Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We can kill murders, but we can't cause them discomfort?

Terri Winchell suffered beyond imagining before she died. She was choked with a belt, hit on the head with a hammer 23 times, stabbed 4 times and raped before she died. Now, the state, having decided to kill her torturer, murderer and rapist (25 years later, 8 years longer than Terri's entire life), has put off his death for fear it might cause him discomfort as it killed him. Surreal. One is tempted to suggest that if he suffers a tenth as much as Terri suffered before she died, it's all to the good. But that raises an age-old question. Is revenge an appropriate purpose of the legal system? Consider that the whole reason for the legal system (especially the criminal part) to exist is to prevent members of the society from taking matters into their own hands and exacting their own revenge. Shouldn't a system that substitutes itself for personal revenge include an element of revenge itself? It has been fashionable for some time now to insist that the only proper purposes of the criminal justice system are rehabilitation (which the system doesn't seem to do very well) and deterrence (which the system doesn't seem to accomplish either). Before anyone says it, I'll readily grant that more should/could be done to prevent our citizens from becoming criminals. But the society must still deal with those who choose to break its laws. Please share your thoughts on the matter. How can the system be improved, both to more effectively enforce the law and to more effectively deal with those who break it? Personally, I'd start by repealing all "victimless crime" laws and focusing our limited resources on real crimes against society and its members. I look forward to your ideas.