The purpose of this article is not to lay out my political beliefs, to brag about my liberal values or to simply appear above the fray. In an age in which we constantly contradict our democratic beliefs and our personal sentiments, this was written purely for the love of humanity, which we sometimes disregard, in our search for justice.
Whenever a hate crime (murder, rape etc) that gets considerable media attention surfaces, it has been a trend in our society to lash out with demands to restore the death penalty. Although I have trouble understanding the logic in anyone who supports the death penalty, since it produces no positive outcome, I do understand the causes behind such an extreme demand. It is a demand heavily induced by anger; a justified anger. The anger, however is a temporary emotion. Similarly the death penalty, is a temporary solution to the larger problem that A Grade crimes represent. It is only impractical that we let our temporary emotions be reflected in the law of the state. Instead we must look for sustainable solutions to the causes of the crimes.
Law, to me, is a scale of liberty. Yes, punishment must match the crime, but the variables used to equalize the weights on both sides of the scale have to be variables that we can define. How can we define death if we have not yet experienced it ourselves? What gives us the liberty to assign a punishment of which the boundaries, or depth we cannot define?
Research shows that the death penalty is not a proven deterrent to future murders. In fact a recent research from Northeastern University, explains that that the death penalty has the opposite effect: that is, society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder. Take the United States, for instance, where different states have different penal codes. States in the United States that do not employ the death penalty generally have lower murder rates than states that do. Similarly when the U.S. is compared to similar countries, the U.S. with the death penalty has a higher murder rate than the countries of Europe or Canada, which do not use the death penalty at all.
In a just, rational society, unlawful conduct is preferably prevented before rather than punished after. That is what we must aspire to as a society, to prevent, than cure and to correct than punish. As evolved human beings in a civilized society it is time we leave behind antiquated laws such as the death penalty and replace concepts such a imprisonment with more sustainable humane solutions such as mental rehabilitation and correctional institutions.
We don’t have to kill people who kill people to teach people that killing people is wrong.
*Thisuri Wanniarachchi, 21, is the author of novels The Terrorist’s Daughter and Colombo Streets. She is Sri Lanka’s youngest State Literary Award winner and the world’s youngest national nominee to the prestigious Iowa International Writers’ Program. She is currently an undergraduate student and full scholar of Bennington College studying Political Economy and Education Reform.