The Pope has come out against the death penalty. I’m sure the rational basis for why he is against it is different than mine; however, I completely agree. The death penalty should not be allowed under any circumstance.
Killing in the name of the state or justice take the immorality of the person who committed the crimes and spreads it out to many other people who are now responsible for the killers death. Those people include: the jury, the executioner, the judge, the lawyers (for defense and the state), and the countless people who support the death penalty in that specific case who just more one step closer to being killers themselves.
So, what is it that happened today that brings me to discuss the death penalty and the Pope’s view of the death penalty? Isn’t the Pope showing humane treatment of even the worst elements of society?
Sometimes a crime strikes close to home and originally this post was going to be about this crime. The crime of patricide. Not only patricide , but the crime is committed by a criminal who had already been convicted of murder, served 30 years in prison, finally released from prison and what of all the possible things does he do two days after being free? Kills his mother.
I am a parent. Patricide bothers me. The patricide in Star Wars The Force Awakens bothered me even more. Does that mean I would advocate that either this real-life killer or the fictional killer Kyle Ren be up for the death penalty?
No. I saw this illustrated once very well in a Roger Zelazny book. Unfortunately, my memory fails me as to which book it was. It may well have been the post Zelazny Amber books that explored the topic in more detail. There was a villain or opponent of the father of the 9 princes in Amber – Oberon. Oberon defeated this opponent; however, as irretrievably bad this opponent was Oberon did not kill him.
This tree is destined to live forever and so is the “evil” person who has been imprisoned in the tree. Over thousands of years this being remains in that spot. The personality changes of the “evil” person and during the whole time Corwin knows this tree/prisoner character is entirely benevolent and is a positive aspect of the book.
This theme is also repeated in “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein. There is a character that Valentine Michael Smith in “Heaven” sentences to hundreds of lifetimes in work. He sees this person again in his own personal time only in a short time. The person that had performed those actions didn’t even recognize Valentine Michael Smith. The memories of humans have a finite lifespan. We are not the same people over time – even if we could remember everything. A lot of this has to do with our environments and our person body environments. We become different people over time. Our experiences change how we feel and how we would answer questions. Sometimes people can do complete 180 degree turns in mental decisions and that is within the short lifetimes we currently live. Even something as seemingly simple as love can be changed over time – disbelief in love at first sight until you one day meeting someone that you love at first sight. Imagine how different we will be if we live for hundreds or even thousands of years.
We are potentially coming to a time when people may be able to live indefinitely either incorporeal form or as electronic people (codops). The vast potential of beneficial activities a person can perform with an infinite lifetime isn’t something that can be easily calculated. Indefinite incarceration for the most heinous crimes should be implemented. Freedom, if ever achieved, would only come if a detailed analysis of the person (whatever form they may be) is able to clearly ascertain that the person is no longer a threat to other people. Murder, and many other crimes fit this penitent type of reformation. This might be reflected in the patricide case in the linked article above.
Still there are crimes that go far beyond simple murder or even patricide. Some line would need to be defined where no matter if the person attains a state where they are no threat to others – that they could never be released. Such as the prisoner in the tree, Old Ygg.
One argument or thought that is often put forward be theists against atheism is the problem of evil. More frequently the problem of evil is used by atheists against an inerrant god. Theists might present Hitler and say, “Doesn’t Hitler deserve to suffer in Hell?” The idea is that some things that humans can do are so bad that nothing other than suffering in Hell is just retribution.
This couldn’t be further from the reality. People do “evil” things. If god exists, god allowed these people to do those things when clearly god has the power to do something about it. God, unfortunately, removes responsibility for good and bad things people do from those people and places it with God. If god doesn’t exist, then ultimately we as people are responsible for our decisions. We should be held accountable for performing immoral actions. If the actions are bad enough, then for the rest of your life you may be imprisoned.
One note here on the topic of “free will”. There is nothing in the bible about the concept of “free will”. This is solely the creation of Saint Augustine – far after the bible was created/written. If god exists – there is no free will. Nothing can be outside of the knowledge of an omniscient being. In addition, if god exists and is omnipotent there is no free will because if something happens that the god doesn’t desire – it should simply change what happened.
Certainly, at this point some people might be raising their hands. You might say what is the difference between Hell and being imprisoned forever? Hell is designed specifically for suffering. Hell is designed to torture those who have committed sins. Here lies one of the differences in my concept and the concept of Hell. Different levels of punishment. We could visit them like Dante’s Inferno.
Level 1: Really minor crimes – these are punishable by fines. If you can’t pay the fine there can be no prison for a minor crime, ever. The government can simply offer you opportunities to perform work for the government that provides an equivalent value for the fine. Fines will be never more than it can take a person to work off in a reasonable time while they are not working at their day job. Specifically, actions determined to be illegal but have no victim are really minor crimes. Parking tickets, failure to register your car, and other issues.
Level 2: Minor crimes – punishable by jail time. Examples: theft, fraud, causing minor harm to another person. In this case, the law, and the government are not who was ‘harmed’. A specific person or persons has incurred damage in financial or physical in nature. Imprisonment for causing harm is allowed. Since it is a minor crime simple time frames can be set up that are proportional to the harm committed.
Level 3: Major crimes – punishable by imprisonment until the mind has been ascertained to have changed in regard to the activity in question. Crimes such as this are: murder, child abuse, marrying children under the age of consent, rape, child abuse – among I’m sure many others. These are crimes where you have definitively changed someone for the rest of their life (or death). Once we are able to make accurate simulations of the human brain, we can then reliably tell if people are lying, determine how they feel about certain topics and if someone is truly repentant for committing crimes. There might, in addition, be a minimum time for someone to be imprisoned for certain activities such as murder and other crimes. Some people might be able to change their mind in record time about the correctness of killing someone for whatever reason. This would seem to hardly be fair to the victims of those crimes. In addition, someone who has committed crimes might have to devote their lives after imprisonment to replacing the people who were killed, lifetime commitment to being in groups aiding families that have had family members murdered (or raped, or experienced child abuse, etc), or committing good works beyond what a typical person might achieve to making such activities not happen. Understanding the causes of murder, rape, or any of the other crimes at this level.
Level 4: War crimes or crimes against entire groups of people. War crimes can be simple in nature. Obviously, if you commit genocide this is a war crime. If god exists and the actions that occurred in the Noah’s Ark section of the bible are true – the god is a war criminal for committing genocide. There are other crimes that could fit in to this category. Advocating the rape of the other sides women as a war tactic – definitely a war crime. Contributing to creating a nuclear or atomic weapon for use in war – definitely a war crime. You can see how a war crime is not just performing the action – but there is a certain point where people have done things to enable a war crime to happen – such as designing, building, or enabling technologies that cause harm on a mass basis. These can be nuclear bombs, but in the future other technologies could well fit the bill in chemical, biological or weapon development. These people can never be allowed to be free of imprisonment.
What does imprisonment mean?
Imprisonment doesn’t mean torture the only thing of meaning in the idea of Hell. To have the idea that potentially over any amount of time even the most irretrievable person can be beneficial to the world means that imprisonment, even imprisonment for the rest of a life, cannot deny a person health, communication to other thinking beings, or the capabilities to create new things.
Potential Imprisonment Techniques for Level 3 and Level 4 crimes
Unfortunately, no form of imprisonment will be without some form of restriction otherwise it would not be prison. Still, there do not need to be horror stories. We do not need to torture. What we need from criminals is to become a functioning part of society and to be able to make society better – in any form.
- Physical Isolation – this is the closest version to a traditional prison. We take 2,000 square feet. Fully enclose it with roof, walls, and doors. Furnish with functional and even aesthetically pleasing furniture. There should be exercise equipment that can function indefinitely. All external walls would be large screens that the prisoner can make in to whatever they want. Small openings in the structure will allow the passage of food, waste, and oxygenated air. The prisoner will have full access to the world in terms of internet connection and any learning courses available to the world. They can even access any entertainment they want. Everything will be tracked. Parole, for prisoners that are allowed parole, will depend on their behavior and there will be a mental analysis machine in the apartment when this time comes (in the true sense of the word – apart from everyone). In this, the prisoner has complete choice of what they want to do. They can watch porn and masturbate all day. They can watch all the TV shows in the world and internet channels and whatever passes for entertainment in that era. They can’t travel and they can’t have physical access to people. The facility can be equipped with any equipment as available in that time period including machines that promote the virtual reality experience to simulate physical contact. During their time in prison they will not have access to physical people. Eventually, any kind of entertainment will become boring or educational in itself. For example: Our prisoner does nothing but watch television/broadcast shows during their waking hours. Over the years (and potentially decades, centuries, whatever) they would become an expert on those shows if they don’t become bored of those shows and move on to educationally improving themselves. At some point everyone that watches shows or follows any media feel the need to comment, write articles, contribute in some way shape or form to the shows. This would be therapeutic for the prisoner and provide value to everyone in the cone of communication. These prison apartments are not designed to make people uncomfortable. They can; however, be stacked in to a sort of prison. These prisons could be located anywhere and the only piece of information not accessible to the prisoner is their actual location. The potential for escape needs to be minimized for this level of criminal. There would be a room in the apartment which would provide all necessary automated healthcare. The crimes committed to earn this type of punishment would warrant the isolation from other people for the protection of those people. Finally, any outside access would be monitored to prevent any virtual harm to people online and in the future (or even some of the present) controlling of devices remotely in a way that would cause harm to people.
- The Sleeper. This type of imprisonment we would be capable of probably in the near future. The person would be placed in a pod that takes care of their bodily function needs while directly connecting them to a virtual world. The level of realism in this virtual world will depend entirely on the technology available at the time. All activities of the prisoner would be tracked, monitored, and logged. The virtual environment would contain both prisoners and visitors in this virtual ‘space’ – in fact the only difference between prisoners and citizens would be that citizens can leave. No one would know who is a prisoner and who is a visitor. In this virtual space all entertainment and education would be available to the prisoner. Any attempts to harm others would be strictly prohibited. The person would remain in this isolation until their mind (which is constantly being monitored) has changed to an extent that the crimes the person previously committed they could never conceive of doing again.
- The Sealed Community. This would be a community that anyone can enter virtually and experience through avatars. There would be multiple prisoners here in a fairly regular prison and attending life through the avatars. Similarly with the previous two concepts prisoners would be closely monitored. This would be a stepping stone to either The Sleeper or Physical Isolation when technology doesn’t permit the first two. Over time we would develop the technology to understand if a person is capable of committing the crimes they experienced in the past under normal societal circumstances.
Incarceration in the present
For people that commit irretrievable crimes there is something I really don’t understand about justice, the legal system, and sentencing. If you kill someone and it is homicide you forfeit your rights to freedom – for life. It seems like complete and total nonsense that people can kill other people and serve as little as 7 years (and possibly even less). This article, seems to indicate that some people have served as little as 15 months after getting a life sentence for murder.
Back to one of the articles that I posted. The man, 47 years old (I’m 44), living in New Jersey (I live in NJ, killed someone at the age of 15 and served 30 years in prison (well no similarity there – it never even occurred to me at that age to kill anyone). He is released and kills him mother two days later. This would not happen if a person murders another person you get life in prison. Today, that is the best we can offer. Any cries of ‘it would cost too much money’ get met with ‘then release or better yet don’t charge the potheads, people selling cigarettes illegally, and people in prison for not being able to pay a fine.
I mean really, how stupid are we?