Thursday, January 29, 2009

Common Ground on the Death Penalty

An important theme emerged this past weekend at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s annual conference in Harrisburg: the death penalty is not just about what a particular defendant deserves, but about what is best for society at large. There are those who are morally opposed to state-sponsored killing, and there are those who believe that the perpetrators of particularly horrific crimes deserve to die, but there are many things we can all agree on.

1. The safety of society is a major concern for everyone.

We all want to protect ourselves and each other from the worst offenders. While death penalty proponents feel that taking the lives of these offenders is the best way of accomplishing this goal, this may not be the case.

There is a great deal of doubt as to whether the death penalty is a deterrent to individuals who might commit capital crimes, a way to prevent murders from taking place. In fact, a survey of experts from the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the Law and Society Association found that the overwhelming majority – over 80% – do not believe that existing research supports the idea that the death penalty is a deterrent to homicide.*

While the death of a defendant who has already committed a homicide certainly removes him or her from society, there are other options – such as life in prison without parole – for doing this.

* (M. Radelet and R. Akers, Deterrence and the Death Penalty: The Views of the Experts, 1995. Cited on the Death Penalty Information Center website.)

2. Victims’ families have suffered devastating and unacceptable harm, and they deserve some type of restitution.

Again, many feel that if we do not sentence offenders to death, we are denying victims’ families the revenge they deserve and sending a message that their loved ones were not important.

Many families of victims, however, do not want to see the killer of their loved ones sentenced to death. This may be a moral standpoint, or it may be due to the very real ways in which the death penalty harms victims’ families. While executing the offender will not bring their loved one back, families will be forced to endure the lengthy capital appeals process, testifying again and again over the course of years – or even decades – and seeing media coverage of the crime over and over. Clearly, this impedes families from healing and moving on with their lives.

In addition, the most important thing to many families after a loved one has been murdered is information about exactly what happened to that person. The offender may be the only person who has this knowledge to give to the survivors. The death penalty may prevent families from ever getting this knowledge. Marietta Jaeger Lane, the mother of a kidnap/murder victim, did not know the whereabouts of her 7-year-old daughter Susie for a full year until the kidnapper called her on the phone. Her forgiveness of him over the phone not only led to his capture, but allowed her to have her questions about what had happened to her daughter answered.

While the current system offers victims’ families retribution – “we will kill the person who did this” – it often provides little of the ongoing help they need, such as mental health care and financial assistance. The capital punishment system expends enormous resources to execute the offender, rather than allocating these resources to programs that work with survivors to address the emotional and practical consequences of the loss of a loved one.

3. The idea that the state could execute an innocent person for a crime he or she did not commit is horrific.

Nonetheless, innocent people are sentenced to die and are executed far too often. The Death Penalty Information Center reports that since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1973, 130 inmates have been released from death row due to evidence of their innocence. This is not solely a result of new DNA technology – in fact, the DPIC says that DNA was a major factor in proving innocence in only 17 of these cases.

Strong evidence also exists that innocent people have actually been executed by the state. For example, investigative reporting by the Chicago Tribune cast serious doubt on the guilt of Carlos De Luna, executed in Texas in 1989. (See story: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Editorial)

4. If the death penalty is to exist, it should be applied fairly and used only to punish the worst offenders.

Overwhelming evidence demonstrates, however, that the death penalty is applied in a racially-biased manner, with non-white defendants and defendants whose victims were white being far more likely to receive a death sentence than white defendants or defendants whose victims were non-white.

The beliefs of individual prosecutors and the financial resources of the jurisdiction in which the crime took place are also major factors in determining who will live and who will die. For example, USA Today reported that while only 9% of murders in the state of Ohio took place in Hamilton County, 25% of the state’s death sentences were imposed there.**

** (R. Willing and G. Fields, "Geography of the Death Penalty," USA Today, December 20, 1999. Cited on the Death Penalty Information Center website.)

5. The death penalty costs a lot of money.

Due to court costs associated with capital appeals and the increased cost of housing an inmate on death row, it costs more to execute a man than it does to jail him for life.

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice estimated in a 2008 report that the current death penalty costs the state $137 million per year, while a system that used life imprisonment instead of the death penalty would cost just $11.5 million per year.

Likewise, a 2008 study by the Urban Institute found that Maryland taxpayers paid an average of $3 million in court costs per death sentence – nearly three times what they would pay to obtain a sentence of life in prison. These were only the costs to prosecute a capital case and did not include costs such as housing the prisoner on death row or carrying out the execution.

The money we now spend on the death penalty could be used instead for preventative programs, increased policing, and victim services .

It seems clear that the death penalty is not serving the function it claims to serve in our society. Given the harm to victims’ families, the harm to corrections staff asked to carry out the execution of another human being, and the high monetary cost of the death penalty, it is in the best interests of everyone, whether morally opposed to the death penalty or not, to find alternatives for accomplishing our shared goals of protecting society, providing restitution to victims, and seeing justice fairly applied.

Becca in Harrisburg

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armageddon Thru To You

If you've been wondering why it seems like the world around us is unraveling, it's because the last days as foretold in the bible are now upon us. Just as it was 2000 years ago, many were unable to discern the signs of Jesus Christ's first coming (Mat 16:3), as will many concerning his second coming, which will occur very soon. Yes many have proclaimed a similar sentiment many times in the past, but their errors have no bearing on today other than to lull you into spiritual apathy, and that too was prophesied to occur in the last days.

If you're not a believer in Jesus Christ because you're an atheist, consider that the underlying impetus for your disbelief is most likely borne of pride and here's why:

When we die, if you as an atheist were right, then there is no upside or downside for anyone regarding the afterlife. We will all simply cease to exist

However if we Christians were right about our belief in the afterlife, then we will be given eternal life and you as an atheist will receive eternal damnation

Given the choices, the position held by an atheist is a fools bet any way you look at it because the atheist has everything to lose and nothing to gain. It is tantamount to accepting a “heads I win, tails you lose” coin toss proposition from someone. And that someone by the way is Satan (see Ephesians 6:12).

The only way to explain the attitude held by an atheist is pride, pure and simple. The intellectually dishonest and/or tortured reasoning used by atheists to try and disprove the existence of God is nothing more than attempts to posture themselves as superior (a symptom of pride). And as anyone who has read their bible knows, this is precisely the character flaw that befell Lucifer, God's formerly most high angel. (Isaiah 14:12-15). Is it any wonder then why the bible is so replete with references to pride as the cause of mankind's downfall?

Pride permeates our lives and burdens us in ways that most of us seldom recognize. Ironically, pride is the one thing that can blind someone to things even the unsighted can see. And sadly pride will blind many with an otherwise good heart, to accepting the offer of eternal salvation that Christ bought and paid for with his life.

In any event, if you're an atheist, I wish you only the best for every day of the rest of your life because for you, this life is as close to heaven as you'll ever get, but for believers in Christ, this life is as close to hell as we'll ever get.

If you're not a believer and follower of Jesus Christ because you are of another faith, please take the time to very carefully compare your faith to Christianity and ask yourself, why is the bible the only religious book with both hundreds of proven prophecies already fulfilled as well as those being fulfilled today? No other religion can claim anything remotely close to this fact. Many Christians who are serious students of bible prophecy are already aware of the role and significance of bible prophecy in foretelling end time events. God gave us prophecy as evidence of his divine holiness to know the begining from the end (Isa 46:10). God also believed prophecy to be so important that to those willing to read the most prophetic book in the bible, the Book of Revelation, he promised a special blessing (see Rev 1:3), and this is the only book in the bible that God gives its reader a special blessing for reading. Something to think about.

Don't risk losing Christ's offer of eternal life by not accepting him as your savior and by thinking that the bible is nothing more than a compilation of unrelated and scattered stories about people who lived 2,000 plus years ago. If you take the time to study (not just read) the bible, you will literally be shocked to learn things you would have never imagined would be revealed in it. Did you know that like parables, God also uses particular months and days in the Jewish calendar, Jewish Feasts and customs, solar and lunar phases, celestial alignments, gematria (Hebrew numerology) early bible events and more as patterns and models to foretell future events?

Consider the following interesting facts about the bible that testify to its God-inspired authorship:

Did you know that in Gen 12:2, God said he would bless Israel?. How else can you explain the grossly disproportionate level of success achieved by Jewish people as a tiny minority in the world, especially after all they have gone through? And how can you explain the success achieved by the tiny nation of Israel, surrounded by enemies outnumbering them 100 to 1 and yet still they remain victorious in all their wars?

Did you know that as evidence to indicate that Israel is the epicenter of the world from God's point of view is the fact that languages to the west of Israel are written and read from left to right as if pointing to Israel, and languages from countries to the east of Israel are written and read from right to left, again as though pointing to Israel. Just a coincidence, you say? I think not.

Did you know that the six days of creation and seventh day of rest in Genesis is a model for the six thousand years of this age (ending very soon), that is to be followed by a 1,000 year millennial reign by Christ (see 2 Peter 3:8)? Adam was born sometime prior to 4000 B.C., therefore our 6000 years are almost up.

Did you kow that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is hidden in the meaning of the Hebrew names listed in the genealogy of the book of Genesis (Research it online)? To deny this was God-inspired, one has to instead believe that a group of Jewish rabbis conspired to hide the Christian Gospel right inside a genealogy of their venerated Torah, which is not a very plausible explanation.

Did you know that solar eclipses, which the bible describes as the sun being black as sackcloth, and lunar eclipses, which the bible refers to as blood red moons, have prophetic meaning? Research it online. God showed Adam (and us) his plan for man's redemption through the use of celestial alignments. (research Mazzaroth online)

Did you know that much of the symbolism in the book of revelation refers to planetary alignments that will occur when certain events occur as prophesied? These planetary alignments also explained the birth of Christ, just search out The Bethlehem Star movie on the Internet.

Did you know that the references in Eze 39:4-17 and Rev 19:17-21 in the battle of Gog/Magog and Armageddon respectively, in which birds of prey will eat the flesh of the dead in battle from two enormous wars is based on fact? The largest bird migration in the world consisting of bilions of birds (34 species of raptors and various carrion birds) from several continents converge and fly over Israel every spring and fall. Coincidence? I think not.

Did you know that Hebrew numerology, also known as Gematria, and the numbers with biblical and prophetic significance are hidden in the Star of David? Google the video called "Seal of Jesus Christ"

Did you know that the seven Churches mentioned at the beginning of the Book of Revelation describe the seven stages the Church will go through?

There are literally hundreds of hidden messages in the bible like these that testify to the fact that the bible was God inspired, and statistically speaking, are all exponentially beyond the likelihood of any coincidence. You can find them yourselves if you only take the time to look into it. Remember Proverbs 25:2 "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings".

And finally, if you are Catholic, or one who subscribes to the emergent Church or seeker-friendly Church movement, please compare the doctrine taught, advocated or accepted by your Church, with the actual bible, notwithstanding some new-age version of the bible. And remember that although the bible is often referred to as the living bible, the word "living" was never intended to imply in any way that the bible "evolves" over time to meet, or be consistent with, the standards of man. It's just the opposite.

Well, am I getting through to you? If not, the answer might be explained in the response given by Jesus Christ in his Olivet discourse when he was asked by his disciples why he spoke the way he did (in parables, etc.) in the book of Matthew 13:10-16. What Jesus said could have easily been paraphrased more clearly as "so that the damned won't get it". Why did Christ respond the way he did when asked why he spoke this way? Is there something about pride (the bible says there is) that closes one's heart to seeing or hearing the messages supernaturally hidden in bible parables, models, typologies, and similes, etc.? That should give you something to think about, but don't take too long. Time is now very short.

If it sometimes seems like there are powers at work behind the powers we know, remember what it says in Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." If you study the bible, it will become clearer.

And by the way, if you are a scoffer, this too was prophesied to occur in the last days. See 2 Peter 3:3.

Thank you and God Bless you! (at)

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