Atheists: What's worse? Execution or life without parole?

I've been reading about the home invasion case that occurred in Cheshire, Connecticut on July 23, 2007. This deeply disturbing act of brutal violence is one of the worst criminal outrages in the history of that state.

Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky robbed, raped and murdered Jennifer Hawke-Petit, age 48, Hayley Petit, age 17, and Michaela Petit, age 11 in their home. The husband and father, Doctor William Petit, escaped with severe injuries and will live with the memory of these events for the rest of his life. Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky were caught, found guilty, and are awaiting execution.

Everyone wants these men sentenced to worst punishment imaginable. But is that really execution?

Most religious theists claim the soul survives the death of the body. The courts openly profess the same belief, having issued the death sentences with the words, "May God have mercy on your soul."

But I don't believe in God, souls, or supernatural punishment. I accept the medical science which shows consciousness ends with the destruction of the brain.

Steven Hayes once said, "Death for me will be a welcome relief..."
Joshua Komisarjevsky has said, "I will never find peace within."

The reality of the death penalty in this case seems rather stark. Each of these reprehensible criminals gets a quick, painless exit from a lifetime of punishment in a merciful fulfilment of his own wishes. 

Or do you see it differently? Is death by lethal injection the worst punishment you can imagine? How does execution compare with life without parole in solitary confinement? What is the atheistic perspective?

Tags: court, criminal, death, justice, penalty, prison

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Kind of depends if you believe in punishment, I think. 

I'm in two minds as to whether I want such people punished or just removed.  Wanting someone to suffer for the actions they have carried out is a bit primitive and vengeful.  They started out as innocent babies, and somehow got to where they are vile criminals through a process of nature and nurture.  I wonder if I had had their genes and their lives, whether I might not have turned out just as ghastly.

I have a feeling that the right solution would be to offer painless voluntary self-euthanasia to the people we convict.  I have a degree of belief in a correctional institution rather than a punishment orientated one.  I am very uncomfortable with the "spectacle" of the death penalty, or at least from what I know of it. 

If the person convicted wishes to continue living, there should be a mechanism whereby they can be taught to function in society.  For those that do not wish to die voluntarily, yet are not safe to release into society and cannot be trained, perhaps we should either execute them quietly and humanely, as we might execute a rabid dog, or create a permanent enclosure where they no longer interact with society.

From a society point of view, eliminating criminals and those who threaten our development seems more humane than trying to punish them.  If you really want to punish for punishments sake, you could have a public whipping - that would have pain and humiliation.  But I think I would be prouder of a society that had moved beyond vengeance and was solely interested in the continued well being of its members.

Short of tieing them to train tracks, using them for medical experimentation, pre-death organ donations, dropping them in Death Valley middle of summer, or forceing them to do radiation cleanup in Japan, I think a quiet death with an injection would be enough.

Sadly, I find myself of two minds. I still hold on to the 'perfectability of human nature' and 'what were you thinking?' Such an act, seems to denigh the possibility of 'perfectability', since they clearly crossed the line into madness, and the act clearly shows that any moral or ethical processing was tossed. The term 'brutes' seems be preferable to 'civilized human'. I still have a sense that I have no right to take the life of another, under most conditions, but releasing these two back into the general population, fills me with dread.    

"I still have a sense that I have no right to take the life of another, under most conditions, but releasing these two back into the general population, fills me with dread."

I agree. That would be stupidity at work. I think that if you got the balls to kill in cold blood, for nothing other than criminal intent, you got to understand that it's a two way street. Kinda like "Who the fuck is you..."

Call it what you like, but I grew up in a society where there were no guns. Arguments were settled with the fists. And all I see is a world of turmoil TODAY.

I have, in my opinion, acquired enough knowledge of the human existence to understand that there are certain frickin' no no's.

I hold the opinion that, what you are prepared to do to another human being, then you best leave yourself open for the exact same treatment. I know that sounds like a "do unto others BS" but in a way that's right. I hold that if I should decide to take another life, I've decided that mines can be taken too. I almost feel like the punishment should mirror the crime. Not many victims find themselves being nursed out of existence by a cold injection. It's usually a terrifying and excruciatingly painful experience for them

Now obviously there's the old "my life is in jeopardy" situation.

Obviously, I would not hesitate.

But I don't have a gun, so I'll be hoping his neck is real skinny. LOL.

I think I may have wandered in my own little way. Sorry.

Everyone wants these men sentenced to worst punishment imaginable. But is that really execution?

We can also say here everyone wants revenge, because this is really what I think it is.

Death by whichever means reduces the executioner to his level. He killed so we kill him except in this case it is state sanctioned and this basically to satisfy the urge to revenge. It is debtor/creditor relationship and we really should change this.

I don't believe in punishment unless it aims at improving the offender.

I think all types of behavior can be modified. In this case therefore I don't think there could be a person so broken to be irredeemable. Depending on the type of influences that informed the wrong doing some may take long to recover some may recover in a shorter period.

I think it would be fair to allow them to join the society if the attendant physicians say they are reformed and they be under supervision for sometime. Not granting them this possibility is saying they can't be better.

The relatives of future victims of these homicidal maniacs, if they were somehow released back into society, would have a helluva lawsuit awaiting the authorities for wrongful death and gross negligence. Is it worth the risk? I can't imagine how.

Well Ed, your point is not far from what am saying here. The families will sue because they desire to revenge. It is for no other reason except revenge and well the lawsuits would set precedence, so not necessarily a waste in the bigger picture

The death penalty is designed so they can't do it again. 

If you go to jail you can potentially escape and do the crime again. The damage will be already done, and no amount of time in jail will bring the life back you took when you escaped.

What's worse? Execution or life without parole?

Well, I think that would depend on the person being punished, and the living conditions of the incarceration. For some, death might be better than being locked up their whole life, while for others the fear of dying and the time leading upto the execution would be more horrific than anything they think they'd face in prison.

If these are for SURE and the guys who committed the crime, I want them DEAD and I want them to feel the horror that their victims felt as they DIE!

But that wasn't one of the choices was it?  Too bad.

The two choices given (a painless death or life in solitary) are both lacking as a response to their crime.  So go with which one will cost the least in tax dollars.

The trouble with the prison system is that its a half half solution, and as such, fails to achieve any of the functions it was designed for, namely:-

  • Prisoners don't suffer horribly by way of society's vengeance appeasement
  • Prisoners don't get treated, counseled or made to be more functioning in society
  • A prison sentence is not an effective deterrent to potential law breakers

As a result, nobody is served other than the judiciary and the prison managers. America has more people in prison per capita, than any other country in the world. The system isn't working.

I have heard the argument, "what if it was your mother that was murdered?". It's fallacious. If someone shoved my mother, or upset her in someway, I'd be furious. That's why there is objectivity in the court system, whereby the person or people sentencing are not directly affected, so that fair trials can be held.

The question is, do we want revenge, a deterrent, rehabilitation, or separation from or an elimination from society.

If we want revenge, then torture is the only answer - by that we could talk whipping or solitary confinement, so either physical or mental (or both)

For a deterrent, I think a quiet and efficient execution, no appeals, is more scary that spending years on "Death Row" or otherwise incarcerated. The lack of drama means their ego is not served either.

Separation, via incarceration, should be done in order to remove the problem. Parole should be non-existent. I'm pretty good with permanence here, with the option for the convict to seek and be granted painless death - that makes financial sense.

Elimination, through painless injection, is the most practical of solutions, provided we no longer care about the person concerned. If they are not rehabilitation material, or fail at making efforts to be so, then ideally they should just disappear.

Rehabilitation is something that the accused would have to plead for (I mean in the legal sense, not the knee-scraping one). There should have to be a hearing where the convicted felon is able to assert that he or she does have the desire and the intention to be rehabilitated. Then a program should be designed to enable this to be carried out - subject to the prisoner also trying to achieve this. Failure to achieve the necessary changes would mean the prisoner reverts to incarceration (for life) or elimination (through death).

All this messing about with half-half solutions results in no benefit to anyone, and a cost to the nation that it should not have to back. A clean open approach as to what is required is necessary, and then very clear ways to carry out those requirements need to be put in place.

I know there are lots of "but what about...?" situations.  I really haven't put a study together on it.  I'm just not a believer in revenge.

Definitely depends on the person... some people can deal with life imprisonment better than others. But I'll echo the statement of many and say somewhere in between for added effect. Which is to say, keep them solitary so they can live with their thoughts for a while, loom the death sentence over their head, and if they don't kill themselves go ahead and quietly execute them later.

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