Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Nice guys on death row?

In recent days, I’ve noted that ex-death row inmate Allan Gell has made statements to the media implying that condemned inmates are “motivated to behave” or they may find it even more likely to be executed. That generally speaking, “the row” is a less violent place than "general population". Such remarks were made in what is obviously weak attempt to re-humanize death row inmates in the minds of North Carolinians, an effort which is being led by death penalty foes like Gell who say that they are promoting a study of the justice system and at the same time demanding a moratorium on executions. Having never spent time on death row as an inmate, I can’t profess first hand knowledge of what it’s like there or understand all the motivations that drive death row inmates, so I entertained Gell’s comments for a spell.

If as Gell says, the mere threat of an impending execution is enough to make at least some inmates think twice before committing additional and obviously violent (or even annoying) infractions, is that not also proof that capital punishment has a deterrent effect on crime? If there are some offenders that can’t be deterred by any sanction, shouldn’t the state consider executing these bad players first (if it can)?

Contrary to Gell’s statements, many death row inmates really are not well behaved. Recently executed murderers on North Carolina’s death row have been known to attack corrections officers and commit a number of different offenses while they sat on the row. If these inmates were moved to general population, there’s no guarantee that these murderers wouldn’t continue with their bad habits or become even more violent. More to the point, without an occasional and deserved execution these already violent felons could become even more violent. Seriously now, without a death penalty, what sanction will have any meaning to an offender who is already serving a life sentence (without parole)? You can’t add any real time to what the courts have already demanded that they serve. Adding a 2 years delay to the cycle only complicates matters and doesn’t come without some additional costs or risks.

How many proven “cop killers” or “kid killers”, wife beaters and robbers do we need to protect from an execution after they’ve already committed the most heinous crime of all (premeditated murder)? The death penalty abolitionists and state paid defense attorneys would have us protect all of them.

Today they are promoting a moratorium on executions. This they say is so that they can study the system and improve it. Supposedly their motivation is to save innocent lives. What about the innocent lives we risk (or lose) when we fail to execute? It slowly becomes more apparent that they intend to protect the guilty (even more than the innocent?).

Have the sponsors of the moratorium legislation actually lived in fear of a murderer who has already snuffed the life out of one of their loved ones? Doubtful. So whom do they represent?

A closer look at the persons who support the moratorium will show that they include persons of the clergy who minister to death row inmates, friends or family members of proven murderers, paid representation for the inmates (trial lawyers), well meaning but misguided students who are attacking a sentence instead of making constructive solutions, or so-called Person’s of Faith who would abolish capital punishment (no matter how violent the murderer).

Most of these moratorium supporters go home each night to a place that’s far away from Central Prison (or any other). They don’t live within line of sight of a corrections facility or a mental institution. They don’t get harassing phone calls from the murderers of their loved ones. They don’t live with the thought that a murderer might escape or disgrace the memory of their loved one even more by committing additional crimes either. Their social experiences include participation in these groups that glorify (or worship) death row inmates.

Due to the efforts and constant supervision of corrections staff, the average moratorium supporter, defense attorney or prison clergyman doesn’t have to worry very much about murderers attacking them when they visit "the row". It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most these murderers are reluctant to "bite the hands that feed them" (for as long as they are fed). Just who is using who more? Maybe that’s something they never considered studying… because they just can’t imagine murder happening to them or someone they love. Maybe one day, one of their "pets" will bite... and only then will one moratorium advocate understand why executions must continue... if for only a short time.