Should We Rape a Rapist?

Around the world, only one-third of all countries still allow the death penalty; the majority of executions occur in the United States, Iran, China, North Korea, and Yemen. Since 1973, over 140 death row inmates in the United States were found innocent and released because of wrongful conviction – during that same time 1,200 people were executed – a 12% rate of error! The death penalty was found to not be a deterrent to crime and states with no death penalty have homicide rates at or below national rates (Amnesty USA). A recent Pew Research Poll found that support for the death penalty has dropped in the US: 49% support and 42% oppose. There were 20 executions in 2016 which is a significant drop since a peak of 315 in 1996. These facts are both sobering and encouraging – depending on one’s particular viewpoint. I think the best way to understand the death penalty is to examine the lives of the people on death row. A great resource for this examination is by reading Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is a non-profit lawyer who fights for inmates on death row who were wrongfully convicted. To put it simply, death row is many times a political tool that propagates racism, injustice, and systemic bias against those who cannot pay for a proper defense lawyer. My question is why does the United States still have the death penalty?

The logic of the death penalty is all wrong. Why is it right to kill a killer? The action of writing a wrong with another wrong seems like an archaic practice right out of the Medieval Ages. Is the “eye for an eye” mentality the best usage of justice. Is any single action greater than the sum of our parts? Why does the death penalty differ from all other sentences? Why don’t we rape a rapist? Why don’t we abuse an abuser? Why don’t we steal from a thief? All of these scenarios sound ridiculous but don’t they fall under the same logic? We’re killing a killer because it is an equal reaction. Putting this obvious inequity aside, just think of the 12% rate of error that was earlier mentioned. Court systems are inherently flawed because of politics and implicit biases; the axiom “guilty until proven innocent” comes to mind. Defense lawyers are overworked and resources for the poor are stretched so thin that many go to court via Skype. How can we sentence people to death – the ultimate final verdict – in a system that has so many problems? Finally, the death penalty doesn’t deter killers. In many cases, murder is done without premeditation and rational thought is completely absent. The death penalty is an afterthought to a murderer because most people who murder never thought they would in the first place.

So what is the argument for the death penalty? Most people who support it usually overly trust the justice system and believe all convictions are perfect. Also, they believe that it deters crime (disproven above) and that it is not “cruel or unusual punishment” (Over 2/3 of all countries believe it is). What about the revenge component – if someone killed my loved one wouldn’t I want them to experience the same fate? This may sound logical but when victim families are interviewed they many times wish for a life sentence over the death penalty. Why is this? Fist off, it is a long process to execute someone. There are years of appeals and the total amount of court appearances continue to open up wounds for the bereaving victims. Secondly, revenge killing is never as satisfying as one thinks – just reference any major religious text or psychology journal to understand this more. Life in prison is a far greater punishment than any expedited death. Not only does the prisoner have to live locked up, they have to ruminate about what they did. Guilt and rumination are almost always universal (except in some mental-illnesses). Being conscious of wrong doing is the whole point of the criminal justice system – why would we cut that short for the worst crimes? Just think about your own regrets – what felt worse – staring at the ceiling with guilt or falling asleep to escape?

3 thoughts on “Should We Rape a Rapist?

  1. As a kid if you knew that something you were thinking about doing was going to get you a spanking, you most likely decided not to do it. Punishment is a deterrent, no matter what the stats say. The death penalty is a punishment and should be used within reason, but it isn’t. Killers who have killed more than once are allowed to live to old age in prison. What does the family of the one who was killed get? On my job as a Home Health nurse I had my life threatened several times. The man with the rifle didn’t know me. God stayed his hand. How would you feel if your wife was randomly killed by a total stranger for absolutely no reason? I was there to see a patient I had been seeing for years. Would you want to give him his freedom? Maybe a hug, to let him know he’s loved? I don’t think so. One guy said he killed because he wanted to know want it felt like to take a life. How would you feel if that was the reason your loved one was killed? What does the family get for their loss? Do they get a good feeling knowing that their son helped another to understand how killing felt? There is no good feeling that comes from losing a loved one. Think of that the next time you want to feel sympathetic to a murderer. Most murderers don’t feel guilt or remorse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your opinion and I think you are completely right in wanting to harshly punish murderers. I do not want to go easy on these people but I think death is an escape. I think the punishment should be life in prison with limited contact with other prisoners. Time, isolation, and loss of freedom are far worse than a quick death – especially for people who obviously don’t respect life. This is not an easy topic and I enjoyed your perspective.

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  2. I’m rather anti the death penalty. We don’t have it here in the UK. I wonder if we have more murders because there is no death penalty? Maybe? I don’t know.

    I also think death is an escape. In movies where the arch villain get killed before he can be punished, I feel disappointed he wasn’t brought to justice in any way. Death isn’t “justice” to me. It CAN be a reward even!

    The last executions here were disasters because – the person was NOT guilty, and another had such extenuating circumstances surrounding the “murder”, she should never have been hung. I think that realisation shocked the UK into stopping the death penalty.

    Interesting post – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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