Day 347. Switching Sides?

This is a tough one. Fraught with controversy. Full of risk. Because it’s a polarizing subject. REALLY polarizing. But still, I feel compelled to talk about it. To share my feelings. And,back and forth maybe, start a conversation. It all started with yesterday’s WordPress Daily Prompt: “Think of a topic or issues about which you’ve switched your opinion. Why the change?”

Well, I thought and thought and thought. And I was coming up empty. I’m a pretty decisive person; and before I make decisions, I tend to think them through pretty carefully. Long and hard. I don’t change my mind all that often.

So you should know this is a really big deal for me.

What you should also know is, I haven’t completely changed course. Switched to the other side. But I am

reconsidering my beliefs. Revisiting them. Rethinking. Which, in itself, is monumental. Because I never would have believed, for an instant, that I’d ever be willing to even consider such a thing.

Are you sitting there, screaming at me to spit it out already? To share what’s on my mind.

Capital punishment. There, I’ve said it. That’s what I want to talk about.

From the time I was first old enough to understand what capital punishment meant, I was against it. Dead set against it. Not that it was really ever an issue here, because Canada does not have the death penalty. But regardless, I’ve been vehemently opposed. Always.

Taking a life, for any reason, has never been a viable option for me. No matter the crime committed.

But I am sorry to say, I am beginning to question myself. Which is not to say I’m already all the way over, on the other side. And I may never get there. But I am now of the belief, that our system of punishment does not always fit the crime. And as the crimes get worse and worse and worse, it feels like the sentences are becoming more and more meaningless.

That bothers me.

I keep thinking of the victims.

To think Charles Manson keeps coming up for parole makes me CRAZY!! He hasn’t gotten it so far, and hopefully he never will. But what if he does? That he should even be entitled to it makes me sick to my stomach. And what about Ariel Castro? What’s going to happen to him? There are 977 counts against him. He is accused of murder, rape and holding three women captive for more than a decade. And what he did to them, and how he treated them during that time is just beyond comprehension.

What, pray tell, would be appropriate punishment for him?

And what if Adam Lanza hadn’t had time to shoot himself? What if he’d been apprehended? What about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? What about Paul Bernardo, who has to be Canada’s most notorious rapist and serial killer. It sickens me to think he got life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

He was convicted in 1995. That means he’d be eligible for parole in seven more years, when he’ll be 56. And what about his former wife (Karla Homolka), who was not only his accomplice, she helped him rape, torture and murder her younger sister. She plea bargained and ended up only serving 12 years. She’s been released, has had at least one child and God alone knows what she’s up to.

Is that justice?

There’s a part of me who wants them all to rot in a tiny jail cell for the rest of their lives. To live like caged animals. To have no contact with the outside world. To be shackled. To have no human contact. To have no idea what day or month or year or decade it is. To have the rest of their lives to live with what they did.

Then I say to myself, “Yes. But these people have no remorse. No conscience. No respect for human life, most likely including their own.” It wouldn’t affect them the way it would affect you. Or me.

Do you really believe people like this can be rehabilitated? I do not. Sorry. I don’t.

Which takes me right back to the beginning of this story. I’m starting to wonder. What’s the solution? What’s a just punishment. For them? For the victims and their families. And for all the others just like them out there, who think they can get away with murder.

It’s a tough one, all right. But more and more, I’m thinking what we’re doing now is just not working.

16 thoughts on “Day 347. Switching Sides?

      • Weren’t we always bad really, we don’t have to look too far in history to when everyone had to be able to kill or they didn’t survive. Perhaps we delude ourselves by thinking things have changed that quickly and expecting that aspect of humanity to disappear. Those at the extremes have no place in society as it is today.

        Society needs a solution, but lack of conscience is partly evolutionary, like psychopaths, they don’t become that, they are born like that and in the survival of the species they had a role when the community was threatened, because they are very often leaders and have little or no fear or conscience regarding their actions. It is when societies quieten, that this role turns ugly.

        Jon Ronson wrote an interesting and very accessable book The Psychopath Test about getting close to this kind of person and trying to undersand what makes them tick.

        One of the most insightful pages, wasn’t even in the book, it was an email he received from a young man (self-referred for psychopathy) who saw Ronson on a TV interview. He describes that predatorial instinct articulately, and in a way that really does make us realise why it is important to fully understand it before coming to any conclusions. Personally I just want to know how to keep out of their way. Ronson got permission to post the content to twitter. You can read that letter here.

        We wish for a utopia, but I don’t think it exists. We are safer today than we have ever been in the grand scheme of history, but we are also exposed to more thanks to the penetrative impact of media and technology. But talking about it and sharing insights is good.

      • Utopia doesn’t exist, that’s for sure. And that’s probably a good thing. I don’t think I’m wishing for it, but maybe I am. There’s no question we’re exposed to more because of media and social media. I’ll bet we’d have never heard of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman even 15 years ago. It would have been something that happened in Florida and even there it would probably never have made the newspapers. And if it did, it certainly wouldn’t have been on the front page. Which doesn’t mean that we still don’t need effective and fair laws and sentencing etc. etc. etc. The book sounds interesting. I’ll add it to my list of books you’ve reviewed that I want to read 🙂 The pile’s growing like a weed 🙂

        This is a complex issue. It starts at home and at school, because many of these vicious rapists and murderers start showing signs at a very early age that something’s not right. A woman I knew very well in Montreal, prominent in her field, had a daughter who ended up murdering her older sister, almost killed her father and who was waiting for her mother to come home from a business trip to kill her. She told me that, as a 4 year old this girl was killing small animals near where they lived. They had her seen by all kinds of doctors which clearly didn’t help.

        But parents and teachers have to spot the problems and try to do something about it. We have to get better at diagnosing and treating. We have to get better at recognizing and accepting when treatments aren’t working and we have to get these people off the streets and into safe environments — for them and for us. And when everything fails and they slip through the cracks and commit heinous crimes, we need to lock them up forever and make sure they never do it again.

        You’re right. I’m guilty. It sounds like Utopia, doesn’t it?

  1. Yes there are always the small minority that can’t be rehabilitated… for them they should be locked away from society forever. The problem with capital punishment though is that (not to mention murder by the state is the highest form of uncivilisation) is that sometimes the innocent are convicted…. not a good look! It is not worth the risk.

    • Agreed. It’s one of the reasons I have always been against it. That, and the fact that we’d also be commiting murder. But the system, as it stands now, needs improving.

  2. I keep hoping that the scientists come up with a solution for “fixing” the criminally insane. They have to be insane to do some of the things that they do. I also get concerned about the amount of money we spend on the likes of Charles Manson who we know for sure did it. I get conflicted about the issue. No answer here.

    • I don’t have the answer either. And I’m also conflicted. We do have ro figure something out, though. It’s out of hand.

  3. I’ve flip-flopped on the capital punishment debate for a long time. The prison system here in the US is over-crowded, under-funded and horribly managed. Rehabilitation? Does that work? A punishment that fits the crime? It’s unlikely there would ever be a punishment severe enough when it comes to heinous crimes like, rape, murder, pedophilia, etc. etc. etc. Those on “death row” in those US states that approved capital punishment, can often delay execution by 5-10-15 years due to their lawyers obtaining legal stays of execution. In 2012 less than 2% of inmates on death row were executed. It’s clear it’s rather useless – legalities are preventing enforcement. It’s a mind blowing complex issue.

    • It is a mind blowing complex issue. And in the meantime unimaginably horrific crimes continue to be commited. Here as well. The world sure is messed up, I’ll tell you.

  4. Rather than death, I would ask for tougher sentences- no parole sentences, that is, and solitary confinement. I simply can’t get my head around an eye for an eye.

  5. I think it’s healthy to examine our positions, and it’s normal to change at times because new events will challenge us. It’d be disingenuous to cling to an idea simply out of habit.

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