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?

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I am opposed to the death penalty for many reasons; but one of them is that I regard life in prison as the greater punishment.  After all, if death is a punishment, it's one we ALL must face, eventually.  But, for most of us, death is an end to the wonders and rewards of life.  For condemned killers, it is a release from the horrors of prison.  I prefer that they continue to experience these horrors, knowing that they will never be free from them.  Until they die.  

@Gallup's Mirror - I don't believe in the death penalty, especially for the likes of thesetwo, it would be too quick for the horrendous crimes they committed. I take it from the victim's point of view. Can You imagine the terror and pain these three went through. This was not an oops moment, a decision gone wrong, this was pre-meditated, and ongoing torture. Who died first, of the other two, what did they see? Their mother raped, or the eleven year old raped????

No, death is not too stark, it is just too quick, I want revenge in these situations. I don't care if they are rehabilitated or not. The husband and father will live with this for the rest of his life, his life is over. How could anyone get past this.

These men didn't think of anybody else while raping and pillaging. Not even their own families, let alone the family they were killing.

Nup, death is too good for these two.

Anybody who wants to read about what they did -

Death is too easy. Solitary confinement is better. But not just confinement alone. Mix with it some physical labor. That way they hate their life every day. Hard labor digging a ditch, then covering it up and digging it again. Or other mundane activities. 
I grew up a little gang-banger. Was sentenced to 20 years for armed robbery when I was only 19 yrs old. I did 16 years of that 20 year sentence. Was released about six years ago. I now own my own company and have a family.

My point is ... death is easy. Living everyday and not knowing if you will ever live long enough to see freedom really sucks. Prison sucks. Confinement sucks the worst because then you have no illusions of escape (such as TV or so-called friends or what have ya). You're just stuck with yourself in a 9x12 cell in and day out. 

Can always do the sleep deprivation as well. Where they wake you up every hour... called a wellness check. That will drive a man insane. No ... there are plenty of things that can be done to make a man regret what he has done. I think killing him defeats the purpose. He learns nothing in death.

Sometimes these two ...revenge would be sweet. Just get some lifers to rape them and then burn them alive. Crime dictates the punishment. But they still wouldnt learn.

@Gallup's Mirror

Knowing you'll never be free again allows you to change your mind-set. If you think you will get out again ...then you can't allow yourself to become institutionalized. The minds of those doing a life sentence and those that are not, are different in many ways. If I know, beyond a doubt, that I'm stuck in prison for the rest of my life ... then I will make it my home. 

@David Whatley

 I understand and agree with what you said but for the phrasing of one thing:

"If you think you will get out again ...then you can't allow yourself to become institutionalized."

 I don't think becoming "institutionalized" is a choice. There are a lot of reasons for this. One reason that comes to mind is that some people are in the system since early childhood and simply graduate from "Children's Home" to youth lock up, treatment, psychiatric wards, jail and prisons.

 Ideally one wouldn't become institutionalized and of course it would be smart to work against becoming just that but those traumas run deep.

@jared manley

@Gregg R Thomas

Being institutionalized is a choice. Although it may seem to most that people in those circumstances may be a victim of circumstance. But that's not true. 

I've been the system since I was 8 yrs old. First then I was arrested for was for assault & battery. Next, was three counts of arson. Burglary, grand theft auto, armed robbery, and dozens more. 

I've been in youth development centers, halfway houses, juvenile detection center, work camps, wilderness programs, reform schools, and prison. I've been in gangs (Aryan gangs) most of my life. I've been dirt most my life ...and knew the whole time but didn't care. 

Because I grew up in the system ... it was a joke. My home life sucked. When I went to adult prison for the first time (age 15 as a Youthful Offender), a lot of the guys that were there I had done time with before in the juvenile programs so I knew them. Didn't have to prove myself ...a lot already knew I was a scrapper, been fighting since 11 yrs old. Went to prison the second time when I was 17. Then returned was I was 19 and didn't get out until I was 35. That was about six years ago.

About 10 years ago (age 31), I woke up one morning in my cell and realized I would not be able to raise a family while in prison. The same was true regarding ownership of any business. I was gonna have to decide ... freedom? Or confinement? I chose freedom. Then I had to make my mind up about my life style. Gangster/Thug/Racist/Dirt-bag ... or get educated in order to get an actual job. I chose education. 

Started to slowly wing my so-called friends off. Became more and more isolated in order to study the free world. Styles, cars, hair, make-up, grammar ... everything changed since I first went inside. Then I was released.

It was a little bit of a shock. Everything you used to think was cool and hip was garbage. Babies and kids have years to mock and play and learn. I had to know it now or I was not gonna fit in or at the least be sociable without people thinking you're nuts or too different. So I went to crowded places a lot ... so I can see people mingle. Paid attention to everything. Refined myself. Watched others and decided ...which traits do I keep and which ones look ugly or prejudicial or rude. I decided to become the ever-changing social norm.

I needed a license. I never had a driver license. Was in a high-speed chase at age 14 that ended in a crash. No one was hurt thankfully, but my license was suspended until I was 17 years old and I owed a bunch or restitution (thousands). Since I didn't have the money, I never paid for the restitution before I went to prison at 19. There I was at 35 years old with no license. 

Got a job working at a pizza joint. Saved my money, paid off my license. Now I had a license but no car. So I went to work for a pool service company. They taut me how to do the chemicals and about the pool equipment. As a bonus, I was allowed to drive the truck home. So everyday I drove the truck, did my pools, and made stops along my route if I needed anything so no one would know. 

Then I met the love of my life. We moved in together and she became pregnant. Now I have a daughter. Wife has a good paying job now. I learned what there was to learn and started my own pool service and repair company. Its growing every month. I started with 12 pools. I now have 86 pools. Average pool pays $70 a month (not including repair work). Not rich, but a nice start to success hopefully. 

When I was released after serving 16 years in prison for some mindless stupid armed robberies, it started to dawn on me how fast life travels. The rat race is not slow and it doesn't listen to your needs. It moves ... you either get with the program or get left behind. 


My point is ... although some may well be a product of their environment, or a victim of circumstance, most people in prison will have to decide (and they will all come to that crossroad) to either keep down the same path that got them there or change. To continue acting the same way ... or change. Keep the same state of mind ... or change. For some, change is too hard. Or they are too scared because they fear the unknown. Not to mention the enormous amount of pressure. In prison, you just have to survive. Not that hard depending on your social status and how you carry yourself. In the free-world the pressure comes from everywhere. For every dollar you earn it seems like three people have their hand out wanting more money. If I don't work my family don't eat. Scary thought. I worry about rent, car payment, insurance, health, kids health, daycare, phone, lights, and the list goes on. Ridiculous. It was easier just surviving in prison. I use to hear that prisoners were cowards or how they take the easy way out. I use to laugh at them. Now ...prison is easy compared to being a provider and a business owner (which I learned that I traded 1 boss for 86). 


Being institutionalized is the same as giving up. Not everyone that is institutionalized has given up, but most fit that description. Some are on drugs or simply can't cope with reality itself. After spending so long with the same friends and guards and routine's easy to say no to change. Routine brings comfort and familiarity. Other than watching your back ...there's no fear. It's really hard out here ... until it's not ... for one reason or another. 

I didn't really have a lot of help. Everyone I knew was married with kids or dead or was scared of me or just didn't want an ex-con around. Or they were still doing illegal stuff and I didn't want anything to do with those sorts anymore.

I chose not to be institutionalized. I chose to change my life in order to have a life. Others can to.


@ David W.

You Sir are one of the few.  It take balls to step into the unknown, you do us all proud.

Thanks for sharing your story.

I wish you much success with your life.


Hey David, inside for 16 and out now 6, those first couple of years back on the streets must have been hard on you.  If you don't mind me asking, did someone step up and give you a hand?

For some (maybe most) getting out can be a different kind of punishment, the ex-felon tag is hard to shake.

NOTE: My son carries that tag and like you has his own company and family as well.  Good for both of you.

I hope life is going good for you now, it can't have been easy.

I don't think the death penalty is a "punishment" so much as it is intended to be a "justice".  There is the question of rehabilitation and whether or not one is capable. I understand that some aren't capable. Is it "just" to kill them? I don't have an answer for that.

 When someone is sentenced to Life in prison it happens that cell time, your 3 hots, and an hour in the yard isn't a full description of prison life. What you are really being sentenced to is a life of violence, rape, humiliation, torment, demoralization and anal leakage from the bad food. The anal leakage fits in with the humiliation and demoralization but I think it was worth mentioning it because I'd take the death penalty over a life time of anal leakage.

 These two (and a few other cases I can think of) should probably be sentenced to life in prison with anal leakage.


For those of you that don't believe in the death penalty there are two considerations to muse. First, if you let these pathetic excuses for a human being remain incarcerated for decades there is a huge yearly bill to house and feed them. For what end? It's not worth the tax payer dollars to keep air going in their worthless noses. Secondly, you let them stay in prison and they possibly end up "shanking" a correctional officer who made the mistake of letting their guard down for just a moment. These perverts have a maniacal way of staring at you as the blood exits your body and you lose consciousness. 

Don't waste money on lethal injection or other overly humane ways to exterminate these vermin. A big tank of corrosive acid is a cost effective one time purchase and should last for decades.

I may come across as coarse and insensitive. Working in a prison and dealing with these psychotic SOB's will do that to a fellow.


The number of appeals? One is plenty in my book. If eye witnesses are involved one denial of appeal is satisfactory before termination.

"Now imagine just one person out of a thousand was wrongly executed: would you be willing to be that one person just to support the continuation of the death penalty?"

Our judicial system is not perfect and innocents have been executed. With DNA evidence available today the possibility of error is greatly reduced in many cases. Guys who sit on death row with irrefutable DNA evidence or unquestionable eye witness accounts have no need or right to a numerous appeal process. 

The cost of an execution is greatly inflated by some. Walking them off a gang plank into a vat is fairly cost effective.


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