Apparently 70% of the British public want the death penalty to return. I find this statistic remarkable. It's like a return to medieval times! Do people really want it?
A colleague at work recently handed me the autobiography of a prisoner who is serving a life sentence. She regularly works with prisoners and wondered if I could edit his story for him - which I did - despite the fact it was pretty well written already. My colleague does not know the reason for his detention and states she never wants to know this detail about any prisoner she works with as it means she's not even tempted to judge and she can take them on face value.
The prisoner's story was harrowing. He was abused from birth by his parents (cigarette burns and mutilations), and at the age of two, taken into care for more physical abuse, ridicule and sexual abuse (this was the early seventies). His childhood to the age of eight was absent of any love, guidance or even positive communication. After I had finished reading the story, the lasting impression was simply.....if a person is treated in such an inhumane way, is it really any surprise they sometimes go on to commit crime? Let's face it, you have to be pretty messed up (and/or have some pretty dodgy brain wiring) to take some one's life, for example.
Which brings me to my point, prevention is surely better than deterrence (if indeed the threat of execution is a deterrent - I don't think people that murder have the same value system or perception as most people do they?) For financial, political and, I guess, practical reasons, I know there is not enough targeted work happening to support our really vulnerable young people. Surely it would be better to devote money and effort to vulnerable children though than imprisoning or executing the adults they become later?
Only yesterday a teacher said to me, 'all this personal development and health stuff should be the responsibility of the parents'. I hear people say this regularly. My simple point in return is always, yes but many parents are not, themselves, capable of doing a good job, because they too were damaged by their childhood. This idea that 'people should just know better' is like saying, well you mess it up and suffer the consequences. We'll leave you to it then. Off you go...hands well washed. Where's the compassion in that?
Education, can, possibly, sometimes 'know better' - as at least a lot of people are considering how to get it right. For example, my parents were racist. I'm not. Education sorted me out.
I appreciate that I am an ambitious ideallist but I believe nearly everyone is capable of great good or great evil (and everything inbetween)- depending on the 'input' life has given them. Let's work at getting that input right.