‘An eye for an eye will only lead the world to blindness’, as Gandhi said – and I believe that we should apply this to the death penalty in all cases.
Capital punishment has not been used in the United Kingdom for many years. Wherever it is still used, it has proved impossible to find a ‘nice’ way of executing people. With life imprisonment as an alternative, there is no evidence that capital punishment acts as a deterrent, although it is seen as the sure way to show you are ‘tough on crime’. In some political spheres, it might even be seen as a form of martyrdom.
There is the obvious problem of the innocent being convicted, and in countries which are not democracries, summary executions may take place in order to suppress opposition. Even in a democratic society, certain groups may find themselves at a disadvantage within the criminal justice system.
Furthermore, there are cases of ‘death row’ prisoners reforming; Karla Faye Tucker, executed a few years ago in Texas, was ministering to her fellow prisoners; she did not expect ever to be released from prison, only to be allowed to continue this work.
When we hear of some particularly horrendous crimes where one life or more has been taken, it is easy to understand the reaction to put the culprit to death. Carrying out the death penalty appears the most straightforward solution. But what does this solve? Now the state is committing murder – can this ever be right? The knowledge that there will be no possibility of parole – that the criminal therefore does have to pay with his or her life and can no longer be a danger to society should surely amount to the same thing.