Sunday, January 06, 2008

Is the death penalty finally on the way out?

I have always been opposed to the death penalty, but it has been interesting to see how obsessed so many people are with it as an important tool of law enforcement and "justice." Although a few states are heading down the path to eliminating this barbaric relic, in the rest there is this odd lack of willingness to admit that it is a very poor and ineffective tool for public safety.

For all the passion law and order types have for the death penalty, it now appears that few of them are really as passionate about it as they publicly profess. Sure, being pro-death penalty has been a surefire path to votes in many states, but from a practicality perspective the tedious process of actually getting somebody executed with all of the long appeals renders it a somewhat unattractive option for politicians who are usually more results-oriented and want to see results now rather than years or decades down the road.

It is almost ironic that the debate over pain and lethal injections may in fact lead to the de facto abolition of the death penalty, for good. If the U.S. Supreme Court finds that the process is unnecessarily painful and that states (and the U.S. government itself) must come up with a painless process, that may lead to a gridlocked search where states finally grumble and throw up their hands and admit that it simply isn't worth it.

Although few states or politicians will voluntarily and willingly give up the death penalty as a way to garner votes, the certainty that truly painless execution will be enforced by the U.S. Supreme Court will take the wind out of their sails and they will find it attractive to redirect their law enforcement energies elsewhere.

-- Jack Krupansky


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