What’s worse than the Death Penalty?

There is only one blog that I read every single day.

It’s Running Chicken by political science professor Ari Kohen.

Ari just ran one of the most thoughtful and socially important posts I’ve read. He’s a tireless activist for abolishing the death penalty, but in this piece he questions what exactly we are replacing it with when we abolish it:

Indeed, at the heart of the idea of both the death penalty and life imprisonment without parole is the notion that the offender is completely and utterly devoid of humanity. With this in mind, prison isn’t about correction and rehabilitation; it’s about punishment and revenge. If the death penalty is too expensive… then it can be jettisoned in favor of a punishment that’s cheaper, that we can correct when we err, and that — if done properly — might be even worse for offenders.

I’ll admit I’m enamored with this piece partly just because of the introspection. If you haven’t figured it out, I like to question my own beliefs even more than I like to question those of others. This is one of the greatest gifts that formal philosophy has given me. When someone else has the wherewithal to do the same, it’s instant points in my book.

But far beyond that, this essay raises questions about what exactly we’re doing to people when we lock them up for life—and more broadly, what we’re doing to humanity.

With supporting comment by an actual death row inmate.

Take a hit from your back-pocket flask and dive in:

Ending the Death Penalty and the Mindset Behind It

(Fun note: I can’t decide whether to parse the title as Ending [the death penalty and the mindset behind it] or as [Ending the death penalty] and the mindset behind it. Thoughts?)


3 thoughts on “What’s worse than the Death Penalty?

  1. As for parsing, that title is a difficult one to do! It locked up my mind for nearly a half hour. My take is the second one, it just fits better. Everything else I tried just didn’t make much sense.

    Good article!

    I’ve always thought that, either way, the prisoner who is given the death penalty or who is put in prison for life is punished. Period. Yet, I, too, have questioned whether or not some individuals are so deserving of their sentence. It is a tough, sobering, despair-inducing subject… one I do not know how to address. Yet one that deserves our attention.

  2. Rua Lupa says:

    Very thought provoking. Its good to contemplate the realities and ramifications of enforcement as there are potentially better options that have yet to be discussed and tested – or are already happening elsewhere.

    Meet Norway’s Sustainable Island Prison

    (in case the embedding doesn’t work here is the link)

    (here an article on it)

    Here is more on sustainable prisons –

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