Tag: Criminal Justice

Who’s Been To Prison?


shutterstock_86779999I don’t necessarily mean as an inmate (though I’d love to hear about that too if anyone has stories they’d like to share). I’m just curious how many people have visited prisons in whatever capacity, and perhaps have interesting stories to tell about it.

I’ve been working the prison reform beat of late, and along the way have been fostering some interesting contacts in the policy world. It’s an exciting issue. While so many areas of American policy are mired in inefficiency and political gridlock, the justice reform movement is very much on the move. Texas and Georgia have both made great strides in this area, saving millions of dollars and actually closing prisons while still keeping crime rates low.

Talking to the people involved is a little bit surreal, because they’re excited and upbeat and have nothing but nice things to say about one another. That includes the people on the other side of the aisle! It’s actually a little disconcerting. What sort of “through the looking glass” politics is this? Bipartisan policy reform? I’m still in 21st century America, right?

The Cost of the Death Penalty


shutterstock_81191014A favorite tactic of the anti-death penalty crowd is to reach out to fiscal conservatives and other fiscally-minded people and regurgitate outrageous dollar amounts as evidence that the death penalty “costs” millions of dollars.

The problem — like most claims by the anti-death penalty crowd — is they know most readers won’t have the time or inclination to think through and investigate their claims, and will fill in the gaps and innuendos in a way that leads them to the politically-correct conclusion. Let’s take a look at the “cost” of the death penalty, the true cost.

As a recent example, look at how anti-death penalty advocates report of the so-called “10 million dollar prosecution” of three people in King County, in Washington State. Characteristically of modern journalism, this number is often repeated unquestioned by the AP and the like. The local media in the Seattle Times gets the story a little better, crashing the number down to $4.3 million.

Returning to Support For the Death Penalty


shutterstock_126767585I supported the death penalty for many years. It seemed only just that a man convicted of a truly heinous murder deserved death, and therefore the state, reflecting the collective conscience of the community, had the right to avenge the brutal death of a murderer’s victim.

Then, about 20 years ago, I read Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, and I changed my mind … though still with a sense that there were many flaws in the arguments against capital punishment. In The Idiot, the protagonist, Prince Myshkin, describes an execution by guillotine he had witnessed, and makes an impassioned case that executing a man, even with swift efficiency, was profoundly wrong because, in the moments before he died, the condemned man lost all hope and was driven to insanity. That made sense. It still does in the abstract.

A number of years later, the state of Montana executed one Duncan McKenzie. This loathsome human monster had kidnapped a young school teacher named Lana Harding, beat her, repeatedly raped her, and finally lashed her to a junked car with barbed wire and left her to die. The morning after Mckenzie’s execution, the sun shined a bit brighter and there was a sense of peace in the air. Mckenzie got his due, and so did Lana Harding and her family.