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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Is Death Penalty the Answer?

I have been very angry lately, following rising crimes news in my country. Horrendous crimes, useless crimes, surreal crimes...
A man killing his own family, a man shooting two men to death over a bad coffee, young people killed with stray bullets fired by angry men, a young man killed coldly after a pursuit over a minor car accident, ...
 The list is too long, and heartbreaking. Crime is on the rise in our country, it's a fact.Violence is on the rise. We are in a vortex. It will end, but we're in the eye of the tornado right now.

Crime is on the rise. And every time it has the same effect: public outrage, social media backlash, and same angry and emotional request: off with their heads! kill them! hang them! free us!
I am convinced in abolition of death penalty. But my conviction, is not forcibly shared by others.
After reading many death penalty requests on my feeds, I decided to do the tough exercise of questioning my convictions (a highly recommended exercise).
What if I was doing what we usually do: only listen to what answers my conviction? What if death penalty really deters crime, sometime? What if my conviction was only based on studies backing abolition? What if public demand to kill was right? When the mass wants something, I have to acknowledge this need too!
I cannot diminish this widespread feeling. I cannot force conviction. Why not double check studies? Why not really listen to the other logic?

And this is what I have been doing for the past few weeks. I found tons of antagonist opinions. I read the pros and cons (especially the latter), I found one study that proved that death penalty deters crime backed up with numbers: each execution decreases 18 crimes... I digged deeper, intrigued. Then I found that this study is widely rejected by experts from all sides due to lack of scientific approach, some personal opinions, and lack of scientific questions not answered. For example, there is no comparison to deterrent effect of life imprisonment, no answers on would be murderers' perception(do they consider death penalty when committing a crime),...

On another side, hundreds of studies and researches done over 3 decades, with proven facts, and clear charts overflow the net, some with charts showing decrease of crimes in States abolishing death penalty, and many proving the following:
Death penalty is not linked to decrease of crimes, as abolition of death penalty is not too. 

In other words, being pro or anti death penalty is a choice, a debatable opinion, using values, beliefs and vision. But facts are there: whether you apply death penalty or not has nothing to do with crime rates. Remains ethics choice : do we value life or death? Do we think every life is precious?
This is why the world is moving towards abolition of death penalty (check map below).
Countries that abolished death penalty are not "simple minded", their crime rates are not affected. It is a political choice, sometimes not popular when a horrific crime is committed, but it is based on facts. 39 countries and US States are still applying death penalty... this did not deter crimes too.

World map of abolitionist countries: 103 total abolition-6 abolitionists for common rights crimes-49 abolitionists de facto(moratorium)-39 applying death penalty

Let's come back to the rising crime rate in Lebanon...
And let's try to answer some tough questions, away from emotions:
-Do we really think that death penalty will stop crimes?(are there proofs)?
-Do we really think it will end the growing frustration leading sometimes to commit crimes?
-Will death penalty end growing drug abuse, sometimes leading to crimes?
-Will death penalty end injustice in our system, a system that jails the least protected and spares the others?
-Will death penalty ensure equality of law enforcement, where we are all under the same roof?
-Will death penalty end the traffic crisis that bring the worst in some of us, sometimes unleashing the beast in some that become killers over a priority?
-Will death penalty end high unemployment rates among youth and all the frustration it brings, leading some to play with death ?
-Will death penalty end random guns ownership used in every silly argument?
-Will death penalty end the regional crisis affecting the core of our society on all levels, leading to unemployment, unpaid bills, poverty, anger, fear...pushing some "ready" minds to kill?
-Will death penalty stop a person with little values, and unstoppable rage, from committing a crime?
-Will death penalty affect the values system we live in leading some to play God?
-Will death penalty lead voters to choose wisely representatives that will deal with everybody equally? And enforce law and justice equally?
-Will death penalty be the trigger to change our jails? and help us create a correctional system rather than a revengeful one?
-Will death penalty become a lesson of anger management?
-Will death penalty eliminate a culture of male dominance accepting honor killing and domestic violent acts?
-Will death penalty help stop the culture of trivializing violence?

These are some the hard facts leading some to become criminals. These are some of the tough issues we need to address to change.
Problems are way too much to be resolved in revengeful acts, like death penalty, despite the fact that it might ease some pain and frustration on the spot. Revenge being a state we go through when feeling overwhelmed with injustice.
And as a mother, I can't but put myself in other parents shoes and ask for revenge when angry... But as this heartbroken lady said about the crime committed against her nephew:"would hanging the criminal bring back our son?" I come back to my senses, take a deep breath, and check twice.

We elaborated justice systems to stop our revenge urge out of anger, because we learned how devastating it can be.
Justice is cold blooded, calm, and thoughtful. It serves the mass, the common needs. It stops rage, it ends fear. Justice believes in humanity, in change, in correction.

Despite my anger, I am more than ever convinced of uselessness of death penalty as a tool to deter crime. But I know that deterring crime away from death penalty is a long process that takes energy and engagement, something many prefer not to do. Instead, they just ask for revenge: off with their heads.
Anger is a strong and dramatic feeling. It is triggered by fear, by sadness, it eats our souls. It seeks revenge to take control over what triggered it.
It is understandable, but dangerous if let alone and not questioned to see what is hiding below. I wish we always understand what lies beneath anger and rage. What we might find can lead us to think in a constructive way...