Maybe we should choose life

Published 12:10 pm Saturday, January 8, 2011

For the first time in a decade, a jury recently recommended the death penalty for a citizen of Shelby County.

He was a man found guilty of the shooting death of his 11-year-old cousin.

It certainly seems to be the ultimate penalty for the ultimate crime.

However, I can’t help but wonder what our society gains in killing someone.

If murder is wrong for an individual, it seems that it is also wrong for the state.

Although we can all understand an individual’s desire for revenge, revenge does not seem like a reasonable goal for our government.

So what are the goals of the state in doling out punishment for crime? I see it as primarily two-fold. One seems to be to provide deterrents to engaging in criminal activity while another is to provide safe communities by removing those likely to engage in dangerous antisocial behavior from the rest of us.

Studies found on The Death Penalty Information Center website indicate that having the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder.

In fact, regions of the country in which there is the death penalty have a higher murder rate than those without the death penalty. When you think about the bizarre, highly charged situations in which most murders occur it’s easy to see that people wouldn’t be in a state of mind to stop and consider the consequences, no matter what they might be, before they act.

While taking someone’s life certainly removes him or her from society, this final solution allows no margin for error.

According to a report of the House Judiciary on Civil & Constitutional Rights, since 1973 more than 130 people on death row have been released due to their innocence. And the rate of exonerations appears to be increasing.

Since you can’t bring someone back to life, given that we make mistakes, life in prison without the possibility of parole seems to be a much more reasonable alternative for keeping those accused of the most heinous crimes away from society.

In fact, several studies, including a report issued by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, indicate that it is significantly cheaper to keep someone in prison for life than to go through the judicial process required to get the death penalty.

Something to think about as we send our first Shelby County resident in a decade to death row.

Kimberly Barrett is the vice president for student affairs at the University of Montevallo.