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Is the sentence of death really a punishment? Yes, the man/woman who committed the act loses their life, but doesn't it also mean that the person in the end gets away with the act that he/she committed? Wouldn't it make more sense to punish this person with life in prison without the possibility of parole? It just seems to me that the death sentence is just a way to show sympathy or mercy towards criminals. It seems that this would be a harsher punishment; just sitting in your cell day by day, for the rest of the person's life.

November 30, 2005

Response from Peter S. Fosl on December 1, 2005
An interesting thought. My suspicion, however, is that most sentenced to death would prefer life in prison. That may not conclusively demonstrate much, but if true it at least shows that those convicted of crimes regard life in prison as a less severe punishment. Keep in mind that even inside a cell the mind may enjoy wide expanses, and if Aristotle is correct there are even very simple pleasures bound up with the mere act of living and perceiving the world. Then, of course, prison does offer some opportunities for sociability, for reading, for entertainment, and for contemplation.

There is a sense, however, that you are right in saying that the criminal has still gotten away with it--namely, no punishment or repentance can fully restore the state of affairs that preceded the crime. Those murdered, for example, can never be brought back. In a sense, despite their defeat the Nazis did "get away" with killing millions and millions of innocent people. But this defficiency remains true of all options in dealing with crime. It's one of the central thoughts driving Ivan Karamazov's moral rebellion againnst God in Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov." The only perfect form of restoration would be to make so the crime didn't happen in the first place.


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