Monday, May 20, 2013
Do Not Bring Back the Death Penalty
Subsequent to the tragic murder of Tim Bosma, and the possible connection of his killer to the disappearance of Laura Babcock about a year ago, there has been a renewed call for the restoration of the death penalty in Canada.
I oppose any move to restore the death penalty in Canada, not only because I believe the taking of any life except in self defense or in the defense of other innocents who may be killed due to a failure to act, is morally wrong, but also on a precautionary basis given the potential for miscarriage of justice inherent in the system. We have seen too many cases of wrongful conviction in this country. If the death penalty was law in Canada, chances are that Donald Marshall, David Milgaard, Guy-Paul Morin and Stephen Truscott, just to name a few would be fertilizing daffodils now, while the real perpetrators remained at large.
In addition to the fallibility of the justice system, we must also take into account the reality that one's wealth or status may have a bearing on the outcome of a capital murder trial. It is a fact that poorer and less educated people are more likely to face execution in the United States than more affluent, educated people whose money or influence can purchase superior legal counsel, which often results in more lenient sentences. As long as we have a society where one's status can purchase the possibility of preferential treatment under the law, the society cannot call itself just, and have the death penalty, for which no redress can be made should it be later proven that the condemned person was not guilty as charged, on the books.
I concur with former Prime Minister, the late John Diefenbaker's statement that it is better for 100 guilty men to go free, than for one innocent man to hang.
It is also my personal view that vesting the power to kill in the hands of government is entrusting them with too much power. of a nature that may one day be abused.
Another argument that death penalty advocates like to bring up is the savings that would be wrought through executing murderers. It is said that keeping a person in maximum security costs between $30 000 and $50 000 per year. For the sake of this argument, let's take the higher figure, and multiply it by 50 years (assuming that the prisoner remains incarcerate for the rest of his natural life, as in the cases of Paul Bernardo, or Clifford Olsen), and you come up with the sum of $2.5 million. It has been demonstrated that the costs of an execution in the USA can run much higher than that, once the appeals process, which often takes years, kicks in, and finally when the execution is carried out, the costs of additional security, and other things will be tacked onto the final bill. Unless we go the route of immediate executions after conviction (I don't think anyone wants to go there), then the cost of carrying out a death sentence will inevitably be higher than life behind bars.
The cost of incarceration to the system and thus the taxpayer can also be mitigated by only keeping the most serious and dangerous offenders behind bars. People who commit crimes against property should be given the opportunity to own the consequences of what they have done, by paying back those they have wronged through their labour, instead of automatic incarceration. If they have a job they should pay for their crime through their wages, if they do not ,they can do community work to earn wages with which to pay their debt. Throwing them in prison puts them in the middle of a culture that will harden their criminal inclinations, restorative labour teaches them attributes that build character which will help them in life. Issues such as drug possession should not result in prison terms and a criminal record, unless a crime against person or property or impaired driving ins incurred as a result of intoxication. Thus we can close several prisons, and keep a few super max prisons open for violent criminals from whom society needs protection. More will be said about criminal justice reform in future posts.
I am fortunate that none of my family have been victims of murder, and I admit the possibility that if one of them was senselessly murdered, that my natural reaction would be to want the perpetrator dead. However, the law of the land must be there to protect the wrongly convicted, and to ensure that everyone regardless of status gets the same treatment under the law. It must also ensure that wrongdoers are punished and prevented from re-offending which can be achieved where necessary through declaring some people dangerous offenders, so that they have no chance of parole.