We can all agree that society needs to protect itself by having reasonable and sometimes severe penalties for offenses from parking tickets to aggravated capital murder. In my ignorance, I used to support the death penalty because I was not fully aware of these arguments: It’s too easy on them, it’s too expensive and denying them redemptive suffering.
It’s too easy: Meaning life in solitary confinement 23 hours a day every day is a far greater punishment than being painlessly killed (not advocating pain, just saying that it is). Generally speaking, someone who commits aggravated capital murder doesn’t quite think the way you and I do. We might think death is worse than life in solitary, but 50+ years (a lot of these capital murderers could live that long) in solitary with no TV, radio or music — only books — exacts more of a human toll on them. So if your support of the death penalty is largely because you want those suckers to suffer, then I suggest you should want them in solitary as I have described. For them, it would be a much greater torment.
It’s too expensive: This is pretty simple because we’ve heard over the decades that it is many times more expensive to execute someone than life in solitary, so financially, life in solitary is much more prudent with taxpayers’ money.
Redemptive suffering: Surveys by Pew find that approximately 70 percent of Idahoans identify as Christian. As a society based on Judeo-Christian scripture, teachings and values, we should refrain from condemnation and not rob the offender by denying them the crucible of redemptive suffering that life in solitary provides.
This thought has come into my mind (as it has for most of you): “I hope the SOB burns in hell,” but then Scripture reminds me, “If you condemn so shall you be condemned.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to condemn or wish hell for anyone! If it takes 50 years (he could live that long) of torment in solitary to bring a child of God back to God, I am not going to rob him of that chance. I have enough scars on my soul. I don’t want Jesus to look at me and say, “My son would’ve come back to Me if you would not have unjustifiable killed him.”
So pick your reason(s). As a Universal Christian (Catholic), I believe the church’s teaching that capital punishment is only appropriate if there is no other way to protect society, but there clearly is another way. Christianity basically requires we oppose capital punishment on the basis of love, forgiveness and our Christian hope for the salvation of every soul. Please think about it and let’s change the law.
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Paul Grayhek was born and raised in Spokane and moved to Coeur d’Alene in 1996. In 2007, he transitioned from a career in business to clinical social work. He’s now a psychiatric social worker supervisor for the Washington state VA.