Yesterday I ran into The Failed Experiment, a good article on the death penalty by Anna Quindlen. It's basically a piece about wondering when we'll ditch this, as it doesn't seem to be doing any good whatsoever.
First, we're executing innocent people. There are more and more cases of this coming out every day, due to DNA and other improved testing systems. I don't expect our legal system to be perfect. That's impossible. I personally believe it's FAR from that, but that's neither here nor there. My point is that if a system involving life and death isn't perfect, it can't be used. Executing an innocent person is inexcusable, and shouldn't ever happen, not even to make sure we execute the bad ones. Oh yeah, and did you know that some states still execute the mentally handicapped? It's sickening.
Second, the system is overflowing with minorities and the poor. It takes good money to defend yourself. And when the system is gunning for you, and you can't afford anything more than the counsel that is provided, you're probably fucked. Take OJ and Michael Jackson. If you can pay the price tag, no matter what you do, you can probably get off. I'm not saying they're guilty. Only that we'll never know.
Third, this method of prevention doesn't seem to be working. People don't care if they get the death penalty or not. There aren't people running around on the streets with guns shooting others who would refrain from shooting if they only thought about the consequences of the death penalty. This way of thinking - that there aren't any consequences - seems to be running rampant in this country anyway.
Fourth, we're only one of four countries (not industrialized countries, mind you - this includes third world) that still imposes the death penalty. The other three are...China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Shit, we're ten seconds away from invading Iran, and imposing our ways upon them because we're so superior, yet in many ways we're just as barbaric. Interesting.
As Anna says, 'Americans still live in one of the few countries that kill people to make clear what a terrible thing killing people is.' It's so backwards. We wonder why our kids are so bad, so irresponsible. But it's not such a mystery. You can't teach your kids to be polite, then let them see you being rude. You can't teach your kids to be good sports, then act like an asshole when you lose. It's the same principle here. Why should they ever believe anything they're told? If our government can't be a good example of how our kids should live their lives, why should they ever be good?