“Well your honor I do believe I’d be better off dead
So if you can take a man’s life for the thoughts that’s in his head
Then sit back in that chair and think it over judge one more time
And let `em shave off my hair and put me on that killin’ line”
Bruce Springsteen – “Johnny 99” – 1982 – from the album “Nebraska”
The death penalty, the ultimate punishment for a crime. To many, it is a thoroughly fitting punishment for murder. Many more are clamoring for new laws to shorten or eliminate some of the appeal process. There are some that want capital punishment to be extended to other crimes, beyond murder.
Vengeance. Deterrence. The cost of housing prisoners. Prison isn’t bad enough. Parole. Escape possibilities. Many, many more.
There are numerous reasons for capital punishment.
There are 138 + 8 reasons against it.
Since 1973 there have been 138 people released from Death Row after their innocence was proven. There have been eight men executed despite strong evidence that they were innocent. There have been many executed for crimes that did not fit the punishment.
I do not doubt the guilt of the Carr Brothers, Kleypus and Thurber, and I believe their crimes to be heinous, beyond human understanding. That having been said, I still can’t get past – 138 + 8.
My solution is not unique – life without the possibility of parole in a super-maximum security prison.
In a super-maximum security facility, prisoners are confined to their cells 23 hours a day, with only a single hour for solitary exercise. They receive their meals in their cells. They take two showers per week, alone. They have a radio and a television, but the programming is limited to recreational, educational and religious, and the inmate can’t reach the electronics. Their reading materials and mail are censored and they have no contact with anyone except the guards. No one has ever escaped from a super-maximum security facility in the United States.
Super-max detention has been described by prisoners and prison officials as a “cleaner version of Hell.”
To me, I would opt for death before living like that.
These are my thoughts. What are yours?
William Stephenson Clark
6 responses to “The Ultimate Punishment.”
To read more about the information noted in my column, please visit the “Death Penalty Information Center” at:
The cases studies of 138 exonerated people are under the header (on the right) “Issues” then “Innocence.”
I agree with your thoughts. And, I still think the person who could commit crimes that might carry the death penalty as a potential punishment should be locked up forever, removed from society, and that even if it was for a limited time they were less than sane. I just can’t wrap my mind around someone committing a murder on purpose and being in full possession of their faculties when they planned it and then executed that plan. Notice I’m not addressing self defense, acts of war, accidental deaths… The ones I’m talking about would be those that fall in the ‘premeditated’ category.
Off topic: Although mot of the time it is a positive to have several authors at our blog, guess one negative would be when one writes up a thread topic, puts it in the “scheduled” file and then another writes up a thread header on the same topic and publishes it before the scheduled date. Maybe when we think about writing up a thread we should first check what might have already been written?
They shouldn’t have to be treated that badly. They’re already in prison for life.
In recent news there was a story, a five years old girl went missing and finally her raped and murder body was found. Her step father became the Police’s prime suspect and finally a jury convicted him of the rape and murder of his stepdaughter.
He was in Prison for eight months before the real suspect was finally recognized and charged.
It came to light that a pair of mud covered shoe had been found at the sight where the girl’s body was found.
Written on the tongue of the shoe was a name. The name belonged to a convicted child molester.
The Police said since they were convinced that the stepfather was the prim suspect. they never even looked into the owner of the shoes. DNA evidence matched the convicted child molester.
Of course it is good that the guilty was found before the stepfather had spent decades in Prison or as to the topic put to death.
Having been there I know how a false impression can lead to a wrong conclusion as to who is the guilty party. The prudent thing for any officer is to keep enough of a open mind to be able to see the evidence that is not about the one you suspect.
False convictions do happen, they are rare I believe but one is too many in a true system of justice.
It truly is not a brag, but being a member of the family I am often there are rather heady discussions.
One such discussions happened at my cousin’s graduation after party in 1973, Falls church VA. and in the den amongst bottles of Cold Duck and many young people that made Abbey Hoffman look Conservative.
The topic of the death penalty came up, a deep examination of the impact of life in prison verse the possibility of the falsely convicted being killed by the state. The inhumanity of subjecting a human being to being a caged animal or the humanity of putting them to death in a timely manner.
Now I was being considered by all my cousin’s friends as the dimwitted hick from Kansas.
Though my cousin did try to explain I was not so, by the time they got around to asking my opinion I was feeling insulted.
So my solution was surgical paralyzing the convicted, they are still alive but unable to move on their own.
No longer a threat to society and no need for large Prisons or efforts to contain them with stone walls and guards.
Of course the topic moved from how inhuman either life in prison or the death penalty was.
I did not particularly liked the taste of Cold Duck so I left for the kitchen to get a Lone star beer.
After all I was a dimwitted hick from Kansas!
I really should not get on line after a long day! I just re-read the above and it did happen that way. But too much of how I felt that day came out in the account.