|Yes, The Death Penalty is a Deterrent (in Prison)
|By Chris Leo, Retired NYS Correction Supervisor
The recent vote in California’s Proposition 34 has rekindled the debate between life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty for violent killers. If the true idea is to mete out punishment equal to the crime and save money, then a swift carrying out of the death sentence would accomplish both. The most recent covert approach is to shift the argument away from the moral issue and onto the fiscal cost. In this argument, the cost proponents leave out a few things: The excessive delay in carrying out punishment has created a false positive that the death penalty is not a deterrent and they forgot about the correction officers who work inside the prisons.
Swift and fair punishment will send a message to the seriousness of the crime. What has been done recently is to make a charade of the penalty; at the expense of those that were innocently slaughtered. Once again the victims are the ones that are being forgotten while the self-righteous ascend to their soap box. In a process that forgets about the victim, childish arguments; such as how the needle is injected or if the chemicals used are cruel and unusual punishment. Legitimatizing these claims has made a mockery of a once proud criminal justice system. The saddest part is that there are foolish judges that actually listen to the ridiculous rationale and then treat it as justifiable.
Those fiscally opposed to the death penalty are stating the lengthy appeal process and the associated cost. The old saying of “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is appropriate here. If a criminal was found guilty last week and convicted of murder and then put to death next week we would have accurate data as to whether the death penalty was a true deterrent. With the advent of video cameras and DNA we no longer have to be concerned that the wrong person was convicted and ultimately put to death.
Legislatures across the nation have stymied all attempts to curtail the long drawn out appeal system to the point that it has become an irony of itself. We rarely hear of those sentenced to death actually receiving their just penalty. In those isolated incidents that a convicted murderer is actually put to death, it is usually twenty years later when the facts are no longer fresh in the public’s mind. This delay sometimes leads to some sanctimonious Hollywood actor to take a skewed version of the crime as a way to gain notoriety for being virtuous.
We are not talking about the days of old where the hooded executioner climbed onto the stage and the townspeople gathered to watch the head be severed from the body for something trivial like disobeying the King. These individuals have taken a life of an innocent unsuspecting soul with absolutely no regard to their constitutional rights. What would be the sentence for an inmate; already in prison for life without the possibility of parole, that kills a correction officer? A double-secret sentence of life without parole? Maybe the judge will say, “Ok Mr. inmate, this time I really mean it, you are going to prison and will never get parole ever, and I mean it!”
The men and woman that work behind the walls of America’s prisons understand better than anyone that the death penalty is in fact a deterrent. Imagine the prison’s filled with inmates that have participated in some of the most heinous crimes and they have no possibility of parole. What is their incentive not to kill again? The death penalty is certainly a deterrent within the prison system. Correction Officers’ are the last line of defense between the civilized and the uncivilized. Allowing the uncivilized to have a sense that there is no ultimate price to pay for a killing inside a prison is insane. Anyone who has worked inside a prison would know better than to suggest otherwise.
Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Chris Leo is a retired NYS Correction Supervisor and has been the government affairs professional representing two of New York’s largest unions, in the Albany statehouse, since 1999. As a lobbyist, Mr. Leo is responsible for fighting and protecting state employees who work in New York’s state prisons. To contact Chris Leo : email@example.com
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