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.


The Drew said...

Hi,Dharma,another great post.It is this kind of high-jinx that makes me not be able to wait to see Michael Moore's new movie,'Sicko'.It is my belief that basic health care for everyone in America would save America millions of dollars in the long ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...or so they say.
I am conflicted about the death penalty,but my views are too longwinded and scatterbrained to talk to you about them here and now.Suffice it to say,that I believe that the innocent should never be put to death for the convenience of society.

Dharma said...

One thing I learned during my years in criminal justice is; really bad people, or criminlas, do not fear the death penalty. It is not a major detrrent. For most of society jail / prison is enough, but then of course you have your part of society that will do wrong anyway, but for most of society the deterrent is real.

If there are, and have been, innocent people put to death that should be a good enough reason to stop. It does not serve any good purpose.

The Drew said...

My cousin's wife is against killing mass and or brutal murderers because she feels it it brutal and unkind.Yet,she is for abortion.I know this like mixing apple and oranges,but I feel I can not be both pro-choice and anti-death penalty(see,I told ya not to get me started)

Anonymous said...

Dharma, you and I are thinking along the same lines again! In my last class, I wrote a paper on health care. In the class before that, I wrote a paper on the death penalty.

I agree with you, as you already know! I think I may do a post on one or both of these subjects in the near future.


Dharma said...

Why can you not be both, pro-choice & anti-death penalty? two very different entities. I am pro-choice and more & more against the death penalty. It is not full-proof and it is not a real deterrent. What other arguments can there be?

Religion has no place ineither for rational people. They are issues that need to be discussed by the rational mind. One can not bring feelings or faiths etc. into the mix. Well, I guess one could, but it is not appropriate. You said that you "feel" a certain way and that is sounding faith based and not factual.

A person is pro-choice based upon personal freedom. The death penalty does not serve a purpose and is also not uniform in the manner in which it is ftted out, so it needs to be re-examined and a complete overhaul of the system actually needs to be attempted. Those that are jailed for minor drug offenses need to be in alternative programs and...well, don't get me started. It needs to be cleaned up and re-done.

Dharma said...

Mixter, we are simpatico!! I hope someday that we can, or might, meet and hang out!!

The Drew said...

Dharma,I am sorry if I am about to offend you.I don't mean to.I hold your opinions in very high regard.But...

...I have to ask why a person's religious views aren't supposed to enter into this discussion?In,fact,I have not brought my religion into this argument.But,why do you feel religion should be excluded from a persons perspectives on life and death and who is to live and who is to die?On what other basis am I suppose to judge life and death?Political?Ha-that's a good one.Moral?How can I push for not killing cute little baby seals when I openly allow human children to be extinguished?

I am pro-choice.But I make no qualms in admitting that it is the option of taking a human life.And I am not talking about the morning after pill,when two or three cells if given the chance will someday maybe become a human being are washed away.I am talking aborting fetuses.Second term-third-if it means saving the life of the mother.

I am for killing in self defense.I am for killing and dying for my country.I am for pulling the plug on a lost long suffering friend or family member.I am for killing the bastard that has no remorse in raping,torturing and killing innocent children.

As long as killing is legal- totally forgetting my religious points of view-I am for it.I see no difference in killing a man entering my house trying to kill me and my family either in my house or after the fair legal trial.

But,if I am allowed to put my religious self into the mix..I want to see no innocent person murdered.I want to see no guilty person murdered.Thy shall not kill.

As an American-screw 'em,you kill somebody-they get what they deserve.But as a Christian...I'm sorry,I am not allowed to include that opinion.

Dharma said...

Yes, we all know that all trials are fair and legal. We all know that all attorney's work as hard as they can and that everyone who has gone to prison, to face death, has been represented throughly and their lawyers did their very best. In all of your readings have you not ever read Barry Shecks book on the death penalty? Any work, on their web site, by the Innocence project? Do you think that those people that they found innocent by DNA were just a few flukes? There could not possibly be any others?

Self defense, joining the army etc., those are all choices that people make. Owning a hand gun is a choice. But having lousey representation, spending most of your life on death row for a crime you really did not commit and being put to death for that same crime is not a choice. Just look at those who are eventually exonerated, how much of their life was lost. Did they make that choice willingly?

Abortion is a very personal choice between a person and whatever sort of reasoning techniques they use. However they have to deal with it in their lives. If they feel that they must suffer the wrath of God for eternity for their choice, I suppose they will do that. But I believe that it is an intelligent choice where religious views should not enter into the equation. Then you would need to suggest that the aborted material would need to have a funeral etc. Then you are pre-supposing that said fetus also had/has a soul. So, do you also believe that it is a person at the moment of conception?

Killing is always going to be a choice. A very personal choice, but our system is very skewed and one that needs to be twiked.

The Drew said...

Dharma,you are very brave and bold to stick to your guns on this issue.I will not dis-honor you by not sticking to my own as I discuss this with you.I hope (and pray)that you know that even though we argue over this,that I beleive your opinion has your honor and love standing behind it.

abortion is as much a choice on the innocent child as the death penalty is on the innocent man/woman on death row,except the death row inmate has someone,no matter how incompedent to represent them.

I don't know why you keep turning abortion into a religious argument.I am not talking about the mother's rights here.I don't care if she believes she is damned to hell or not(though as a Christian,I don't believe she would be anymore then the soldier,or death row executioner).

I am trying to keep religion totally out of my arguement.I am only talking justice for the innocent:no matter whom they may be.Society has turned abortion into a religious arguement,because it is easier to justify with that way..All you have to do is not be religious to be OK with many people kill in the name of religion?Many,many,many.

Dharma said...

Okay, leaving religion out of the equation, I don't think it is a "killing choice" of anyone that can be considered a person. The person, or people involved make the choice to end the pregnancy. With the death penalty the innocent person, who we know is a valid walking and talking person, may be put to death wrongfully. The ending of the prgnancy is not wrong in the eyes of those who have, or who make the choice, to do it. The fetus was never outside the womb walking around and alive on this planet. The person on death row has had their rights taken from them unjustly, in some cases, so we need to stop that type of killing to ensure that the heinous mistakes can be ruled out. Like the type that DNA proves were unjust after 15 or 20 years.

Abortion is a choice that affects the one or 2 people that decide to have the procedure. The death penalty affects many more people involved in the families.

There, how is that? There was no religious thought in that explanation at all. I don't speak about it from that point at all, but most people who are going to attribute a "soul" to a fetus often use that as part of their argument or guilt trip oin the folks that make that their choice. Everyone ahould leave it out of the equation, but unfortunately it always ends up back in the mix.

You speak about justice for the innocent, but then again it depends on the individuals idea of a fetus. That would mean that one would have to see it as an individual and since it can not live on its own I can not see it as an individual and have no compassion in that area.

The Drew said...

I am just uncomfortable about deciding who or what is a human being.I new born baby will die unless it is totally cared for.It can not walk,talk or even basically express itself.What about people with MS or polio,who are blind...brain dead?The reason I am pro-choice is that I feel no one except my family(definately not the gov't)has a right to choose if I live or die.I am anti-death pentalty-but I do beleive some persons should recieve it.

Dharma said...

Those people, and the conditions that they have, are fully living people. That is a difference to me. Even the brain dead person IS still a person and it is up to their familiy to make tough choices.

Some may deserve the death penalty, but how can you be sure that they are the right person for the crime?

I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.