How do you know ... the afterlife isn't entirely glorious and we do every executed offender a tremendous favor by hastening their arrival? Perhaps the streets are paved with gold and all our deceased friends and family will be there to greet us on the other side. Many Christians believe some version of that to be the case, and more than a few offenders turn to Christ during their travails, just like the thief on the cross before he expired.What do you think? Which is the harsher punishment, LWOP or the death penalty?
To repeat my earlier reasoning, everyone dies but not everyone stays locked up in a cage for decades. Death is perceived as a relatively more severe "punishment" because we don't know what comes after, so people fear the unknown. But death is also a sentence to which we're all condemned - everyone's entry card to the human condition bears an unknowable expiration date - which makes it at once as un-extraordinary as it is exceptional. That sounds contradictory, but that's because death as a punishment creates a paradox that's just not there for LWOP. With LWOP, society knows EXACTLY what punishment the offender is getting, because we're all here on earth to see it. With death, at most one can "hope" it's enough. And since vengeance cannot bring back the victim, it never is.
BLOGVERSATION: At Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield tells this related anecdote about attitudes toward prison and the death penalty in China:
I was half of a contingent meeting with a judge from Mainland China. My bookend was Larry Goldman, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and sophisticated New York bon vivant.See recent related Grits posts:
Eventually, discussion turned to China's execution of prisoners, enough to make a Texan blush. Bearing in mind that China (pre-quake) had far more people than it could handle, I anticipated that the judge would view life as a rather expendable commodity, and justify the imposition of the death penalty as being a fairly mundane sanction, where a billion fewer people would not be noticed.
The judge did not. Not at all. He was quite serious in explaining that he believed that death was a kinder outcome to the defendant than life in a Chinese prison without parole. In fact, he was critical of our view that putting a human being in prison for the rest of his life like a caged animal was less cruel.
The picture he painted (mind you, he was talking about Chinese prisons, not American) was of a slow, lingering death of 20 to 50 years, maybe even longer, making it sound like a means of horrible torture. Death by a thousand days, rather than swift and
painlessnot too painful. He could not understand why we would think the suffering of life in prison was of a lesser quality than execution.
- Why choose life? Exploring possible reasons for the Quintero verdict
- Danalynn Recer on the Quintero verdict