Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rehabilitating the Justice System

Regarding the application of the death penalty for "heinous crimes," I really don't care.  Because I find the entire issue to be too upsetting to even think about.  On the one hand, I'm not really against the death penalty and I don't see why it's such a big deal.  In many cases, giving someone death might be better than life in prison.  I can't say I've ever been in prison (because I haven't), but it really doesn't seem like a great place to spend the rest of your life; especially not if you're there as a cop killer or child rapist.  I understand that there are many things far worse than death, and spending your whole life in an abusive prison setting could be one of them.  

Besides, what if there's reincarnation?  Seriously.  Death would actually be doing these guys a favor, and society might benefit by giving them a shot at a new life.  Wouldn't it be better for everyone to have a child rapist come back as an aardvark or a dolphin?  It's the ultimate in rehabilitation.  Seriously.

Or if the Christians are right, we'd be sending the bad guys to a worse punishment, while sending the wrongly convicted innocent ones to Heaven; which is certainly better than keeping them locked up for decades.  Frankly, I've always been confused as to why Christians don't seem to think of their afterlife in practical terms, and seem more focused on it as a philosophical issue; as if it was just a theoretical argument to use against atheists and to scare little kids, rather than a system that actually exists.  Why, it almost seems as if they don't really believe in their system of afterlife.  Again, I'm serious when I say this.  I might not believe in gods, afterlifes, or reincarnation, but I'll never say they can't be real.

Broken Justice

But on the other hand, our judicial system is largely broken.  That's not to say that it usually makes mistakes, as I don't believe it does.  But it's quite obvious that it makes mistakes far, far too often to be meting out the harsh punishments that it does.  And for me, that's where the whole argument needs to be.  I'm not even going to focus on the death penalty when we've got a far bigger issue at hand.  Because again, there are worse things than death and we're still sending lots and lots of innocent people into it.  

And the big problem is that our entire law enforcement and judicial system seems more concerned with catching a bad guy, rather than the bad guy.  At the end of the day, all they really care about is that someone got locked-up, ignoring the fact that they not only screwed over somebody but that they also let a guilty person stay free to commit even more crimes.  And this is a far greater crime than the one they're punishing people for.  

Even after some of these people are proven innocent, the enforcers involved still think the guy is guilty and don't want to let them out; as they just can't admit that they destroyed someone's life.  And at best, they give a big "oops," and don't truly understand what horrible criminals they are for destroying some innocent dude's life.  But more likely, they believe the finding of innocence is a miscarriage of justice and that they were somehow right all along.  

This is the same issue we have with Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, where conservatives need to hold onto the belief that these people are the ones responsible for 9/11 or killing our soldiers.  It's simply too painful to think otherwise and would force them to rethink their entire worldview.  It's much easier to imagine that they were right all along and ignore any evidence to the contrary.  And if that means the "bad guys" need to stay locked-up forever without the benefit of a trial, then so be it.  They'd rather destroy someone's life than their own warped view of reality.

And we have the same issue right here in our own country, against our own citizens.  And so they're putting the screws to some innocent guy, hiding evidence, inventing evidence, lying, taking advantage of the defendant's inability to afford a better defense, and using all the stagecraft of the angry prosecutor; all so that they can get the conviction that they convinced themselves the guy deserves.  And all the while, the actual guilty person might still be out robbing, raping, murdering; and they dare to call this justice.


And so that's where the real problem is.  The punishment phase is the least of our worries.  And sure, the death penalty is so absolute that it denies us the ability to exonerate an innocent man later on, but it also gives us more motivation to prove the guy innocent.  So while the innocent man on death row is more likely to have some public group trying to prove his innocence, another innocent man is getting raped in his cell, or threatened and beaten by prisoners and guards, or denied the ability to see his kids grow up.  Kids who can only seem him behind a glass wall, looking like a felon.  Kids who eventually learn that their father is in prison for rape and always wondering if it's true.  And for the rest of his life, society will treat him as a guilty man and destroy him, always assuming it was true; and all based upon the actions of law enforcers who wanted to see someone punished.

And so I'm really not that concerned with the death penalty issue.  I'd have no problem with using it, even for "heinous crimes," just as long as our system worked far better than it does.  But as long as the strength of our defense is based upon our ability to pay for it, and as long as our judicial system is satisfied to find anyone guilty of the crime, whether or not they're actually guilty; then the whole system is corrupt.  

I'd find it acceptable that child rapists were put to death, just as long as I felt confident the person was guilty.  For me, the purpose of prison is rehabilitation, not punishment.  And if a child rapist or murderer is beyond redemption, which I believe some people are, I don't really have a problem with having them destroyed.  Pedophiles are generally considered to be incurable and I agree with that assessment, as there is truly something wrong with the people who do this sort of thing.  The real issue, however, is in ensuring that he truly is guilty and incurable.  After that, I have no problem with what society chooses to do with him.

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