Monday, June 11, 2007
Issues, We Got Issues
One of the first things that I ever learned from a professor was, "Figures lie and liars figure". We all know that information can be manipulated and that everyone does it. I have never turned a blind eye to that fact, but we try and discern who's information seems to be the most logical and from what sources. In this day and age it is the best that we can do. Which brings us to the discussion of two VERY hot topics. The death penalty & health care.
I think that we will begin with the death penalty. It was my first major when I started back to college and this has left me with many text books. My thoughts were to do juvenile probation, but I ended up in the education of "at risk" kids, so usually they were involved with the court system and after seeing how the system really works I am thankful that I did not continue to pursue that avenue.
My thoughts came today after reading an article by Associated Press writer Robert Tanner. His article claimed that the death penalty does indeed deter murder. I am not sure that I am wanting to agree with this vein of thought. Myself, along with others, are questioning the validity of the analyses.
As many of us already know there are several states that have called a temporary moratorium on the death penalty. We all have read and heard of the many cases where innocent people have been exonerated after DNA evidence has taken them off of death row. The sad thing is how many have died that were never given the chance to prove their case.
There has been a good deal of discussion on the topic especially after several lethal injection attempts have caused lengthy and protracted deaths. The state of Illinois has already called a moratorium on executions. More than half a dozen states are in the midst of debates and in New jersey they have had an outright abolition. One of the arguments that I have came to me from the text "The American System of Criminal Justice" Gregory F. Cole University of Connecticut 6th Edition.
"An estimated 250 offenders on the nation's death rows are classified as retarded. It is argued that retarded people have difficulty defending themselves in court since they have problems remembering details, including locating witnesses, and testifying credibility in their own behalf. It is also asserted that executing the retarded serves no deterrent purpose, is only minimally retributivist, and is disproportionate to the crime. In 1989 the Supreme Court upheld the Texas death penalty statute and said that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit execution of the mentally retarded. The case involved Johnny Paul Penry, a convicted killer with an IQ of about 70 and the mental capacity of a seven-year-old."
"The philosophical and legal arguments over capital punishment continue. Of the 4 goals of criminal sanction, deterrence has had the greatest appeal. Although research has tended to support both sides of the issue, recent studies have engendered great controversy. If deterrence cannot be shown to result from use of the death penalty, what then is the justification? Ernest van den Hagg, a leading supporter of the penalty, has argued that retribution justifies the sanction. He and others argue that there are some people whose crimes are so heinous that they deserve to be executed. Yet others point to the discriminatory aspects of the penalty, noting that of the 20,00 murders per year in the United States, only 250 offenders receive a death sentence and upward of about 25 are executed yearly. Two-thirds of those on death row are in the South, with the greatest number in Florida, Georgia and Texas." I wonder how many of them have completed high school or how many are lower level learners? It seems to me that there is something askew when a particular area holds a higher number of deviant people.
These are just a small portion of the facts and figures that make me question the validity of keeping this practice alive, no pun intended, and that this is an area that should be discussed seriously and possible alternatives brought forth. I know that the prisons are already overcrowded, but how can we continue to kill when we may be in the wrong?
Then we have the health care situation. Now, I do not claim to be able to argue this topic thoroughly, but I do know that we need something better! Especially after I have seen what can happen to a family when the h"health care rug" is pulled out from under you. It is a very necessary evil, but also one that is quite devastating when you no longer have it. The cost of meds alone can leave people without food or gas etc.
In last Fridays edition of our local paper they carried about the best article I have read on the health care issue. It was written by David Leonhardt a New York Times business columnist. It was one of the best articles that I have read on the subject and most clear. he does not take a side either way, but rather discusses simply that there are tough choices to be made. If you have the chance to find it it would be excellent reading since I do not have the ability to link it here and I also do not want to re-write the entire article. He does close by saying, " ...Reforming the system will require a fight- not just over the meaning of the word "universal", but also over finding tough, sensible ways to save money...." "The simple truth is that medical spending can't continue to rise at its current rate. Somehow, we need to make choices."
Two very important areas where very important decisions need to be made.