Posts Tagged ‘justice’

The Value of a Life

September 30, 2011

The other night we witnessed an execution – virtually – on TV. This Georgia man is now dead. And in Connecticut, the animals accused of the viscous murders in that state (one of whom has been convicted) also exposes the death penalty to the world via television. I wonder why the United States likes the death penalty – I am appalled – I am dismayed – I am almost ashamed to be a human. Here in Texas, the State executes someone every other day or so. I’ll tell you why the death penalty bothers me so much…

Have you ever “cast a stone” to mete out justice? I have – I have been witness to an execution and asked to participate.  It made me sick to my stomach. I realized then that the world was less civilized than I wish it were. Let’s turn back the clock nearly thirty years: In Shororah, Saudi Arabia, In that small city’s central square one Friday morning while buying some food for breakfast, I was lead by the arm by a Mutawah – a member of the religious police force – to participate in an execution. I was handed a stone, marched close to the front of the spectacle, and commanded to throw the stone at the criminal along with the more than one hundred other people who had gathered there. I tossed my stone at his feet, and I left.  It was striking – I could see fear in the criminal’s eyes, and anger in the eyes of each person in the crowd who had gathered to execute this man’s sentence. I guess that I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye”. I believe in justice, but I know that I believe in “throwing away the key” in lieu of “casting the stone”.

I wonder why people don’t value life more. I wonder why justice does not strive to salvage the criminal’s future value more. I read somewhere that it costs more than $40,000 to incarcerate someone for a year. For three or four times that, you could employ a psychiatrist  to “repair” a number of criminals and perhaps significantly stem the repeat offender syndrome for a group of convicts – and save a significant amount of money, I bet. But we don’t look carefully at the lifecycle cost of social issues – we look almost exclusively at a minimal cost for a minimal mission and a minimal return. And most criminals just continue to be criminals after their sentence is served with little future value in society.

Suddenly, I don’t seem to sound much like an engineer… But I am certain that almost every life has some value, and society’s challenge is to find a way to eke the value from the most evil criminals rather that simply taking their lives. I am sure that is a challenge, but a noble one, and a civilized one.