Thursday, June 07, 2007

What time is it? (execution time)

Execution opponents engage in some of their most desperate arguments when they make the claim that when death sentences are carried out late at night, they intentionally scheduled to hide the event. Evidence to the contrary of these claims includes the fact that schedules are posted well in advance. Additionally, everyone in the prison knows what will happen the night of an execution, but the vast majority have no “say so” when it comes to changing things around them.

The prison population is comprised mostly of, you guessed it, offenders. Death penalty foes purposely ignore security measures intended to protect witnesses, participants, offenders and other prison staff. The impact of scheduling executions at a time when operations are at a relative lull should be obvious. Most offenders sleep peacefully while the condemned are read their last rites or encouraged to be calm and accept their punishment. The condemned murderer exits prison grounds in an inconspicuous vehicle. Nobody usually notices.

Prison schedules are an important part of what makes them secure. Offenders used to rituals are lulled into a sense of security. They know what to expect and when to expect certain things. Creating schedule exceptions means that something new or special is occurring and gives them reason to question what’s going on or test security for flaws.

Condemned inmates aren’t the only offenders in the prison. Making one class of offenders “more special” makes all the rest “less special”, even on execution night. Undue attention can motivate offenders to fight amongst themselves or to do other things to draw attention.

Another obvious or likely question is, if executions are indeed “special events” inside the prison, why not eliminate them? The answer to that is simple. Prisoners should not be allowed to dictate what their sentences should be. Justice should be what the courts (or jurists) determine, based on the law. Capital punishment is part of North Carolina law.

Appropriate punishments should continue to include the occasional and deserved execution (for premeditated murders with aggravating circumstances) because not all murderers can be contained inside prison walls. Imprisonment alone doesn’t address the crimes of all murderers either. Meting out a single sanction to all murderers doesn’t acknowledge the heinousness of the worst or most predatory… and just because a few who truly deserve execution escape it doesn’t mean that they all should either.

Convicted murderers (all of them) should be considered potentially dangerous… and to encourage violent criminals to believe that they should continue contacting the outside world (via prison ministry groups or the media?) is contrary to the needs of public safety and justice. Yet certain organizations (trial lawyers, radical groups and prison ministries) actually encourage offenders to make themselves known outside prison walls or pair them with pen pals.

Many of those who advocate for condemned inmates are “part timers” when it comes to their involvement. They can afford to look at the system in idealistic ways and insinuate that we should have a “perfect judicial system” or a perfected execution method before we allow executions to resume. These aren’t the same persons who’ve lost relatives and friends to the predators the wind up on death row. The average anti-death penalty protestor is someone that doesn’t know what it’s like to tell the mother and father of a real victim that their child has been murdered. The average anti-death penalty protester doesn’t believe that murder or other violent crime will affect their family. These “part timers” have the luxury of being able to shuck their business suits and ties, or Thai dyed T-shirts at the end of the day and forget that living predators would think nothing of intimidating (or killing) those who’ve testified against them. Their idealism is admirable but it’s not based on reality.

Death penalty foes have no use for a “real” death penalty or a death row because in their minds, the circumstances (or aggravating factors) that would lead reasonable persons to believe there is such a thing as a capital crime don’t exist. They count states like New York and New Jersey as “death penalty states” even when they don’t actually execute. “OJ Innocence” is their standard. Life, even psychopathic ones, no matter how dangerous is so precious to them that they’d rather risk innocent ones... they forget that murderers love to manipulate their advocates into getting them released… so that they might harm others. Is it any surprise that these persons (DP foes) don’t acknowledge that there are more offenders who’ve been released from prisons after serving time for first or second degree murder than there are on death row? These same persons and groups don’t acknowledge the behaviors that offenders engage in while they are incarcerated (except for participation in religious groups)… or escapes. 14 murderers are currently in escape status from the North Carolina prison system. No matter what your position is on capital punishment, the fact that these murderers are not serving their sentences should deserve notice.

Do prison schedules prevent death penalty opponents from turning executions into yet another public spectacle? If the protests outside the prison walls are any indication, then the answer is “No”. They (death penalty foes) cross lines, get arrested and perpetuate myths with astounding ease. These acts all sell papers or get airtime. If some of these “actors” lose some sleep over execution schedules, maybe that’s a “good thing”?

Meanwhile, the vast majority of North Carolinians don’t feel a need to prevent what’s happening in the execution chamber, no matter what time of day prison staff happens to schedule it. If ordinary citizens distrust the judicial system now it’s because it’s so easily slowed or broken by frivolous arguments and obvious grandstanding. For its part, the General Assembly should be ashamed of its inaction. Leadership seems to be confused or stuck in “wait and see” mode.

At the beginning (or the end) of any given day does it really matter what time it is when a condemned inmate is executed? No! Executions aren’t scheduled for the convenience of demonstrators or media, nor should they be. Public safety, justice and the schedules of the vast majority of the other prison “residents” should have a priority.