I know I’m a bit late in writing about this – been too busy.

So anyway, Sassam Hussein has been given the death penalty in Iraq. No surprise there – the opposite would have been a surprise. But the reactions are still interesting; lots of pictures of people on the streets on Iraq celebrating, for example.

I had it find to see that a death sentence is ever something to celebrate. It’s not a victory. It doesn’t do anything to right the wrongs that were done. It’s not even a particularly good form of revenge, if you’re going to be that base. 5 minutes and the jobs done – compared to the lifetime of suffering some of his victims have to face.

The only good reasons I can see for the death penalty are

  1. It has a certainty of a 0% reoffending rate
  2. It possibly acts as a deterrent
  3. It solves the security problems of keeping a high profile dangerous/hated/loved prisoner safe and in custody
  4. It stops the criminal being a cause (although it does make them a martyr)
  5. It’s far more humane than cooping them up in a cell for the next 50 years

The bad reasons:

  1. There is no such thing as 100% certainty of guilt
  2. It removes any possibility of rehabilitation
  3. It’s based on revenge/retribution rather than forgiveness
  4. It’s not a particularly good punishment for the person involved
  5. As I understand it, it doesn’t particularly act ass a deterrent
  6. It decreases the value of human life – if the state can kill people, why shouldn’t the citizens?
  7. “Justice”, i.e. “an eye for an eye”. Justice in this way simply doesn’t work, in my opinion. Are we saying that Saddam’s life has the same value as x million kurds, so killing him will “balance the books”?

Violence has never been the answer to any of the world’s problems, and while I would say that it’s sometimes necessary (cf the Nazis), it’s never a good thing.

Similarly, in this country we seem to have lost sight of the point of prison. The reasons (good or bad) I can think of for sending someone to jail are:

  • Punishment – restrict their freedom to make the pay for their crime
  • Public safety – If someone is going to harm/steal people, the safety of the wider public is more important than their liberty
  • Revenge – “an eye for an eye” type affair (see above)
  • Rehabilitation – make them come to terms with their actions being A Bad Thing, and come back in society a better person
  • Training – criminal masterclasses from the more experienced

Our society today seems to only really be concerned with the first three of these. Lock ’em up and throw away the key. Nicked my stereo? You deserve 2 years in prison son. And I don’t think there’s any consideration of the rehabilitation element. If I sit my boy on the naughty step for doing something he shouldn’t, it’s not to punish him per se, and it’s certainly not out of anger. It’s to give us all a time-out from whatever situation caused the bad behaviour, and give him time to think about the fact he’s upset us or done something wrong. It’s not a pleasant experience for him, I don’t think – but that’s to make sure he understands something is unacceptable, not because I want him to suffer! I guess it’s the fine line between discipline and punishment. Maybe that line’s not even there and I have too many negative vibes with the word “punishment” – but the purpose of the unpleasantness is to drive home the point, not as an end in itself. And the point is to help him be a nicer/better person in the long run.

The difficulty with Saddam is that he would pose a threat and be a de-stablizing influence for the rest of his life, whether behind bars or no. He has made it very clear he sees nothing wrong with his actions while president, and given every reason to believe given half a chance he’d be back in power and doing it all again. And there are people, I’m sure, who would want to see this.