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Laurens Rademakers

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The death penalty is unjustifiable

Over the past decades, the death penalty was abolished in most civilized countries. This has had no effect on murder rates (on the contrary, they keep dropping). Only some primitive societies still use that most heinous of crimes, which is the death penalty: barbaric states like those of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or China. They still hang, cut off heads, poison, shoot or butcher convicts. What's bizarre is that the U.S. is amongst those countries.

There is no justification for the death penalty. The death penalty is murder, plain and simple.

-There is no moral justification for murdering a murderer (if you think there is, please state which one).
-There is no legal justification for murdering a murderer (if you think there is, please state which one).
-There is no social justification for murdering a murderer (if you think there is, please state which one).
-There is no religious justification for murdering a murderer (if you think there is, please state which one).

Like all civilized countries, the U.S. should abolish the death penalty and get along with the age of Enlightenment.

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    Jul 19 2011: I don't know about you, but if I had to choose between paying money out of my OWN pocket to let a murderer stay alive, get fed free food, get comfortable living conditions, and not have to pay taxes ever again and letting them recieve the same fate that they have caused at LEAST one other human being then by all means I would choose the latter no questions asked. If someone has the ability to end anothers life, especially if the other victim was innocent of doing anything in the first place, then I think they should deserve the same fate.

    Let me ask you Mr. Rademakers, do you have children? a Wife? any loved ones at all?

    If someone were to murderer one of your innocent children, would you happily let the person reponsible live safely in a jail cell and get fed food that YOU are paying for? If you can say yes to that question then I think you need to question the fortitude of your own morality.
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        Jul 19 2011: I agree, there are problems with the legal system, but hopefully they can be worked out soon.
        • Jul 23 2011: Sadly, I do not encourage the losing of one's life but I have to agree with you on such terms. Very well spoken of. Anyways, according to a few articles in which I have recently came by, isn't death penalty these days are 'painless' and more humane as human rights is still effective as long as the criminal is still alive? But of course, should a person ever commit murder (first time), he/she deserves a chance (people can change). But if the murder is committed more than once, I do agree for death penalty.
        • Jul 23 2011: But of course, I was quite in denial (no doubt it is true) that money matters were brought into the terms of one's life.
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      Jul 20 2011: .
      Matt, I'm sorry, but I think you have completely lost your mind. You actually prefer to murder someone, because not murdering him is too expensive?

      This must be the summum of utilitarianism.
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        Jul 20 2011: Matt has not lost his mind, Laurens. He is simply a young American male. The belief he espouses is widespread in the United States and there is no reason to think he would be immune to such a dominant cultural influence. Retribution is a valued ethos. Compassion is seen as weakness.
      • Jul 20 2011: Laruens your points are critical. In the wake of 9/11 we have so many countries using so called 'counter terrorism' techniques and uses of torture liberally. Just now David Cameron visited Nigeria's head about terrorism. I'm sorry but Nigeriia liberally uses torture against political dissidents. Professor Bhullar was a political dissident in India and now faces execution. The question of state terrorism and how it is used to terrorise dissenters is critical as is the use of torture. Professor Bhullar faces execution in India despite there being insufficient evidence on him. In a so called democracy the judges are swayed to politics. Therefore I can only say that in this case it is a terrible miscarriage of justice and the death penalty is being used barbarically.
        In India it is supposed to be used in the rarest of cases.
        Yet despite insufificient evidence the death penalt is being used as a weapon of war.
        In the US there are political dissidents, like Native Indian 'leaders,' aswell as most people being from poor backgrounds unable to represent their socalled crimes like OJ Simpson.
        We must think about the fact that most people in their lifetime in most countries WILL not get fair enough trials minus torture and therefore the death penalty is inappropriate aside from immoral.
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        Jul 20 2011: Laurens, you have yet to address my questions.. I did not mean them to be theoretical.If you can truely say that you would happily send a murderer to prison for their life rather than let them face the fate they knowingly chose to impose on another then I would say that you are disrespecting millions of families and loved ones of those victims around the world. You must put yourselves in the shoes of another and try to even come close to feel what they must feel. The thought that the murderer of their loved one still being not only alive, but happily taken care of in prison is a disheartening feeling. These murderers have taken the role of God into their own hands when no man should have that ability. Even though the government and justice system is by far no God as well, it is our responsibility to keep the innocent safe and there are times when it is necessary to end ones life who has done the same to others.
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          Jul 20 2011: Hi Matt,

          Just so you know - I have no intention of changing your mind.

          Having said that, I would like to point out that your response is primarily emotional and, while many people would have the same emotional response you do, there are many others who would not. Including people who have "first hand" experience with the subject.

          That is, there are many people who have actually had family members killed and who do not want the murderer to be executed.

          For example, some of Mark Stroman, the 9/11 revenge killer's victims do not want him put to death. One, a survivor who was shot in the face (with a shotgun I believe,) has campaigned to have Stroman's sentence commuted.

          This sentiment is more common than you might think.

          The two nations I have lived in that have a broad base of support for capital punishment are the United States and China. Of the two, America is by far the most strident.

          Many of the other places I have lived (or visited) have much less acceptance of the practice. Some find it abhorrent.

          Human life is precious (if you have a religious bent, you could say it is sacred.) All human life. Even murderers*.

          I do not support the death penalty.

          And nothing you, or anyone else can say will make me change my mind.

          I suspect you feel the same way.

          --------------------

          * I actually know many people who are murderers. (I used to do volunteer work in prisons) and they are, for the most part, really nice people. Do you know any?
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        Jul 20 2011: Thomas, it is not that I want the person to just die and that be the end of it. I just would choose that over them getting the kind of life they get in prison.

        Have you ever heard of the new Halden Prison in Norway? http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1986002,00.html

        Here is an article about it. 1.5 Billion dollars to create this prison. At an estimate of 4.9 million people in Norway. Lets say 60% are adults. That is 2.94 million adults getting taxed for this prison's construction alone. That is $510 per adult living in Norway. This is all just speculative because I do not know how Norway's tax system works and how much of the prison funding was from taxes, but my point is made either way. I wonder where all this money came from. Then another couple million a year to run and maintain it I would assume. I think money like this should go to things like education, hospitals, welfare, not murderers and convicts...If murderers were sentences to a low profile prison where they were not tortured or anything but just left to work to pay for their OWN meals, room and board, etc then it would be another story. However, not all prisons do that and the ones that do still use millions of dollars worth of taxes every year.
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          Jul 21 2011: So for you it all comes down to dollars and cents: Money is more valuable than human life - or at least, money is more valuable than a criminal's human life.*

          You are not alone in that assessment.

          I do not share that belief.

          Even if I did, I have scanned some of the replies and, apparently, it is cheaper to incarcerate felons for life than it is to kill them.

          If we start with the assumption that life is of paramount importance, and if we apply your pecuniary values, I am certain we could come up with a satisfactory solution that did not entail killing people.

          Thinking, "Incarceration costs too much, let's kill them," lacks creativity and seems a bit unresourceful to me.

          Plus it's not humane.

          ------------------
          * EDIT: Matt, I have reread some of your posts, and, I guess, to be MORE accurate, I should say:

          "For you, money is more valuable than human life - or at least, money is more valuable than a criminal's human life and, to be even more precise, YOUR money is more valuable than a criminal's human life.
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        Jul 25 2011: Life is priceless. If I'm close minded enough to consider any of my opinions as fact, that is one of them.
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      Jul 20 2011: Matt

      One can avoid the "pay money" (though I gladly pay for certain people to be removed from society) by letting them work for it: they can be used as an unpaid labor force...
      I think that using prisoners to do work is not a bad thing. And there is a lot of work that won't be done otherwise.
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        Jul 20 2011: I agree that this should be the case, however we are not talking about alternatives to execution, just the morality of the thing. It is not that I like to see people die in the world. That is the last thing I would want. But when I see new multimillion dollar prisons being opened up in Europe that come complete with day spas, gymnasiums, world class swimming pools, and 56" plasma TVs then I have to wonder if maybe I should just go murder someone in europe so I can live in luxury all my life.
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          Jul 22 2011: Hi Matt:

          your idea of a “luxurious life” leaves me perplex…

          Regards!

          JB
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          Jul 23 2011: If you want to know how Prison is like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdVwXKdTnrE

          He let himself lock up in prisons voluntarily... all over the world...
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          Jul 25 2011: Hi Chirstophe!

          Thanks for the link, amazing talk!

          Regards!

          JB
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          Jul 26 2011: Christophe -- I watched the TEDx talk by Jan De Cock and found it to be informative about prisons but beside the point.

          Our debate is about whether or not capital punishment is ethical/justifiable. I contend it is not. But I also contend that prison IS the place for murderers of human beings and believe strongly that, in those cases of the most heinous of murderers, that the punishment should be severe - solitary confinement, provision of only basic needs, and deprivation of material pleasures.

          I would even advocate that a prison be built exclusively for the purpose of housing the most heinous murderers/criminals. Other than provision of basic needs, there is no justification for providing criminals of this kind anything. Period. Nothing.
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        Jul 22 2011: Hi Christophe!

        I’m surprised to disagree that much with you!!!

        So we deem an act illegal (by consensus or any other cultural method), then we take the people who perform it (the others, the bad ones, etc) and as their actions violate the agreed standards, we are allowed to make them in to slaves and force them to do things we don’t want to do…

        This sounds terrible to me…

        Regards!

        JB

        PS It’s much nicer that killing them to save money anyway…
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          Jul 25 2011: (I was making a point to discredit the idea that prison needs to cost much money to society, which is not my complete view of imprisonment)

          I don't think a forced labor punishment is the same as slavery.

          I even think that giving work is beneficial to the prisoner... as he/she has something to do that is beneficial to society. They might be prepared for a job (have experience) when they get out as well.

          The discussion about what punishment is given to which acts, is open to debate. As for now I assume the person in prison has actually done something terrible.

          Is that slavery? well, we took away their freedom... making them slaves without work already? I really see no objection to enforce labor on them... (and that does not imply to let them suffer by working, or unhealthy working standards)
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        Jul 25 2011: Hi Chistophe!

        I think that the cost discussion is the wrong one, one could say why don’t we have a monarchy and avoid the cost of having a parliament, etc…
        That being said I agree with you that prisons don’t need to be necessarily “expensive”.
        I do think that forced labor equals to slavery, but I 100% agree with you regarding the positive side of work (I just don’t like the forced part).

        Question for you, is prison supposed to be a punishment? Some currents of the law say that prison is there to reeducate or to protect society from that individual, etc, punishment is just one of the ways to justify prison.

        Regards!

        JB
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          Jul 26 2011: For me, the main reason for imprisonment is to remove unwanted individuals from society.
          The criteria are to be defined by the laws (and hopefully thought out wisely).

          I do think punishment is also an important aspect. If you do something horrible, you need to be punished (punishment still works as an inhibitor of certain kinds of behavior!).
          And even the idea of an example (to frighten other possible offenders) has some validity.

          As for re-educational purposes: that is indeed a very good thing (that somehow escaped me in this discussion so far). Yes, agreed, (re-)education is indeed a good idea.
          Like cognitive behavioral therapy for example...

          "The forced part": surely not the best way to give people freedom, but then again, a person who cannot handle freedom should not be given it.
    • Jul 21 2011: Believe it or not, but in the US it typically costs far more to execute someone than to keep them in jail the rest of their lives without possibility of parole.

      The courts take a different view when faced with a death penalty case because there's no room to get it wrong with the death penalty - the standard of judicial review is, and has to be constant access to the courts.

      With life imprisonment, that's not the case. They get their trial. They probably get one automatically-heard appeal. After that, they have to give the court a reason to hear them, and every time they do and get shot down, it becomes harder for them to get an audience again. Life therefore ends up costing less, because they aren't entitled to tie up the courts.

      In some states, this difference in cost is up to 10 times as much as it would to keep someone in jail for 50 years (the average time someone stays in jail under life without parole).

      There's also the emotional cost for victims families - every step of the appeals process reopens wounds, and delays of as much as 20 years prevent closure. By contrast, life without parole brings closure quickly - the general perception is that once the courts have proven someone guilty and sent them away for life, nothing short of proving innocence will reverse that outcome.
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      Jul 22 2011: QUOTE: "I don't know about you, but if I had to choose between paying money out of my OWN pocket to let a murderer stay alive ...and letting them recieve the same fate that they have caused ... I would choose the latter no questions asked."

      What if you had to choose between paying money out of your own pocket to keep a prisoner alive and killing him, or her, yourself?

      No "sanitized" execution by "the state" ... you, with a gun, or a needle, in your hand walking up to another human being and calmly killing them yourself.

      Which one would you pick then?
    • Jul 22 2011: Excellent argument. I hadn't even thought of the security jail offers. OH and to Thomas: I'd kill em. I think anyone who understood the crimes done by someone who warranted the death penalty would be angry enough to kill them.
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        Jul 22 2011: QUOTE: "I think anyone who understood the crimes done by someone who warranted the death penalty would be angry enough to kill them."

        Hi Benjamin,

        I might be wrong but I don't think you would.

        I believe that, in this wonderful academic discussion we are having it is easy for you to respond to some basic and primitive emotional impulses and equally easy for you to dash of an assertive and manly, "I'd kill em."

        Again, I may be wrong, but I doubt you could actually do it.

        Few of us could.

        If you read some of the other posts, I think you will find you are mistaken when you say "anyone who understood the crimes ... would be angry enough to kill them."

        I would not.

        Even some victims and victim's families are not "angry enough" to kill them.

        Essentially, what you are saying is your emotional impulse (anger) is justification enough to kill another person.

        I disagree with you.
        • Jul 22 2011: Hi thomas, I figured you'd disagree. But thank you for doing so respectfully :)

          Perhaps. I simply stated that my emotional impulse is (not justification) motive enough to kill someone who has committed crimes. You had asked if the government didn't do it, would you be able to do it yourself. While I don't think the ability to commit capital punishment overly impacts whether or not it is unjustifiable, I see your point.

          However, as an individual, I'm fairly sure I'd be able to do it out of anger. I don't mean to sound like a psycho, and I definitely don't mean to sound like a wannabe psycho, but it isn't about "oooh get to kill someone!"

          Primarily, I'd be angry. Secondarily (I made that up), I would more consider the lives of those who died, those who were affected, and those who could be affected, as opposed to whether or not I could bring myself to kill a man who has committed serious crimes. I would have no empathy. If it was sanctioned, there'd be no repercussions for the punishment. And I could be totally alone in my opinion. So, yeah, I retract my statement about "anyone understanding the crimes", but nothing else.

          Just a question though: what is it that makes you feel that the death penalty is unjustafiable.

          Respect,
          Benjamin
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        Jul 23 2011: Hi Benjamin,

        QUOTE: "... I'm fairly sure I'd be able to do it out of anger.

        Here we are in total agreement. In fact, most of the murderers I do know are murderers precisely because, in a moment of anger, the were able to kill and acted on that impulse.

        We are all "able to kill" it's just, for most of us, there are countervailing forces that mediate our behaviour - cognitive, "visceral," moral, social, etc. If these forces were not in place, there would probably be a lot fewer of us around!

        I do not believe you would actually be able to "think yourself" into a murderous rage.

        Again, I may be wrong.

        But I honestly doubt the anger and the indignation you feel now - the feelings that motivated you to make the statement "I'd kill em," would be strong enough or motivating enough for you to walk up to another human being strapped onto a gurney, look into their eyes, and calmly, and deliberately, slip a hypodermic needle into their arm, depress the plunger, and watch as his, or her, eyes faded.

        There are a few of our kind who can kill without compunction - we usually call them psychopaths, sociopaths, or some such thing. For the rest of us, killing is not something we could do ... unless we were in a "blind rage." Or perhaps if we were in the act of defending ourselves or a loved one.

        Even soldiers must be trained to kill (in part by dehumanizing the "enemy.") And, even then, some of them will not "shoot to kill" at an individual enemy combatant.

        QUOTE: Just a question though: what is it that makes you feel that the death penalty is unjustafiable.

        In a word: Life.

        I can "rationalize" my position by saying something like: To enforce the notion that killing is bad and wrong, by killing people who do it, makes no sense. But then "sense" has nothing to do with it, does it?

        Our response is emotional; not rational.

        For me, my emotional and mental appreciation for life is so complete, so total, that under no circumstance could I justify taking another person's life.
        • Jul 23 2011: Hi Thomas,

          "But I honestly doubt the anger and the indignation you feel now"... I wasn't actually angry when I wrote that comment. I know you'd think "I'd kill em" sounds like i'm emotionally upset, but it was more of a dismissal than upset comment. Perhaps that indicates sociopathic tendencies, but I don't think so. I would never harm an innocent, to do so would plague my heart. But I firmly believe that someone who WOULD harm an innocent, simply needs to be done with. We can't send them away, we can't just make them disappear. I'd rather not pay for their lives forever in jail.

          I really respect that you were bold enough to NOT over-rationalize or over-justify your feelings. It makes me happy to see someone who does not feel the need to qualify themselves for how they feel at every turn. But, I disagree with your last phrase. I value life much, so don't think I'm an ingrate over-privileged jerk. I think the most important thing in the world is a happy, prosperous life being afforded to everyone. It is with this belief that I follow a desire to eliminate problems. We have many issues in the world today, and many of them would not exist if we didn't have so many people who just love to hurt innocents. Therefore, to me, killing a homicidal maniac or other who has justifiably warranted the death penalty (and I'm not talking wife killed her abusive husband here) is just a means of ending any further issue. Perhaps that is the lazy way, and it would be best to try to rehabilitate problemed offenders, but that is where my anger and desire for vengeance comes in. Given the choice of saving potential victims with a quick strike, or saving potential victims with repeated effort on one problem area, my desire for vengeance would say "they screwed up, and don't deserve another chance". Of course, keep in mind who I'm talking about here. I don't mean youth robs a store and kills owner. I'm talking man breaks into house and murders family/ genocide in the third-world.
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        Jul 23 2011: Hi Benjamin,

        Yes, I understand your position. It is a fairly common one. That is, many people who support the death penalty share it.

        As I mentioned, I live in China and the argument you present is essentially the same argument my Chinese friends use to support their position in favour of capital punishment.

        I have no illusions I will be changing China's view of the death penalty any more than I think I will change yours.

        The argument you, and the Chinese, make is rational. It makes sense. But for me the issue always comes down to one question: What is more important, human life or "principles." [The ideas of justice, and social responsibility would be an examples of principles.]

        The answer (for me) is ALWAYS: Human life.

        I understand for others (you perhaps) different principles may be more important than human life. Principle's like pecuniary responsibility (Matt); "justice," etc.

        These other values never strike me as very compelling; they are human inventions. We create values like "integrity" but we do not create human life.

        That our own inventions can be seen as more important than we are makes no sense to me.

        I do not expect you to agree with me. And I have heard (I'm sure!) all the arguments about what would happen if we lived without "principles" [which I am not suggesting] ... society would collapse, there'd be killers behind every tree, etc., etc. I have heard how, for the sake of society, or the weak, or the victims, we should do "this or that" ... and none of them are more important, to me, than life itself.

        As an aside, those things we are willing to kill one another for actually change from time to time and from culture to culture. They are not universal. The appreciation of life, as far as I can tell, is.

        Oh, and I didn't think you were angry when you wrote your reply but I do think the reply "comes out of anger." It is an emotional response triggered, we might say, by "imagined anger" - how we imagine we would feel if faced with a killer.
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      Jul 23 2011: So Matt, which one would you pick?

      1) Pay with your own money to keep them alive?
      2) Kill them by your own hand?
      • Jul 23 2011: Thank you for your articulate response :) I would disagree on one last point, for the sake of argument:

        "those things we are willing to kill one another for actually change from time to time and from culture to culture" I definitely would only be willing to kill someone who has taken multiple lives of others. No stoning women for killing their abusive husbands in afghanistan. No crap. None of it!

        But again, I deeply respect your opinion, and I'm very glad you shared it with me.
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          Jul 23 2011: Hi Benjamin,

          You're welcome.

          You mention that you disagree with the idea that those "things we are willing to kill one another for actually change from time to time and from culture to culture" and then you say, "I definitely would only be willing to kill someone who has taken multiple lives of others. No stoning women ..."

          Well, that is my point: That, at different times and in different cultures, we have been willing to kill one another for different reasons.

          In some countries you can be, or could have been, executed for: political dissent, murder, espionage, treason, rape, adultery, incest, sodomy, apostasy, arson (in royal dockyards,) drug trafficking, theft, being in the company of gypsies (for one month,) strong evidence of malice (in children 7 - 14 years old,) pick-pocketing, stealing a horse or a sheep, and so on.

          In the Judeo-Christian tradition, historically, one could be executed for: entering the temple (if you were "a stranger,") sacrificing to the gods other than YHWY; breaking the sabbath, blasphemy, worshipping Baal, necromancy, your ox killing a man or woman, losing your virginity before marriage (women only), marrying your wife's mother, gluttony and excessive drinking, disobeying your parents, consuming blood, eating leavened bread during the feast of unleavened bread, wearing cloth made of more than one fabric, and so on.

          In some cultures murder is not a big deal. In recent times, an anthropologist spent some time with an indigenous culture (I forget where) and he noticed that certain disputes were resolved by killing one's opponent. There were no legal repercussions. It was simply an accepted way of resolving a conflict.

          He started asking around to see how common a practice it was and one woman said her husband had been so killed. When he asked by whom, she said, "By my current husband."

          In other words, the things we are willing to kill one another for change from time to time and from culture to culture.
      • Jul 23 2011: I understand what you mean, but that doesn't make capital punishment wrong. It makes the reasons for capital punishment wrong. As I've stated, I'd only follow it if certain parameters were met. The statement of "the death penalty is unjustifiable" can be easily made null when talking about genocide, mass-murder, mass torture, etc. I understand your point, but I think it's just to say no matter which culture you belong to, and what customs you hold, and what you think is "worthy" of capital punishment, as an individual from a modern society, in which most people are afforded a chance, and no strict religious beliefs or customs governing the way we administer or debate justice, there are (a few) cases in which capital punishment is still the best option

        I think of it like this: In India, a little while back, a group of Dalits (the lowest cast) was mobbed and lynched for trying to skin dead cows, so as to make a living. This type of death punishment is oriented by the religious and cultural belief that cows are sacred. In America, if a man kills X amount of people, he warrants the death penalty. This isn't governed by religion: it's a modern judgement, made with religious or cultural predisposition or bias.

        On a side note, You say YHWY... I say YHWH, as in יהוה‎... Was that a typo? Or is it some other form I've never seen?
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          Jul 23 2011: Hi Benjamin,

          I've seen both YHWY and YHWH used; as well as: Yahweh, Yahveh, YHVH, Jehovah, Yehovah, יהוה and others. Perhaps it reflects regional or cultural differences.

          You say, " ... if a man kills X amount of people, he warrants the death penalty. This isn't governed by religion: it's a modern judgement, made with religious or cultural predisposition or bias."

          Yes, this is "modern judgement" but then, not too long ago, killing a 10-year-old child who demonstrated definite signs of malice was considered "modern judgement" (a decision made with religious or cultural predisposition or bias.)

          One could argue that if something is wrong, then no reason (or excuse) will ever make it "right;" and if something is "right" it is right regardless of the reasons we do it.

          So, if it is "right" to kill people, it is right to kill people for any socially sanctioned and culturally accepted reason. Or for no reason at all ... because killing is "right."

          And if killing is wrong, it is wrong to kill for any reason.

          Of course, we do not all agree that killing is wrong. You don't.

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