Capital Punishment Capital Punishment refers to the sentence or decision to a capital crime such as murder, rape, or assault. Many times, the sentence is life in prison or execution. Currently, the United States is the only western democracy that still has execution on the books. An alternative to execution is life imprisonment, which is common throughout the world. There are many features, however of life imprisonment that are debated. Treatment of offenders of capital crimes is questionable in certain prisons.
Also, the safety of society is a question at hand when discussing life imprisonment assuming the prisoner could be up for parole or escape. Lastly, the rehabilitation process of offenders of capital punishment is a big question mark. Many wonder what success it brings, just how effective it really is, and what its purpose is for criminals who " ve committed such horrible crimes as homicide, or other capital crimes. The Article "The Wrong Man" by Alan Berlow points out some of the wrongs about the death penalty.
There are numerous stories of men who spent their life on death row, only to be released days or hours before their death because of being proved innocent. In his article Alan talks about "the growing number of innocent prisoner being discovered on death row" and how the government needs to "wake up" (Berlow 7). This means that more and more cases are being rushed to execution without all of the facts. Remember, in order to give a sentence, the client must be guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and it seems that this is sometimes ignored as unclear cases are being pushed by officers and lawyers to executions. Another point brought up by Berlow is how good of a lawyer defendants have in thes capital cases. "Most public defendants are so poorly paid that talented lawyers tend to stay away from this sort of practice (Berlow 9)." This means that defendants that are poor, which most are, cannot afford to get a lawyer that will look into the case as much as he can, and try to help the defendant as much as possible.
Because of the economic status of most people tried for murder, a lot of cases end up being like this, where the public lawyer is paid poorly and doesn't give much effort towards the case at all. Berlow also talks about how the death penalty may be taken away. He says "if it could be proved that an innocent person has been executed (Berlow 14) ", the public support would drastically decline. Now, Berlow says "70-76% support the death penalty depending on the poll (Berlow 13)." This is a major increase from the earlier part of the century, and as executions become more and more common, public opinion and media attention go down. Berlow says how maybe if someone that was innocent beyond doubt was executed like in England, the same result of England would be likely to happen: a banning of the death penalty. To conclude the article Alan Berlow gives a few revisions of the system he think would help errors in the system, starting with how defendants are investigated to how the trail goes and how the evidence is conducted.
The death penalty can be good, if used correctly. This form of capital punishment is not a bad thing, as long as there is justice and fairness in the case. However, if it continues to be sketchy, it may soon become clear that an innocent man has died for another's crime, and the future of the death penalty may be up in the air. Besides the death penalty, capital punishment can also refer to life imprisonment and the various aspects of it. This includes the treatment of prisoners, and the respect they are given by their officers. Another aspect of life imprisonment is the idea of maximum security.
The public does not want criminals convicted of a capital crime back on the streets because of an escape or something like that. Another factor of life in prison is the rehabilitation process offered by most all prisons. Many, wonder, though, just how effective the educating and reformation of prisoners really is, and if it is neccessary at all. Treatment of criminals of capital crimes is a debatable topic. Some feel that they should be treated bad to get revenge at them, others say that they need to be treated like equals. Chapter 2 of the textbook gives the Christian point of view when it says, "The Catholic Church has a long tradition of respecting the dignity of those in prison (textbook 35)." This quote shows how Christians feel, following the will of Jesus who once told of how what we do to those in prison, we do to him.
Jesus says if we can treat them well, we are treating him well. Chapter 2 of the textbook also, however points out that many prisons do not take this approach. It talks of "rampant guard violence against prisoners" and "prisoners forced to lie" (textbook 37-38) and other denying of basic rights. One must wonder if this is necessary to control prisoners. Some say yes, others disagree. Officials in Georgia took a different approach to control its overcrowded prison.
Because of the immense overpopulation, officials decided to place some prisoners in tents, while the inmates debated whether it was "cruel and unusual punishment (Pilcher 1)." When the tents went up, however, prisoners were practically standing in line to get a tent. It seems that the tents were air-conditioned while the rest of the prison had fans. Also, the tents were nice living places. This very pleasant treatment of the inmates got an unexpected response to when inmates "are willing to behave to get to stay in the unit (Pilcher 1)." It seems that when inmates are treated with respect and dignity, they act better. Out of the 168 inmates that got tents, only 2 got filed for discipline reports (Pilcher 1). This article showed that with better treatment, the inmates gave in return better behavior.
Maybe the Church is right. Even criminals and offenders of capital crimes should be treated with dignity and respect. Look what happened when they were treated how humans are supposed to be. Now, I am not saying we should go out and but air- conditioned tents for all prisoners, but certainly if they are treated better, they will behave better, and this proves it. Another topic of debate with capital offenders is security, especially with those who got life in prison. With that kind of sentence, no one wants that person out on the street.
This debatable topic is brought to the attention of those in Montana by Michael Erskine in the article "Dozens of Killers in Medium Security." Erskine states "records show that 52 of the 177 Montana... convicted of homicide offenses (Erskine 1) ." This means that around 30% of the inmates are serving for a capital crime. With that kind of figure, one would think that this prison would be maximum security for the safety of society, especially those in Montana. But that is quite the case as "a pair that escaped May 20  (Erskine 1) " are now a harm to society.
There may have been more since this article was written only a month after that escape. This is "a medium security prison handling maximum security inmates, (Erskine 1) " Erskine says in his article. The people of Montana and society, in general are not being protected as they should. Though this is only one prison, there are sure to be others with the same situation, where there are too many capital offenders for the prison not to be maximum security prison. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of prison life is the rehabilitation part of being in prison. With capital punishment often being life in prison, capital offenders are the most likely for rehabilitation.
Chapter 2 of the textbook states how the U. S Catholic Bishops feel about rehabilitation, saying "The most important purpose of prisons... is rehabilitation (textbook 36)." This shows that Christians feel the re-orienting and reforming of a person is key to prisoners and very important in all prisons and in all cases. The belief here is that everyone must have a chance, and that everyone, no matter who you are, going to make mistakes. Though it is kept in mind that people do not change overnight, the Church believes that anyone can change, as long as they are willing to. An alternative to prison and a form of rehabilitation is the AIC as described in an article by Heather O' Neill.
She writes on how certain criminals can benefit from the program. This form of rehabilitation for some offenders is cheaper than prison (costing $5, 000 a year as opposed to $25, 000 a year per inmate), and seems to be more helpful to society. In Connecticut where this article was written, O'Neill says, "jail is meaningful again (O'Neill 1) ." Instead of serving 2 years for a 20 year sentence, the AIC has improved the system now that criminals serve an average of at least 75% of their sentence, a drastic improvement over the years. Rehabilitation services like this seem a good idea, helping society that much, so services liek this one should be popping up in other parts of the country soon. This rehabilitation is exactly what the U. S Catholic Bishops mean when they say it is the most important part of prison.
546 Ahl ers, Julia and Michael Wilt. Christian Justice: Sharing God's Goodness. Winona: Saint Mary's Press, 1995. 30- 40. Berlow, Alan. "The Wrong Man." Atlantic Monthly.
Nov. 1999. Erskine, Michael. "Dozens of Killers in Medium Security." The Commercial Appeal. June 1999: A 1. O'Neill, Heather.
"Programs Offering Alternatives... ." Connecticut Post. August 1999. Pilcher, James. "Inmates Enjoy New Quarters: Tents." The Associated Press News Service. August 1999..