Letter to the Editor 09/02/09

I wonder if the 75% of your online poll respondents who claim to support the death penalty ‘for the most brutal murderers’ would count themselves among those murderers if such a useless piece of legislation were to be adopted in this country.

The real psychopaths are the people who refuse to accept the overwhelming international evidence that punitive punishment does not deter serious offending. A recent study from California demonstrated that state murder rates were nearly twice as high during years in which the death penalty was carried out and the average rate of homicides increased in the month immediately following an execution.

I find it odd that the Gisborne Herald even asks the question – there are a lot more useful questions that could be asked which might address the causes of crime and questions of responsibility and attribution, rather than this kind of sensationalist polemic that promotes simplistic and/or disingenuous responses to complex and multidimensional issues.

While there are no quick and easy answers to the problem of violence in our society (at least not without radical reorientation of our relationships to one another and natural resources), capital punishment can safely be ruled out as being a sensible solution.

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