial killers, terrorists who indiscriminately take human life, child murderers, and hard drugs dealers. Why drugs dealers? Because they deal in human misery and they cause crime to escalate. People die or harm others because of the product they get fat on. Each of these categories contains creatures that have, in my opinion, forfeited their right to continue to be part of society. Yet, even so, I am against executing them. Why? Because it is too easy for them. It is too quick. I believe the punishment should fit the crime. Consequently, I believe in life imprisonment, but with certain stringent conditions that sentencing judges must be instructed to include in their sentencing:
- A ‘life’ sentence must always mean just that – imprisonment for life, with no possibility of parole, whatsoever. Zero. No attempts at rehabilitation.
- It must be permanent solitary confinement. No mixing with other prisoners.
- No visitors – ever. Not for any reason. I still find it inexcusable how pitiless killers such as Manson Gang member Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, convicted of slaughtering seven innocent people including the heavily pregnant Sharon Tate, can be granted enough conjugal visits to enable him to father four children from prison!
- No TV, radio, Internet, computers, phone calls, reading or writing material of any kind – ever. And no mail either.
- Only the blandest of food, nutritious and healthy, but nothing really enjoyable.
- Water only to drink.
- Enough blankets and clothing to sustain life, but not for comfort.
- Only enough air conditioning to sustain life, not to make life comfortable. They should be uncomfortably warm in summer and uncomfortably cold in winter, without either threatening their health.
The above list is designed to sustain life, nothing more. No comforts, no fun, no enjoyment. It is simply punishment befitting the crime. I would even condone a subject being introduced at schools explaining the above in detail to schoolchildren. Make them aware that this is the price to be paid, should they choose as adults to, for example, deal in hard drugs. I am talking about crimes against people here, as compared to crimes against property. These days the emphasis is all wrong. You are liable to get a stiffer sentence for stealing than for harming another human being. Money and property can be replaced. People can’t. You can rehabilitate a bank robber, but why even bother with a Bundy or a Manson? The ‘bleeding hearts’ of this world (and there appear to be an endless supply of them), will no doubt bleat long and hard about my proposal. After all, it was through their efforts that the likes of the above-mentioned Watson got to enjoy sex on a regular basis whilst incarcerated. It was the result of their efforts that two vile serial killers in my state, Western Australia, were given access to Internet pornography in their cells.
Charles ‘Tex’ Watson today.
Capital punishment has had its day. If it never acted as a deterrent, even when ‘hanging, drawing and quartering’ was in vogue, then a ‘lethal injection is scarcely going to deter anyone today. Speaking of past brutality, have you ever noticed how crimes against heads of state are treated far more harshly than crimes against ordinary fellow citizens? Hanging, drawing and quartering, for instance, was reserved for traitors, those acting against the crown. If you just happened to butcher your next door neighbour you were hanged. But if you even planned some bastardry against the king or queen you got the full treatment. Royal families, whatever the country, are a vindictive lot.
Actress Sharon Tate, one of his 7 victims.
The same can be said for dictators such as Stalin and Hitler. Soviet archives reveal that Stalin had nearly 800,000 people executed in purges, a further 1.7 million were worked and starved to death in the Gulags, and a probable 18 million more died during the famines and deportations that happened under his regime. Still, over 1.5 million mourners filed past his coffin before he was laid to rest in the Kremlin in 1953, and most of these dopes were weeping and lamenting his passing. Far away in Siberia, I imagine there might have been quite a different response from a few million Gulag prisoners, a collective cry of, ‘about fucking time!’ in all probability. By the way, did you know that this horrendous excuse for a human being was actually nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1948? What a sick joke that would have been had he won.
Herr Hitler was another vindictive piece of work, especially when it came to assassination attempts. Of course, he murdered six million Jews, but not out of vengeance. That was simply policy as far as he was concerned. But after the failed July 20 plot of 1944, he took personal delight in having the perpetrators hung from meat-hooks with piano-wire. He then ordered film of these unfortunates slowly strangling to death, so that he and his cronies could enjoy watching them after dinner! It is sobering to note that Hitler’s primary concern with the carrying out of the Final Solution was from an economic viewpoint, so he instructed Heydrich and the others to find a way to kill millions of people on the cheap because bullets cost money! They came up with the less expensive, cyanide-based Zyklon B as their preferred killing tool.
Capital punishment is no longer the way to go. Methods such as the electric chair, guillotining, beheading, and others are too messy for one thing. And they surely have some kind of adverse psychological impact on whomever is designated as the official executioner. The exception (there is nearly always an exception to every rule) seems to have been Albert Pierrepoint, the most famous of British hangmen. He was never the official British hangman, incidentally. He was a ‘part-timer’, so to speak, a publican by trade who was called upon (and paid, of course) to stretch a neck every now and then. In all, he hanged somewhere between 435 and 600 people, among them 17 women. It seems indefensible that a more accurate figure is still unavailable, but there you are. After all, we are not talking about shelling peas here. Anyway, the points I wish to make are: One, he thought capital punishment did not deter, and two, sending all those hundreds to meet their maker didn’t appear to bother him in the slightest. A unique individual was Albert.
I have little doubt that a percentage of those reading this will consider my proposal on how to treat the very worst offenders as both heartless and over-simplified. You may well be right, of course. I would argue, however, that it might just be an improvement, a kind of ‘middle of the road’ compromise between killing them and pampering them. All the present system does is make already rich lawyers richer lodging endless appeals. And it encourages every Tom, Dick and Harry doing a ‘life’ stretch to suddenly ‘find God’, the mandatory step one towards convincing parole boards that even the lowest scumbag un-hung is on the road to rehabilitation. In conclusion, I might mention that the before-mentioned multiple killer ‘Tex’ Watson became a ‘born again Christian’ and a preacher while in prison. He even has his own Bible-thumping website for crying out loud! He has unsuccessfully sought parole fourteen times and is due to front the board yet again in November 2016. Enough already. Change the system. Think about justice for the victims for once. They can no longer speak for themselves.