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Howard Falco Headshot

The Insanity of the Death Penalty

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In case you haven't noticed it's 2014 and the death penalty is still alive and well in 32 states of the great United States of America. This is the self-proclaimed land of the free, home of the brave and staunch fighter for human rights all over the world. So far this year 23 people have been executed in the name of "justice." There are currently 3088 more on death row that are waiting their day of execution.

The death penalty tends to be a lightening rod for debate and discussion due to the deep emotions and feelings it stirs up as it relates to living in a safe society. Many of the heinous crimes we hear about in the news and the ones we see recreated on the many cable magazine TV shows being produced end up leaving a deep mark of fear in the country's collective consciousness. The result is that many people still see a strong need for the penalty of death to alleviate their fears of these crimes.

What is ironic, however, is that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent to the crimes they are intended to deter. As a matter of fact, in States where there is no death penalty there have been consistently lower rates of murder then in States where there is a death penalty instituted. Also, since 1975, as more and more states have dropped the use of the death penalty, the overall murder rate in the US has steadily declined.

Maybe it's not enough to change one's mind that if those put to death are later proven innocent it's too late to do anything about it and as a result innocent people are murdered. Many in the past on death row have suffered this fate.

Maybe it's not enough to change one's mind that many death row inmates are severely mentally challenged and incapable of understanding or managing their emotions and actions, or are unable to get the proper representation to defend them in court.

Maybe it's not enough to change one's mind that the drugs and other execution methods used to murder those convicted when they are executed are inhumane and have been causing all sorts of horrible outcomes during the execution process.

Maybe it is not enough to change one's mind that many of the families of the victims of those on death row do not want to see more killing even if it is the person responsible for the death of their loved ones.

Maybe its not enough to change one's mind that many countries including Australia, Europe (with the exception of Belarus), Canada, South Africa, South America (with the exception of Guyana), and Russia have stopped using the death penalty or abolished it completely from their laws.

This leaves only 40 countries left in the world that still use the death penalty. In the United States the federal government, military and 32 states are in the great company of China, Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Somalia, and Pakistan who still use the penalty of death aggressively.

Maybe all of the above reasons are not enough to change one's mind on the use of the death penalty in a civilized, industrial, supposedly enlightened, first world nation that promotes human rights. However, maybe, just maybe, the following insight and take on why this act, currently blessed as acceptable by our nation, is completely counterproductive to our intent of living in a safer more peaceful world, will finally cause perceptions to change.

The single biggest reason to end the death penalty can be summed up in a quote by Albert Einstein, "No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it."

Simply killing under the rationalization of "justice" does not change the intended outcome of deterring anymore killing. It actually exacerbates the problem. What the death penalty in place says is that on some level of our nation's consciousness, killing is seen as "okay." This justification is the exact same justification used in the mind of a killer. They have convinced themselves in some way that it is ok in their mind to kill their intended victim.

In order to change the behavior that we admonish so greatly we must as a society rise above this way of thinking. As Gandhi famously said, "We must be the change we want to see in the world."

Every force we put out into the world, whether as an individual or a nation, has an equal and opposite force. We are learning this more than ever in the world of quantum physics and the understanding it reveals of how our thoughts and actions affect every aspect of our reality. These messages are not new however. They have been coming to us since biblical days.

Commandment number six, "Thou shalt not kill."

Luke 6:31 "As you wish other to do to you, do so to them."

Peter 3:8-10 "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."

Besides biblical messaging there have been all sorts of common sense and simple wisdom sayings that we have heard for years from our teachers and parents such as the profound and extremely appropriate saying, "Two wrongs do not make a right."

The energy we put out as a civilized nation has a direct effect on what we experience as a nation. We must become more conscious of where we have become hypocrites to our own causes.

"To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice."
-Desmond Tutu

"Before you embark on a journey of revenge dig two graves." - Confucius

"As if one crime of such nature, done by a single man, acting individually, can be expiated by a similar crime done by all men, acting collectively." -Lewis Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison in NY in the 1920s and 30s

"What says the law? You will not kill. How does it say it? By killing!" -Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables

"I was eight years old when my father was murdered. It is almost impossible to describe the pain of losing a parent to a senseless murder ... But even as a child, one thing was clear to me: I didn't want the killer, in turn, to be killed. I remember lying in bed and praying, "Please, God. Please don't take his life, too.' I saw nothing that could be accomplished in the loss of one life being answered with the loss of another." -Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Bobby Kennedy.

This perspective of the counterproductive nature of the death penalty is not offered from some kumbaya notion of all holding hands and believing that our love will solve the issue of murder alone. We have a legal, justice and prison system that takes care of protecting society from those who demonstrate themselves as a threat. We just don't have to go the last step of stepping into vengeance and hatred. We don't have to allow our level of consciousness to go down to the level of the killer by justifying legal murder in cold blood under the rationalization of making society safer. It's simply not the case, so we are actually losing ground in our intended efforts on two accounts.

The whole intention of our justice system is to prevent further injustices. As a people and a nation we should want to learn what causes a mind to think in a way that leads to the abhorrent act or acts of murder while at the same time demonstrate the type of behavior we aspire to see from all people. However, killing the source doesn't get us any closer to the root of the issue. We must be willing to discover this deep root in order to stop the issue from surfacing. Somehow killing as a response to killing doesn't seem like the answer but actually on closer inspection it may be seen as part of the problem.

It is time to reconsider the death penalty as no longer acceptable under any condition. Taking a true stand against the overall idea itself of killing as part of our justice system and nation's collective consciousness will not only make us a more evolved people and enlightened country, but will lead us to a better and more peaceful world.