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Let The Debate Begin

May 14, 2013 - Al Stephenson
While teaching both government and sociology, it was customary to have a debate on the death penalty at some point in the school year. Students would share their thoughts, but a concensus was never reached. The act of having society put to death a convicted person was controversial. Some felt it was necessary, while others did not think it was something that should ever be done. Now you know why some states have the death penalty and others do not.

With word out of Cleveland that three women managed to escape from a man that had kidnapped them and held them captive for a decade, the death penalty will be once again be debated throughout this nation. If the alleged charges against Ariel Castro are true, there will be a large contingent calling for his death. There will also be those that will protest that possibility.

I always found the student debate interesting. For those who were against the death penalty, two main reasons were given for their postition. First they felt that human life was precious and that no human being had the right to decide that another should die no matter the crime. The second was the fact that the criminal justice system does not always work properly and how would we feel if an innocent person was executed. They felt society should not take that chance.

Both reasons are legitimate in my mind, particuarly the second one. Innocent people have been sentenced to punishment that was later overturned when new evidence became available. The thought of killing an innocent human being is abhorrent.

The students who favored a death penalty did so again for two main reasons. First of all they suggested that a person could commit a criminal act that was so heinous that they forfeited their right to live. Jeffrey Dahmer's name was brought up as an example. Secondly, some students wanted to have the death penalty to serve as a deterrent for other potential criminals. If one person chose not to commit a crime because they knew they would possibly lose their own life if caught, then it is worth having.

One young person suggested that having the death penalty and never having to use it would be the ideal. I could understand these viewpoints as well.

So now we are faced with a story that is hard to comprehend. Not only did the man allegedly kidnap these three women, but he raped them repeatedly. One of the women produced a child while another was supposedly impregnated five times. She was reportedly physically assaulted each time resulting in miscarriages.

The news is both shocking and sickening. The man will be punished if found guilty, but just what that punishment will be remains to be seen. The view from my seat suggests that though I don't know exactly how I feel about the death penalty, the word forfeit seems to be uppermost in my mind.

 
 

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