Eight prisoners on death row in my state are scheduled to be executed in the coming days.
There’s been a great deal of controversy over the fate of these men, with legal proceedings already delaying at least two of the scheduled executions. Now it appears a third will be delayed, but one man likely will die within 19 minutes. He may be dead by the time you read this.
Lawmakers supporting the death penalty claim delaying the executions is only prolonging the pain of the families of the victims. I say this: nothing you do is going to alleviate the myriad of emotions that overwhelm each of these individuals. A large number of them, in fact, are opposed to this form of justice.
They’d rather those men live out their lives imprisoned, stripped of their freedom and dignity, separated from society and suffering the pain of life in a cold, callous environment. In my mind, that is the harsher penalty, and the more appropriate course of action for society to take.
I don’t know why former football hero Aaron Hernandez took his life in his prison cell two nights ago, but I imagine this 27-year-old man looked at the decades stretching out before him as he served his sentence of life without parole, and fell into despair. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.
I cannot claim to feel anything but disgust for the men sentenced to death. Their crimes are heinous, and they deserve to be pulled from society. But that doesn’t need to be death. Death is something we all face. It is not a penalty, it is a way out.
I don’t advocate cruelty in our penal system, but it is inherently a cruel lifestyle, even in the best of circumstances. Those convicted of violent crimes are prohibited from taking part in many of the programs that make prison life bearable, in part because of their violent tendencies, and in part because those programs are designed for rehabilitation and re-entry to society, something they’re not seen as needing.
In short, a sentence of life without parole is harsh.
Harsher than death.
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