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Buddhism in the News


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Illinois Becomes 16th State to Abolish Death Penalty.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a death penalty ban into law on Wednesday, making Illinois the 16th state to end capital punishment. Quinn also commuted the sentences of the 15 inmates on death row in the state. Instead, they will serve life in prison without parole. The ban on executions will take effect July 1. -by Jennifer Epstein for Politico.

James: State sponsored killed is the wrong way to show people that killing is wrong. Seriously, why do we kill people to show other people that killing is wrong? I believe that life in prison without the possibility of parole is a just, yet humane punishment as it avoids that taking of a life while ensuring that they will never kill again. It also gives them plenty of time to think about the horror and pain that they have caused.

They say that time heals all wounds, and I think there is some truth to that phrase. I've seen plenty of documentaries about men on death row who are older now and speak of how much they regret their previous actions. I've seen hardened criminals cry like a baby as an old man at the suffering they causes for their victims, themselves and the criminal's family.

Ending the death penalty is also a cheaper policy than maintaining a death row. As it turns out, it's ten times cheaper despite most people thinking the opposite says Donald McCartin, a former California jurist know as, "The Hanging Judge of Orange County." This from an article by the Associated Press.

And, what of the moral cost to the individuals that we task with the actual killing of the prisoner? I saw a documentary on the death penalty that interviewed several former executioners for prisons who are now emotionally scarred and experiencing nightmares from their former, grisly jobs. If we couldn't kill a person ourselves then how can we ask someone to do it for us and act like that blood isn't on our hands? And, what of the innocent blood that has surely been spilled from executing an innocent person? It seems we can't go a month without hearing someone being exonerated from prison after 20-30 years thanks to DNA evidence.

We can not hope to heal our society of violence when we are sanctioning it's practice in our name via capital punishment. It is my hope that all states in the U.S. move in this enlightened direction.

~Peace to all beings~

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Atlanta Roofing said...

As others have said, it''s ironic that so many Americans like to trumpet about their values and their moral superiorit¬y, the US being a beacon of what a civilised democracy should be - yet, the US remains about the only 'civilised¬' country that just loves judicial killing.

linda said...

There are not only moral implications for the executioner but also for all of humanity. Killing people in our name (the state)implies we all condone the killing, and what this does to us as members of humankind is quite harmful.

Anonymous said...

If the state has no right to execute someone for premeditated murder then what right does the state to jail someone one for stealing,using drugs,collecting taxes? People say the death penalty doesn't deter, well neither do fines or jail time. So why don't we abolish those also? What about abortion? That's murder even if it is to save the life of the mother, who has the right to choose which one lives? What about the military? I notice people don't petition to have that dismantled. They murder more innocent people than all the criminals combined. I think most people who are anti-death penalty have never been a victim of a violent crime, if you had you would understand the perpetrator does not care what you think and would not show you the same mercy you show them. I only believe in the death penalty when it's premeditated.
I also think abolishing the death penalty will cause a rise in vigilantism.

Anonymous said...

@Atlanta Roofing

that is not irony.
Like I said in my previous post then what right does the state have to jail people like caged animals? How is that civil? Personally I have NEVER viewed the USA as a civilised democracy. It has a culture of violence and preying on the weak and the democracy is really a fa├žade.

Also what about the non-violent or non-murderous inmates who have to worry about being killed by a murderer while serving their time? You could put the murderer in solitary but I would argue that the death penalty is more humane than solitary.

It would be nice to live in a fantasy world like star trek but this idealism that people have about the death penalty and that all people are inherently good is insane at best.

They call him James Ure said...

@Atlanta Roofing...It is indeed troubling that we are the only developed country that continues state sponsored killing.

@Linda...Yes, it damages us all and breeds further the destructive emotions of hatred and revenge.

They call him James Ure said...

@Anonymous...Simply because one form of punishment ( the death penalty) is opposed by many does not mean we should give up on enforcement of laws altogether. There are many ways to administer justice without having to execute people.

As for deterrence, yes, fines and jail time for thieves and petty criminals don't always deter but that just proves my point that deterrence is not always effective. We aren't asking for these people NOT too be punished, but rather to be punished without execution. We still believe they should be locked up without a chance of parole.

As for abortion, I don't believe abortion is wrong in all cases and therefore must remain legal (in my view). I believe in abortions being safe, legal and rare. I don't believe that letting the mother die during a pregnancy, despite having other living kids that need her, to be compassionate. Or, following the middle-path of balance in Buddhism.

You mention the military, which is vastly different than a murderer killing innocent civilians. The motive for killing during war is much different than a murderer killing for the thrill of it. The vast majority of innocent lives killed on the battle field by democratic armies committed to the Geneva Conventions is done so by accident and with great regret.

Buddhists aren't to be so against death that we allow a rampaging army like Hitler's Nazis to take over the world and murder millions of people. But, It's hard to imprison an entire army numbering in the hundreds of millions. Thus, regrettably, sometimes war is necessary.

The late Ven. Dr. K Sri Dhammananda, a Theravadin monk and scholar, said, "The Buddha did not teach His followers to surrender to any form of evil power be it a human or supernatural being."

In closing, I'm not disagreeing that an attacker would not care what I think or show me the same mercy but that is not a reason for me to behave in kind. Violence begets more violence; and while I recognize your opinions and defend your right to have them, I must disagree.

They call him James Ure said...

@Anonymous...If you believe locking any and all prisoners behind bars to protect society isn't civil, then what would you have us do instead? Execute them all? Let them go?

As for the USA having a culture of violence. If that is true, then how can you add to that culture of violence by supporting executions? Don't you send mixed signals by saying you're killing a person (murderer) to show other people (society) that killing is wrong?

I agree with you that it's horrible that non-violent criminals are faced with violence while serving their sentences. And, I believe that our prison system needs to reform that and many other things.

As for solitary confinement, I don't necessarily disagree with you. I do think it's a bit outdated but that doesn't mean the only other humane option is execution.

I don't think many who oppose the death penalty believe that murderers, (and by extension, murder) are/is "good." But, we, the innocents in society are inherently good and fueling our vengeance through executions breeds hatred and anger, which the Buddha taught poisons our mind with suffering.

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