I’m currently watching On Death Row on Netflix and find it to be pretty compelling so far.
I’m hoping to do a paper on capital punishment but to sum it up, I’m against it. There are many reasons why including it’s existence for retribution (as it is not an effective deterrent), innocent people being on death row, and the fact that, as a Christian, I cannot accept the Old Testament declaration of “eye for an eye” at a human level. God wants revenge, fine. He can have it. As humans capable of mistakes, I don’t find it’s within my power to declare who should live and who should not. There are other issues and I will cover them later. Take a moment to watch On Death Row and see if it challenges what you know of the death penalty in the United States.
There are several models of issuing justice. Some are rehabilitative, retributive, transformative, and restorative. They all have different impacts on victims, offenders/subjects, and society as a whole. I would like to define each term to help everyone gain a better understanding of what exactly is at stake here.
Revenge is destructive to everyone: the one that revenge is sought against, the one seeking revenge, and everyone around them. It seems that in reaction to such alarming statics for “the land of the free”, people are looking again at Martinson’s methodology and conclusions and are beginning to reintroduce rehabilitation into the system.
Restorative justice “is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior.” This is still in use in a lot of juvenile delinquent programs. The idea is to get the victim “restored”, usually by some form of restitution. This is a closer link, in my opinion, to real justice as the victim is the focus of the program. There is also usually a focus on the offender/subject in the way of rehabilitation and family support to help keep binds to the community, a reason for the person to reform and have a successful reentry to society. For that reason, restorative and rehabilitative justice are grouped together. I don’t do that because rehabilitative justice methods may not focus much, or at all, on the victim.
My personal opinion is that retribution is a failure. Nonviolent offenders are thrown into prisons with some very evil criminals and in that environment, they have to change to survive. Those changes do not translate well on the outside, so the person has become “institutionalized”. Chances of reoffending (either the old charge or new crime) become very high. The thought of going back to prison isn’t a great deterrent because they know they have survived it before. I would love to see a return to rehabilitation but also more focus on things like restorative and transformative justice models.
The victim has to be a consideration when it comes to justice as THEY were the ones wronged to start with. Victim advocacy has grown into a field of its own and rightfully so. Victims don’t need revenge, they need justice. Most offenders/subjects also need justice – they are humans as well, some consider themselves victims of circumstance and if they are not shown another way, they will continue the cycle of criminality. Society as a whole, as I have learned, is woefully uneducated in the various models of justice and how each model works. Most still blindly cling to the idea of the punishment needing to fit the crime but they don’t understand exactly what that means. They also fail to understand the consequences and blowback on various laws and policies such as the Drug War (I’ll get into that in another entry later).
This is why I started this blog – to inform and discuss the criminal justice system as it is and as it can be. Please feel free to comment and share anything you see here. Thank you for reading. I hope you learned something from this entry that you didn’t already know.