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Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
Fri May 15, 2015, 07:46 PM May 2015

Thoughts on the Death Penalty

Four arguments are commonly made in opposition to the death penalty. Let me review them before moving on to the particular concerns I want to discuss. Here, then, are the traditional arguments:

First, we have no need for a death penalty to protect ourselves from murderers because Wisconsin law permits us to put them in prison for life without hope of ever being released.

Second, it is expensive to seek the death penalty. Studies in other states have shown that it costs more to sentence a murderer to death and then wade through the appeals process than it would have to simply imprison the criminal for life.

Third, there is always the possibility of executing an innocent person. Some people seem to think that the use of DNA evidence is an absolutely certain means of avoiding such errors, but that is simply not so. Any number of events, ranging from misbehavior on the part of police officers to errors at the crime lab, could bring about terrible miscarriages of justice.

And fourth, there is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime. Just consider for a moment—can you imagine criminals thinking to themselves, “I want to go on a killing spree, but they will put me to death if they catch me, so I won’t do it. However, I would go out and murder a bunch of people if all I had to face was life without parole.”

If you think the death penalty is somehow going to make you safer, how do you explain this?—Murder rates per 100,000 population range from a low of 1.2 in Maine to a high of 13.0 in Louisiana. Twelve states, including Wisconsin, have no death penalty. The average murder rate for these states is 2.90. The remaining 38 states have the death penalty. Their murder rate per hundred thousand residents is 5.3. The probability of this being a chance result is less than one in a hundred.

At 3.3 murders per 100,000, Wisconsin has a slightly higher murder rate than the average for states without the death penalty, but considerably lower than the average for states with the death penalty. Why, then, should we be in any hurry to legalize the death penalty and thereby join the group of states with the higher murder rates?

Another question—Might there be something about having a death penalty that causes states to have a higher murder rate? I think there may be a connection. Let us make no bones about it. To approve the death penalty is to assert that it is permissible for a large number of people—the state—to gang up and put one of its members to death. When a state authorizes executions, it is in effect saying that killing is not only permissible, but is in fact desirable, in some circumstances, including circumstances that do not involve immediate self-defense. Children learn both behaviors and attitudes by the example of their elders. From what we know of child development, there is every reason to imagine that children who grow up in a society that approves the killing of human beings will have lower inhibitions against killing than do children whose society teaches an absolute intolerance of killing.

Wisconsin has never executed a criminal since attaining statehood in 1848, and explicitly forbade the practice in 1853. This is a proud tradition that I believe to be worth keeping.

Thoughts on the Death Penalty (Original Post) Jackpine Radical May 2015 OP
I'm 100% against the death penalty. onehandle May 2015 #1
+1 daleanime May 2015 #44
k&r uppityperson May 2015 #2
And then there was one less ten commandments seveneyes May 2015 #3
Those are the exact reasons I'm against the death penalty. NuclearDem May 2015 #4
Agree, but life in a supermax prison may be worse JustABozoOnThisBus May 2015 #5
Why a Supermax? Jackpine Radical May 2015 #9
I have no reason, other than the debates on DU over the last few days. JustABozoOnThisBus May 2015 #10
23 hours a day of solitary confinement for life. Jackpine Radical May 2015 #13
Here's what that "nothing" causes: F4lconF16 May 2015 #39
The American Oubliette... haikugal May 2015 #58
it is torture Voice for Peace May 2015 #59
Close the supermax. End life without parole eligibility. morningfog May 2015 #11
Agree. Thank you. nt F4lconF16 May 2015 #65
The Horror seveneyes May 2015 #15
+1 Jefferson23 May 2015 #6
I am against the death penalty, across the board petronius May 2015 #7
Across the Board seveneyes May 2015 #17
For decades it's been a fact that states without the death penalty have lower murder rates......... George II May 2015 #38
Correlation is not causation. rogerashton May 2015 #8
I'm quite aware of how to interpret a correlation. Jackpine Radical May 2015 #12
Getting up off the floor literally malaise May 2015 #16
What if the murder rate in those states would be higher without the DP? NotoriousRBG May 2015 #19
Why might that be? Jackpine Radical May 2015 #24
If only you had some peer reviewed evidence to back phil89 May 2015 #20
Peer-reviewed evidence? WTF is that? Jackpine Radical May 2015 #32
Makes sense to me, Doc. eom rogerashton May 2015 #66
Almost every other country in the world gets along just fine without a death penalty. SheilaT May 2015 #14
Almost every other country in the world gets along just fine with the USA picking up the defense tab seveneyes May 2015 #18
And how is that relevant to the death penalty? SheilaT May 2015 #21
So Goddamned relevant, it's often overlooked seveneyes May 2015 #22
Gosh. We have the death penalty so as to spare other countries from having it? SheilaT May 2015 #23
I trust we're dealing with a bit of Jackpine Radical May 2015 #25
Yep. Well, maybe more irony than sarcasm. Especially when SheilaT May 2015 #27
I guess the notion is that we're the wholesale death merchants to the world. Jackpine Radical May 2015 #29
Hmmm. I've been known to write science fiction, SheilaT May 2015 #33
Jeez, why not? Jackpine Radical May 2015 #34
I've already written a story in which SheilaT May 2015 #35
I so want to read that. F4lconF16 May 2015 #43
Sounds fascinating. BeanMusical May 2015 #51
Thanks for that. SheilaT May 2015 #57
It's so simple it is often ignored seveneyes May 2015 #26
Thanks for a great post!!!! +1000 nt Logical May 2015 #28
Ritualized Human Sacrifice. Downwinder May 2015 #30
100% against. No exceptions. Fearless May 2015 #31
I think it's good to keep Omnith May 2015 #36
Why? Jackpine Radical May 2015 #37
Society benefits by not having him part of it. Omnith May 2015 #42
How exactly was McVeigh part of society after he was incarcerated? nadinbrzezinski May 2015 #45
He wouldn't be in either case. Omnith May 2015 #47
You are referring me to a fiction book written under commission nadinbrzezinski May 2015 #48
I'm glad you hold life sacred Omnith May 2015 #49
I believe the state should not kill in my name nadinbrzezinski May 2015 #50
Cost to society? Omnith May 2015 #54
Funny, most nations can get along without murdering nadinbrzezinski May 2015 #55
I guess we just see things differently Omnith May 2015 #63
The death benefit is a negative to society Major Nikon May 2015 #67
+1 Well said. BeanMusical May 2015 #52
The death penalty is just the most extreme of our criminal system nadinbrzezinski May 2015 #40
I can't recommend this post enough. F4lconF16 May 2015 #46
Excellent contribution to this discussion Nadin. haikugal May 2015 #62
I fully agree. Jackpine Radical May 2015 #69
Grotesque. haikugal May 2015 #72
Add one more reason: criminal charges are more often brought against minorities and the poor jwirr May 2015 #41
Kick and R. BeanMusical May 2015 #53
I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases Blue_In_AK May 2015 #56
I'm in NC and I started out pro-death penalty, Jamastiene May 2015 #60
It really rings true to me. Jackpine Radical May 2015 #76
Am against the death penalty unless akbacchus_BC May 2015 #61
Then it sounds like you are against the death penalty in all cases Major Nikon May 2015 #68
great post, thought provoking, thank you! Voice for Peace May 2015 #64
Thank you so much for that! Jackpine Radical May 2015 #71
For many years I was on the fence about the death penalty davidpdx May 2015 #70
There is one place, and one place only hifiguy May 2015 #73
And that's the one place we in the US do not apply it. Seems the more people you kill, the less sabrina 1 May 2015 #74
Not even there, afaic. Jackpine Radical May 2015 #78
The death penalty is only one very visible facet... Orsino May 2015 #75
K&R! mvd May 2015 #77
Utah is a death penalty state... TeeYiYi May 2015 #79
A funny thing about geometric means-- Jackpine Radical May 2015 #80


(23,131 posts)
5. Agree, but life in a supermax prison may be worse
Fri May 15, 2015, 07:55 PM
May 2015

On Death Row, a prisoner will have many conversations with lawyers, etc, as the appeals go on for some decades.

Serving a life sentence, there might be no visitors at all.

The horror.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
9. Why a Supermax?
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:00 PM
May 2015

There is no justification for Supermax prisons. They are just the wet dreams of demagogic politicians playing to the most base instincts of their troglodytic supporters. No civilized country would do to anyone, no matter how horrible a person, no matter what horrific things they have done, the things that are routinely done to inmates (dare I call them people?) in those places. They're not a whole lot better than Guantanamo.


(23,131 posts)
10. I have no reason, other than the debates on DU over the last few days.
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:06 PM
May 2015

A lot of talk about a supermax in Colorado as an alternative.

For all I know, he could be sentenced to life as a greenskeeper at a club Fed prison.

Supermax may not be a place for initial imprisonment, maybe it's something you have to "earn" by bad behavior.

What's done to inmates in a supermax? To me, the worst thing would be "nothing". Just be ignored, 23 hours a day, left to the demons in the brain.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
13. 23 hours a day of solitary confinement for life.
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:21 PM
May 2015

A major problem with these things is what you might call "penalty creep." All prison systems are overcrowded, so you're gonna make sure those Supermax slots are filled by SOMEBODY, whether or not they are the "worst of the worst" in the system.

When the Supermax was first proposed for WI by Toxic Tommy Thompson, the DOC didn't even want it; the max security joints were just fine for housing even the worst of the criminal population, and they didn't want the potential liabilities that could arise from "unconventional" punishment.

Here is a passage from something written by an inmate at Wisconsin's Boscobel Supermax about a year ago:

The German philosopher Nietzsche [said], “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” which may or may not be valid. From my own experiences and observations from being in solitary confinement over the years…I have witnessed men having mental and emotional breakdowns so intense that they need to be prescribed anti-psychotic medications and clinical therapy.
I’ve seen prisoners who were unable to endure such long terms of confinement in solitary attempt to commit suicide, smear their fecal matter over their bodies, cells, and even eat their body waste. I’ve witnessed them cut themselves, and some who – lacking any sharp object to cut themselves with, use their teeth to rip their flesh so as to expose their veins and rip those out to spray their blood all over their cell doors, windows, floors, etc.

I’ve seen yet others simply cry like unfed, hungry babies all day and all night, and some lash out yelling and screaming all day, all night, banging on walls and cell doors, trying to get some form of acknowledgement from their jailers that they are human beings, only to be sprayed with various forms of chemical agents, left incapacitated in their cells. Only then to be taken and have their cloths cut from their bodies and put nude into a yet more restrictive type of segregation status, called “control status.” There, they have nothing in their cell but a concrete slab to sleep on, a stainless steel sink and toilet combo, a surveillance camera and 24 hours a day of bright light cell illumination.

Removal from this status is determined by “a white shirt” [supervisor]. No standards or process is due or available. We only have a potentially mentally and emotionally disturbed prisoner at the mercy of a sadistic and possibly masochistic white shirt, who knows no limits and has no psychiatric training.

While the prisoners mentally and emotionally regress, [a prisoner with mental illness] is often cheered on and encouraged by bored corrections officers to regress even lower. I’ve witnessed officers…encourage a mentally ill prisoner who had smeared feces all over his control cell window, to lick it off, and they would give him some milk. And this prisoner licked most of the fecal matter off of the window, and was “awarded” by the officer who threw an old milk to the prisoner through a lower trap door to the cell.


Edited to add--
Some years ago, when I was a regional chief psychologist in the WI Correctional system, I recommended an ex-intern for a Corrections job. He ended up at Boscobel. He had to quit because he just couldn't live with what was being done to people there. He said he almost felt like he was being intensely pressured to act like one of those Guantanamo psychologists who not only participated in the torture, but helped to invent & refine it.


(3,747 posts)
39. Here's what that "nothing" causes:
Fri May 15, 2015, 09:58 PM
May 2015
Researchers have demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, lethargy or chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, and fear of impending nervous breakdowns. Other documented effects include obsessive ruminations, confused thought processes, an oversensitivity to stimuli, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, emotional flatness, mood swings, chronic depression, feelings of overall deterioration, as well as suicidal ideation.”


Over the next decade, Powers, by any rational accounting, lost his mind. He cut off both earlobes, chewed off a finger, sliced through his Achilles’ tendon, pushed staples into his face and forehead, swallowed a toothbrush and then tried to cut open his abdomen to retrieve it and injected what he considered “a pretty fair amount of bacteria-laden fluid” into his brain cavity after smashing a hole in his forehead. In 2005, after slicing open his scrotum and removing a testicle, Powers was sent to the medical center for federal prisoners in Springfield, Mo., for treatment, where a psychiatrist determined he was “not in need of inpatient psychiatric treatment or psychotropic medication” and that his behavior “was secondary to his antisocial disorder.” When he was returned to Springfield four years later, after slashing his wrists and writing “American Gulag” in blood on his bedsheets, the doctor wrote, “Considerations that (Powers) has some form of psychosis, thought disorder or mental illness are unfounded.”


On the morning of May 1, 2010, Vega was found dead in his cell. He had hanged himself with a bedsheet. After Vega’s death, Powers shaved his head and began decorating his body with what he would describe as his “Avatar stripes,” a reference to the striped blue aliens in the James Cameron movie. Using a razor blade to make tiny cuts in his skin and then rubbing carbon-paper dust into the wounds, Powers tattooed spiky black slashes along his arms, legs, neck, skull, under his eyes and around his Adam’s apple. A photograph from 2011 presents an astounding transformation: The smirking, shaggy-haired young bank robber who entered the federal prison system in 1990 no longer existed, and the man who replaced him looked like something out of a nightmare.”


Supermax prisons and solitary confinement are torture. It has been established by experts and human rights organizations the world over. Those were two links out of hundreds.

Voice for Peace

(13,141 posts)
59. it is torture
Fri May 15, 2015, 11:41 PM
May 2015

and just like in guantanamo and all the black sites, many
innocent have been tortured because the sadists just feel
like torturing people.


(30,099 posts)
6. +1
Fri May 15, 2015, 07:57 PM
May 2015

**Children learn both behaviors and attitudes by the example of their elders. From what we know of child development, there is every reason to imagine that children who grow up in a society that approves the killing of human beings will have lower inhibitions against killing than do children whose society teaches an absolute intolerance of killing.


(26,503 posts)
7. I am against the death penalty, across the board
Fri May 15, 2015, 07:58 PM
May 2015

Although I'm skeptical of your correlation hypothesis: I think the DP neither discourages nor encourages murder...

George II

(67,782 posts)
38. For decades it's been a fact that states without the death penalty have lower murder rates.........
Fri May 15, 2015, 09:54 PM
May 2015

..than those with it. That's been true going back to at least the 1960s, maybe earlier.


(3,915 posts)
8. Correlation is not causation.
Fri May 15, 2015, 07:58 PM
May 2015

It is possible that the states with higher murder rates keep the death penalty because people are concerned about their high murder rates and so support the death penalty in the belief that, without it, the murder rates would be even higher. In other words, higher murder rates may be the cause of the death penalty, not vice versa.

Having lived in Louisiana, I think that might be a realistic interpretation in that case.

For what it is worth, I oppose the death penalty not on principle but because in practice, in this country, it is always imposed with race and class bias.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
12. I'm quite aware of how to interpret a correlation.
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:08 PM
May 2015

I acknowledge that I'm pretty slow, but it sorta crept into my meager knowledge base somewhere along the line during the years I spent acquiring a PhD in psych and then teaching statistics and doing research and program evaluation studies.

You're certainly right about the race & class bias, of course.

I would suggest as an alternative hypothesis here that maybe those states with the most brutal cultures have both the highest murder rates and the highest execution rates because--surprise!!--they are brutal cultures ruled over by demagogic, fear-mongering and racist politicians. One of the first steps that might help in reforming a place like that might be to eliminate the death penalty. People are going to be no less safe with a policy of life without parole than they would be with the death penalty.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
24. Why might that be?
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:50 PM
May 2015

It would actually be fairly easy to set up a design for a study on the effect of ending the death penalty. I have other more pressing interests, but would be happy to consult with anyone who wants t look up NCIC data, etc.

In th meantime, we can note that violent crime including murder has been in a steady decline since the early 90's. In that same time period, "[n]ationwide, death sentences have declined by 75% and executions by 60% since the 1990s, according to the Death Penalty Information Center." That is at least suggestive.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
32. Peer-reviewed evidence? WTF is that?
Fri May 15, 2015, 09:07 PM
May 2015

Publications are peer-reviewed, not "evidence."

The "evidence" would be in publicly accessible databases like the NCIC, UCR, etc. Whom do you suggest we engage to "peer-review" it, and what would that "review" consist of?



(23,156 posts)
14. Almost every other country in the world gets along just fine without a death penalty.
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:27 PM
May 2015

How bizarre is that.



(4,631 posts)
18. Almost every other country in the world gets along just fine with the USA picking up the defense tab
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:32 PM
May 2015

How fucking amazing is that?



(23,156 posts)
23. Gosh. We have the death penalty so as to spare other countries from having it?
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:48 PM
May 2015

What a novel way of thinking about it.



(23,156 posts)
27. Yep. Well, maybe more irony than sarcasm. Especially when
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:58 PM
May 2015

someone takes my comment about the rest of the world mostly not having a death penalty and goes to the U.S. being the defense contractor for the world.

We do spend more than the entire rest of the world combined on military. What that has to do with the death penalty I haven't a clue.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
29. I guess the notion is that we're the wholesale death merchants to the world.
Fri May 15, 2015, 09:01 PM
May 2015

Whatever your killing needs, we can handle it. Death R Us.

Sorta like a drunk I used to know who claimed that the only reason he drank was to keep it out of the hands of children.



(23,156 posts)
33. Hmmm. I've been known to write science fiction,
Fri May 15, 2015, 09:08 PM
May 2015

and may I steal your idea?

"Whatever your killing needs, we can handle it"

The slogan of Death R Us. Love it.



(23,156 posts)
35. I've already written a story in which
Fri May 15, 2015, 09:13 PM
May 2015

suicide is not only legal, but an entire industry has grown up around providing assisted suicide. The original version was written in 1978, and about twenty years ago I was submitting it to various magazines and was roundly rejected. My favorite rejection was the one where the editor wrote: This is the most cynical thing I've ever read.

I have recently done a rewrite. I think it's a lot stronger, and should be sending it out again.

Death R Us could be a companion story.



(23,156 posts)
57. Thanks for that.
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:50 PM
May 2015

If I get it published I'll have to let DU know.

It really was very much ahead of its time in 1978, and also in 1994. I think the times may have caught up with the story.



(4,631 posts)
26. It's so simple it is often ignored
Fri May 15, 2015, 08:54 PM
May 2015

Don't mistake the USA as the penultimate judge. Besides, a lifetime of isolation vs a pleasant death is relative to the one doing the dying.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
37. Why?
Fri May 15, 2015, 09:44 PM
May 2015

Where do you draw the line?

What about the Ford corporate executives who decided that an estimated 1400 horrible deaths in flaming cars was preferable to doing a recall of cars for a safety fix that would cost $15 per car?

The people who made that decision back in the 70's suffered no legal repercussions at all.

How would society benefit from killing another McVeigh?


(171 posts)
42. Society benefits by not having him part of it.
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:06 PM
May 2015

I don't think it should be used often but there are times when it is a appropriate. It is like abortion, it's there as an option if the circumstances call for it. Both is killing and sometimes that is ok.



(154,021 posts)
48. You are referring me to a fiction book written under commission
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:21 PM
May 2015

by a lesser king of Israel in the 7th century BCE to justify this? M'kay.

Short answer, he was not part of society, and if he staid in federal confinement, (not necessarily in isolation) he would have influenced a lot less people than he ultimately did after he was executed and made a martyr.


(171 posts)
49. I'm glad you hold life sacred
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:28 PM
May 2015

I believe it is sacred too. Those who admit murder and are unrepentant in taking life, I believe should die. I understand we disagree and that is fine.



(154,021 posts)
50. I believe the state should not kill in my name
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:29 PM
May 2015

and that when it does, it becomes more brutish and vengeful.

There is a cost to the whole of society to the death penalty.


(171 posts)
54. Cost to society?
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:38 PM
May 2015

Interesting, what is the cost to society of denying justice and that's what justice demands of murder; the death penalty. And what is the cost to society of killing the unborn who are innocent. Now I am not anti abortion there are times it's appropriate (like the death penalty) but killing the unborn is far worse then killing murders in my opinion.



(154,021 posts)
55. Funny, most nations can get along without murdering
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:43 PM
May 2015

people in the name of the state and calling it "justice."

It is barbaric, it is brutish, and sooner or later it will come to a stop.

Major Nikon

(36,745 posts)
67. The death benefit is a negative to society
Sat May 16, 2015, 06:44 AM
May 2015

It's detrimental to victims and the family of criminals, it doesn't reduce crime, it unfairly discriminates against race and gender, and it costs more. The application of the death penalty in an imperfect justice system also insures innocent people will be put to death.

Comparing the death penalty to abortion is ridiculous. Claiming that not using the death penalty is "denying justice" is just as bad. It's more like denying vengeance, which has exactly zero to do with justice.

There is no moral case for the death penalty in a society that can afford to segregate certain criminals for life. If the best argument you have against all of this is a bible verse, you have no argument.



(154,021 posts)
40. The death penalty is just the most extreme of our criminal system
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:02 PM
May 2015

We are a vengeful, sick society, that does not want to look in the mirror at the monster that we have created. We have been covering a local case, and after seeing what the DA is doing, which is not that unusual sadly, I know understand why the system is the size it is.

It is a dehumanizing system that only cares about profits (many are for profit) and that cares about keeping minorities under control. No, not all are saints, but now I can understand how an innocent man can end up in the death chamber,

So we need to do much more than just get rid of the death penalty. We as a society need to reexamine the whole thing.

Also I will add this I wrote as an answer to somebody else...

The death penalty will go away ultimately, perhaps even before Tsarnaev is executed. His case is unique, in the sense that none contested the acts. But we have an increasing number of cases where evidence was suppressed, or even the wrong person was found guilty of a crime they did not commit. People who have spent decades waiting to be executed. And then there is a strong structural bias and structural racism in the system. This kid does not have the bad defense argument though.

In his case, I am opposed to it, since quite frankly making martyrs is not my idea of fun. We did the same thing with Timothy McVeigh. There are people who adore McVeigh and think that he tried hard to start the revolution. Those people, quite frankly scare me, but they exist.

It has not one whit with religion either. But we have been covering courts, and the way that they work, I am not altogether convinced the justice system works at all, to actually find the guilty for a simple robbery, let alone a capital case. (There are many aspects of this case that are unique)

And of course then you have places like California, where the appeals are so long, (the supreme court did find this by the way, state supreme court) that the death penalty is a form of torture and works as life in prison anyway. Yes, your chances of dying by the state are really, really, really low.

If you are not somewhat conflicted then you are not truly thinking about it fully.

On a far larger view of the world, we need a full discussion on our criminal system, and how it works, or does not work... and how it has become a house of horrors. We as a nation have ignored this for so long that sooner or later we will have to face it. Trust me, most people do not want to. That mirror is a monster staring back at us.


(3,747 posts)
46. I can't recommend this post enough.
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:16 PM
May 2015

This entire system is broken--I'd argue it was never intended to work. Actually, scratch that: it does exactly what it was meant to.

It is a brutal, racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, violence-producing, murderous system for revenge for the proletariat and profit for the capitalists.

It needs to be gone.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
69. I fully agree.
Sat May 16, 2015, 09:20 AM
May 2015

I spent about 25 years on the fringes of the legal system as a forensic & criminal psychologist & can verify that Nadin is exactly right about the nature of the current CJ system. And ya know what? It got really bad across those years. In 1980, WI prisons had about 7,000 inmates. By 2006 (the year I couldn't take it any more & took early retirement from WI DOC Clinical Services), we were up to 23,000.

It was absolutely insane to watch the whole system fall apart. There was a time years ago when Probation Agents had to have MSW degrees or an equivalent. They were compassionate people who viewed their supervisees as humans and tried to help them get their lives straight. The educational requirements deteriorated (in order to justify lower salaries) until at one point, all you needed was a HS diploma and not too many felonies on your record.

In contrast to the old MSW agents, the younger ones typically had criminology degrees and an attitude toward their charges. I remember some of them getting into a contest to see how many of their supervisees they could revoke or put on jail holds.

At some point in the late 90's or early 2000's, the state started charging supervision fees. If you were on probation or post-prison extended supervision, you had to pay so much per month (sliding scale supposedly based on ability to pay) to be supervised. You could go to jail for failure to pay.

Across the 16-county region I covered, the field offices would be ranked on their performance. Great idea, right? Keep them all sharp. What do you think they were ranked on? Reduction of recidivism, maybe? Nope. The only thing they were ranked on was their effiiency in collecting those supervision fees.


(6,476 posts)
72. Grotesque.
Sat May 16, 2015, 12:23 PM
May 2015

I can see why you couldn't take it anymore. The entire system has become little more than a business. Justice has little to nothing to do with people, only how much money the state can squeeze out of them and a way for authoritarians to pound their chests and promote their "Christian" right wing, bigoted, racist agenda...

Thank you for sharing your experience.


(39,215 posts)
41. Add one more reason: criminal charges are more often brought against minorities and the poor
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:04 PM
May 2015

and they do not have access to the best lawyers. That is one of the reasons we heard in the 60s.


(46,436 posts)
56. I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases
Fri May 15, 2015, 10:48 PM
May 2015

and am also proud to live in a no-death-penalty state. The last execution here was a hanging in 1950. The territorial legislature abolished the death penalty in 1957, two years before statehood.


(38,186 posts)
60. I'm in NC and I started out pro-death penalty,
Fri May 15, 2015, 11:42 PM
May 2015

based on the opinions of those around me. Through the years, I wised up to how a lot of attitudes around me are considered barbaric in more civilized areas of the country. Since thinking for myself, I am no longer pro-death penalty.

And to me, it is pro-death.

Where I live, those who are pro-death penalty also tend to repeat the harshest parts of the Bible as if that is all there is in there. They are the types of people who use "spare the rod, spoil the child" to justify things like child abuse. Even if you think that is only an observation, look at how many actual criminal cases involve parents who either maimed or killed their kid and what their excuse was. If any lawyer ever decided to do a study in NC of the attitudes of the people, especially in certain areas, compare that to crimes against animals and children and the elderly, not to mention the crimes against women, and type of beliefs about religion and the attitudes about the death penalty, I can guarantee they would find connections that would blow people's minds. I've been watching it for years, but finding anyone with the right credentials to either confirm or deny what I have seen and heard and see if there is a connection like I think I see, well, that probably won't happen. People in this area either clam up or outright lie if anyone from outside the area starts asking questions.

It's not just in smaller towns either. Sure, Raleigh and Asheville are nice areas that aren't, overall, like that, but check out Gastonia, aka known in NC as Gunstonia, and the areas around Charlotte. Daily, preachers, teachers, and others in positions of authority over children are committing sex crimes and other violent crimes against kids, but dare to say anything about how pedophiles and child murderers are entrenched in a lot of religious groups here and you'll be seen as a monster. It is in the news every day, though. They refuse to see Pastor X as anything but a Saint and until Pastor X is busted by cops, kids have to put up with the abuse. Same with teachers as well.

And that is just in NC. I don't even want to imagine how bad it is in SC and other states that have that attitude. I do think there is a connection between pro-death penalty states and the attitudes of the citizens in those states. That doesn't mean all citizens, obviously, but the majority. My question is why do people think of it as a deterrent when the actual facts prove otherwise?

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
76. It really rings true to me.
Sat May 16, 2015, 01:15 PM
May 2015

That "subculture" is everywhere, not just in the south (although maybe it comes a little closer to being endemic there).


(5,686 posts)
61. Am against the death penalty unless
Fri May 15, 2015, 11:46 PM
May 2015

it is proven that the person committed a heinous crime. Even so, if the person committed the crime, let them stay in prison.

Of late, DNA has exonerated a lot of people who are in prison for crimes they did not commit or on death row. Thank goodness for DNA and the officers who follow up on cold cases.

Major Nikon

(36,745 posts)
68. Then it sounds like you are against the death penalty in all cases
Sat May 16, 2015, 06:47 AM
May 2015

Because saying "Am against the death penalty unless..." means you are for the death penalty.


Voice for Peace

(13,141 posts)
64. great post, thought provoking, thank you!
Sat May 16, 2015, 12:20 AM
May 2015
From what we know of child development, there is every reason to imagine that children who grow up in a society that approves the killing of human beings will have lower inhibitions against killing than do children whose society teaches an absolute intolerance of killing.

Something is coming to mind, from Gibran, what he wrote about
crime and punishment.*

It has to do with the collective guilt and collective innocence of
us all.

Punishment, esp cruel punishment, rarely causes a person to look
within himself and examine his deeds.

Rehabilitation requires authentic remorse, and authentic understanding
of the crime. It requires feeling the pain and harm one has inflicted
on others. It also requires an opportunity for restitution.

These prisons offer none of that. They are mostly big black holes
swallowing up human lives.

*I'm still puzzling through the formless pigmy but the "god
self" I understand as the highest human potential -- not something
ethereal -- but the tangible, loving, compassionate human heart
and conscience. I also believe there are many 100% innocent
victims, but this is about the collective knowledge -- as you wrote
above. What the children grow up on: it affects the school, the
town, the state, the laws, the crime. It is absorbed through the
skin, through the food, through the sounds and smells.

Do you recall the forest which turns out to be a single tree,
although above ground it appears to be thousands of individual
trees? Underground, one root system.

Then one of the judges of the city stood forth and said,
"Speak to us of Crime and Punishment."

And he answered saying:
It is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind,
That you, alone and unguarded,
commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto yourself.
And for that wrong committed must you knock
and wait a while unheeded at the gate of the blessed.

Like the ocean is your god-self;
It remains for ever undefiled.
And like the ether it lifts but the winged.

Even like the sun is your god-self;
It knows not the ways of the mole nor seeks it the holes of the serpent.
But your god-self does not dwell alone in your being.

Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,
But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist
searching for its own awakening.

And of the man in you would I now speak.
For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist,
that knows crime and the punishment of crime.

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong
as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you
and an intruder upon your world.

But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise
beyond the highest which is in each one of you,
So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower
than the lowest which is in you also.

And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge
of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.

Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
You are the way and the wayfarers.
And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him,
a caution against the stumbling stone.

Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him,
who though faster and surer of foot,
yet removed not the stumbling stone.

And this also, though the word lie heavy upon your hearts:
The murdered is not unaccountable for his own murder,
And the robbed is not blameless in being robbed.

The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked,
And the white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon.

Yea, the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured,
And still more often the condemned is the burden-bearer
for the guiltless and unblamed.

You cannot separate the just from the unjust
and the good from the wicked;
For they stand together before the face of the sun
even as the black thread and the white are woven together.

And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look
into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.

If any of you would bring judgment the unfaithful wife,
Let him also weigh the heart of her husband in scales,
and measure his soul with measurements.

And let him who would lash the offender
look unto the spirit of the offended.

And if any of you would punish in the name of righteousness
and lay the ax unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots;

And verily he will find the roots of the good and the bad,
the fruitful and the fruitless, all entwined together
in the silent heart of the earth.

And you judges who would be just,
What judgment pronounce you upon him
who though honest in the flesh yet is a thief in spirit?

What penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh
yet is himself slain in the spirit?

And how prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor,
Yet who also is aggrieved and outraged?
And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already
greater than their misdeeds?

Is not remorse the justice which is administered by
that very law which you would fain serve?

Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent
nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.

Unbidden shall it call in the night,
that men may wake and gaze upon themselves.

And you who would understand justice,
how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?
Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen
are but one man standing in twilight
between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self,

And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher
than the lowest stone in its foundation.


Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
71. Thank you so much for that!
Sat May 16, 2015, 10:10 AM
May 2015

Both your words and those of Kahlil Gibran speak directly to my heart, as does Thich Nhat Hanh.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending.”

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

As for that "formless pygmy" metaphor, I think I get it.

Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,
But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist
searching for its own awakening.

And of the man in you would I now speak.
For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist,
that knows crime and the punishment of crime.

I think he is saying that we exist on 3 levels: the "god-self," which some refer to as the Higher Self, among other terms. It is the eternal part of us, the part that reincarnates until it escapes the Wheel (if that happens to be part of your belief set), the part of us that connects to all life. It is the one tree that you spoke of.

The "man" (let us modernize the term to "human&quot in you is pretty much your everyday consciousness, the part of you that engages in daily life, the part that deals in "commonsense" ideas like crime and punishment, the part of you that thinks it is (as Coleridge would have it) "an island."

The formless pygmy seems to me to be something like the Freudian notion of the Id, the essence that we are born with, the part of us that knows only unreasoning fear, desire, satisfaction, comfort, discomfort, rage, etc. It has no consciousness, no form. Much of the "human" component of our being is devoted to appeasing it, and the major developmental task of the "human" part is to learn to regulate the "formless pygmy."

Although I used the Freudian concept of the Id in describing the pygmy, I really want to avoid any simple-minded mapping of Gibran's model onto the classic Freudian notions of id, ego & superego. It doesn't work, and it violates the spirit of Gibran's message.

In addition to Buddhism, two related wellsprings of western thought have been influential in shaping my thoughts about these matters. The first is the so-called Perennial Philosophy (Aldous Huxley wrote a book by that title), and the second is Psychosynthesis, which is a philosophical and psychological system developed by Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli. Both are worth looking at ifyour bent is toward these things.

Freud's notion of the Superego is a sort of pal


(22,000 posts)
70. For many years I was on the fence about the death penalty
Sat May 16, 2015, 09:32 AM
May 2015

and something changed my mind to push me to be completely against it. I agree with you and what Martin O'Malley said about the death penalty. Maybe we will see a point in our lifetime when the death penalty laws are changed in at least most of the states (I have very little hope for some of the darker red states) and the Federal death penalty is no longer law.



(33,688 posts)
73. There is one place, and one place only
Sat May 16, 2015, 12:48 PM
May 2015

where the death penalty is appropriate - war crimes and crimes against humanity. And that is all.

sabrina 1

(62,325 posts)
74. And that's the one place we in the US do not apply it. Seems the more people you kill, the less
Sat May 16, 2015, 12:56 PM
May 2015

likely you are to even by prosecuted, and the more likely you are to be treated like an elder statesperson. THAT is where we are as a culture, for now.

Jackpine Radical

(45,274 posts)
78. Not even there, afaic.
Sat May 16, 2015, 01:24 PM
May 2015

The only exception I would draw would be for corporate "persons." I believe that corporations that do great evil should be atomized and their assets seized by the government. If shareholders don't like it, then let them start holding their corporate officers to account.

Remember what happened during the Depression? If you couldn't pay your mortgage, the bank foreclosed on you. But if the bank couldn't return your savings to you, tough shit for you. Time for the big guys to shoulder their part f the burden.

And hell yes I know that there are lots of small investors, retirement plans, etc. invested in the market, so there ought to be some safeguards for them in terms of returning their good-faith investments to them.


(37,428 posts)
75. The death penalty is only one very visible facet...
Sat May 16, 2015, 01:03 PM
May 2015

...of an almost thoroughly corrupt system.

Incarceration is bad enough, in most cases amounting to torture. Convictions are particularly easy to obtain against our most vulnerable citizens, who are rendered impotent for the rest of their lives. Most lose the right to vote, dooming reform.

This systematic denial of rights and robbing of the poor has no business existing at all, much less with the power to murder as well.


(65,025 posts)
77. K&R!
Sat May 16, 2015, 01:22 PM
May 2015

When I was younger, I supported it in cases like the Boston Bomber's, but no more. Against in all cases. It is not sympathy for the murderers at all. It is knowing that further murder is not the answer to violence - plus you can never have a perfect system that would eliminate racial bias, bias based on income, etc.

So sad that even in Massachusetts, we still have a ways to go, even though we have made progress. Didn't help that the jurors had to be death penalty qualified.


(8,028 posts)
79. Utah is a death penalty state...
Sat May 16, 2015, 01:29 PM
May 2015

...and, the most recent year recorded, 2013, has Utah at 1.7 murders per 100,000. (Source)

Except for one anomalous year, 1995, you have to go back to the eighties to get to 3.3 or above.

I'm not advocating for the death penalty, I'm just suggesting that, as is the case with Utah, your stats may not be completely accurate.

re: At 3.3 murders per 100,000, Wisconsin has a slightly higher murder rate than the average for states without the death penalty, but considerably lower than the average for states with the death penalty. Why, then, should we be in any hurry to legalize the death penalty and thereby join the group of states with the higher murder rates?

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