Thursday, July 25, 2013

Killing v. caging

The other day my fellow blogger, Grits for Breakfast, left the following comment to a posting about how badly the State of Georgia wants to kill folks:
Is killing an inmate the state's "most intrusive power" compared to locking them up for life? Everybody dies. Not everybody spends decades in a cage.
On the one hand Grits is right. The power to lock someone away in a cage for decades is antithetical to the notion of limited government. Locking someone away for the rest of their life without the possibility of parole is, according to the European Court of Human Rights, a violation of a prisoner's human rights.

The ECHR held, in a case brought by a man sentenced to life without parole for the murder of a colleague, that locking someone away for the rest of their life contravenes Article 3 of the European convention on human rights which prohibits "inhuman and degrading punishment." The court didn't say that Douglas Vinter will be released anytime soon - it just said that denying him the possibility of parole was a violation of his human rights.

And we all know that just because someone appears before a parole board doesn't mean they will ever be paroled. The odds are fairly short that Mr. Vinter, and the other men held in Britain for life without the possibility of parole, will spend the remainder of their lives in prison.

So, yes, the state's power to cage up a man or woman like an animal and leave them to die decades down the road is something that should shock the conscience. But it doesn't. At least not on this side of the Atlantic.

But, as bad as what Jeff Gamso calls "death in prison" is, the power to take that life at will is magnitudes more intrusive. That man sitting in a cage for the rest of his life is still breathing. And he still has a chance at freedom. Just ask Michael Morton. For those on death row, such as Cameron Willingham, exoneration may come too late.

In this day and age no government should have the power to decide who lives and who dies. The problem is made worse when we consider the rules of jury selection in capital cases work to ensure a jury is seated that is predisposed to kill the defendant. As I have stated many times in the past, killing an inmate doesn't bring anyone back to life and it certainly doesn't fill the void in the lives of those who lost a loved one. All it does is create a void for another family.

One day the state's power to kill will be abolished once and for all. That day is approaching faster than death penalty proponents want to admit - but for those of us fighting to do away with capital punishment that day can't come soon enough.

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