“Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders” – Albert Camus, Reflections on the Guillotine
Recently, my fellow Backbench commentator Sean Mallis wrote a piece calling for the reintroduction of the death penalty in the United Kingdom. I wish to reply to Mallis – as I see the death penalty as nothing more than state-sanctioned murder. In essence, it would be an absolute travesty to the general liberty of this country if we gave the government permission to kill its own citizens.
As is noted in the aforementioned article, the only states that use murder as a form of punishment are ones that I would not want to follow – Nigeria, Iran and Pakistan being world leaders in murdering their own citizenry. This should be reason enough not to join the ranks of states that have the power of capital punishment at their own disposal.
Mallis argues that, despite being aware of the severe brutality of these states, Britain could be justified in following their example due to our own weak justice system. This is simply not a rational policy. Murdering people is not a way of bringing about justice, regardless of how ‘heinous’ the acts of a criminal are. Indeed, I find the whole concept of killing someone a deprived way of carrying out justice, if you could even call it justice.
I look to the Scandinavian prison model as a shining beacon of how a justice system can be strengthened and made more effective. In Scandinavia, the incarcerated are rehabilitated, rather than trated as a sub-human species to be forcefully punished. The effectiveness of the Scandinavian model is demonstrated by the fact that re-offending rates are incredibly low compared to nations such as the United States.
Prisoners are people. If we simply see them as animals that can be sentenced to death by judicial bureaucrats, then we cannot claim to be a liberal nation.
Rather than implementing capital punishment, we should focus on reorientating offenders into employable and functional members of society. Indeed, mental health issues are rife amongst the incarcerated. If we provided these individuals with access to mental health services, then reoffending rates would go down. Similarly, if we devised work training schemes for former criminals, then reoffending rates would go down.
If we introduced capital punishment, reoffending rates would not go down. Indeed, America (a world-leader in brutal criminal punishments) has one of the highest prison populations in the world. Their ‘justice’ system uses murder as a deterrent, and it simply doesn’t work.
Rehabilitation and care, rather than murder, should form the basis of our criminal justice system. Prisoners are people; let’s treat them as such.
Read the opposite view: "Why I have reconsidered my stance on the death penalty", by Sean Mallis