IT HAS BEEN A ROBUST debate in Papua New Guinea these recent days about prime minister O'Neill's proposals to get tough on crime and enforce the death penalty (which I'm not sure he is serious about).
I don't doubt there is massive community feeling about getting tough on rapists, child abusers, wanton killers and bank robbers.
I am heartened by the response of the Catholic Church and Martyn Namorong’s view that "the government plans to crack down on violence by perpetrating it themselves”.
And the sorcery legislation definitely needs revising, as it seems to give something of a legal justification for lynch behaviour targeting so-called 'sorcerers'.
But I ask Papua New Guineans to think twice before considering enforcing the death penalty.
Well no, according to experts.
"Eighty-eight per cent of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide, according to a new study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and authored by Professor Michael Radelet, Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and Traci Lacock, also at Boulder."
And consider the first-hand experience of Albert Pierrepoint, probably the most prolific executioner in British history, with over 400 deaths to his 'credit'. In his autobiography he said...
"It is said to be a deterrent. I cannot agree. There have been murders since the beginning of time, and we shall go on looking for deterrents until the end of time. If death were a deterrent, I might be expected to know. It is I who have faced them last, young men and girls, working men, grandmothers.
“I have been amazed to see the courage with which they take that walk into the unknown. It did not deter them then, and it had not deterred them when they committed what they were convicted for. All the men and women whom I have faced at that final moment convince me that in what I have done I have not prevented a single murder."
2. Is it punishment or vengeance?
Here's an editorial from The Hindu newspaper...
"In case after case, the course of criminal justice has been shaped by public anger and special-interest lobbying. Indians must remember the foundational principle of our Republic, the guardian of all our rights and freedoms, isn't popular sentiment: it is justice, which in turn is based on the consistent application of principles."
3. Is it Christian?
Not according to Christ.
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse... Repay no one evil for evil... do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I Will repay," says the Lord." Rom. 12:14, 17, 19
""But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Mat. 6:15
4. Is it effective?
No, according to US statistics.
5. Is it moral to allow the State - and thus our community and by proxy ourselves - to carry out judicial killings?
This is the question we must all ask ourselves. Do you really want to sink to the same level as those who commit murder?
6. If you agree with the death penalty, are you prepared to carry it out?
Perhaps the PNGDF said yes in Bougainville. Do you really want to go there again?
7. Are innocent people executed for crimes they did not commit?
"Newly-available DNA evidence has allowed the exoneration and release of more than 15 death row inmates since 1992 in the United States, but DNA evidence is available in only a fraction of capital cases.
“Others have been released on the basis of weak cases against them, sometimes involving prosecutorial misconduct; resulting in acquittal at retrial, charges dropped, or innocence-based pardons.
“The Death Penalty Information Center (US) has published a list of 8 inmates ‘executed but possibly innocent’. At least 39 executions are claimed to have been carried out in the U.S. in the face of evidence of innocence or serious doubt about guilt.
“In the UK, reviews prompted by the Criminal Cases Review Commission have resulted in one pardon and three exonerations for people executed between 1950 and 1953 (when the execution rate in England and Wales averaged 17 per year), with compensation being paid."