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Capital Punishment

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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Wilson
Posts: 184
Joined: November 10th, 2010, 7:25 pm

Re: Capital Punishment

#21 Post by Wilson » November 13th, 2010, 6:37 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Marian and Jaywhat:

I believe that we all want vengeance when someone hurts us. It's normal. That doesn't mean that we have to act on that desire in every case, and we certainly don't want to overreact. But a society that doesn't punish its wrongdoers is likely to be overrun by the bad guys. It's not good for a society to be TOO forgiving. When we put somebody in jail, it's for the purposes of 1) punishment, 2) keeping the criminal out of society so he can't transgress against others while incarcerated, and 3) rehabilitation. Rehabilitation doesn't work very well, by the way. So the argument comes down to what kind of punishment is reasonable.

I don't buy that all killing is wrong. If somebody is threatening your life or that of your family, it isn't wrong to kill him in self defense. In WWII, killing soldiers in the German Army was justified, even though it was horrible to do so, since the alternative was letting Hitler take over the world. And I certainly don't buy that executing a criminal makes you no better than that criminal, since in most cases he killed an innocent person who did nothing to deserve his or her fate, and the murderer richly earned his trip to the death chamber.

I'm sure that there have been a very few people innocent of the crime who were executed. There have also been people who lived the rest of their lives in prison after conviction for crimes they weren't guilty of. I would be perfectly happy if the death penalty were abolished, and life in prison without parole was substituted. All I'm saying is that there's nothing inherently immoral about the death penalty, properly applied.

Fia
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Joined: July 6th, 2007, 8:29 pm

Re: Capital Punishment

#22 Post by Fia » November 13th, 2010, 9:18 pm

Wilson wrote:I'm sure that there have been a very few people innocent of the crime who were executed. There have also been people who lived the rest of their lives in prison after conviction for crimes they weren't guilty of. I would be perfectly happy if the death penalty were abolished, and life in prison without parole was substituted. All I'm saying is that there's nothing inherently immoral about the death penalty, properly applied.
I see where you are coming from Wilson and was with you until your last sentence.
I do think the death penalty is immoral. If we agree that taking another's life is immoral then it manifestly muddies the issue by then saying that if the law does it it's moral. If something is right, it's right. It's a very dangerous road to travel, imho, to say that murder is wrong for the individual but right for the state...

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jaywhat
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Re: Capital Punishment

#23 Post by jaywhat » November 14th, 2010, 7:09 am

At a poetry workshop yesterday we read a guy's brand new poem. It was good but I will not bore you with it now, except to quote a short phrase that ends the poem and that took me back to this forum -

... makes him blush slightly. It isn't that death
... grips him, but death in legitimate circumstances
... stirs something visceral.


*my italics

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animist
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Joined: July 30th, 2010, 11:36 pm

Re: Capital Punishment

#24 Post by animist » November 14th, 2010, 9:12 am

philbo wrote:Pretty much what everyone else has said.. with one addendum: I'd like it to be possible for a person sentenced to life imprisonment to be able to choose the death penalty for themselves. Usual caveats re mental health, to be sure that someone is making a reasoned decision to end their own life rather than spend it in prison.
interesting take on the subject, with which I have sometimes concurred, but I do now think this would not be capital punishment in the way that the phrase has always been used, ie as a supposedly supreme punishment. I know that Gary Gilmore opted for death in the late 1970s, but this was in the context of a restored US death penalty, and his execution was not as a result of his own wishes, even though he strongly demanded to be killed. In contemporary Britain, in contrast, we are not in the position of having a death penalty, whether optional or not, and there is no great demand for one; it will never come back, IMO. What you're suggesting is really a sort of euthanasia option, do you agree?

Marian
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Re: Capital Punishment

#25 Post by Marian » November 14th, 2010, 6:25 pm

Wilson wrote:
But a society that doesn't punish its wrongdoers is likely to be overrun by the bad guys. It's not good for a society to be TOO forgiving. When we put somebody in jail, it's for the purposes of 1) punishment, 2) keeping the criminal out of society so he can't transgress against others while incarcerated, and 3) rehabilitation. Rehabilitation doesn't work very well, by the way. So the argument comes down to what kind of punishment is reasonable.
You said that you need to punish the bad guys so either put them in jail or kill them because rehab doesn't work. (Please forgive my blunt synopsis, I just want to make sure I've got you right.) Well, I think the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world as well as the worst rehabilitation rate. Doesn't this make you want to look at why? Clearly something is not working. Rather than take the 'easier' road and go for a lethal dose, why not see what the foundational deficits are first. Is this systemic (I'm inclined to think so) or is it genetic or racial?

Do we set criminals up to reoffend by creating environments that are hostile to ex-offenders? Sure. If they can't find a job or an apt, they'll just return to the life they had before, get re-arrested, put back in jail and told that they obviously are just losers. The problem is what kind of situation did they have that made them turn to illegal activities in the first place? Were they living in abject poverty? Did they experience any other life but one witnessing crime? Are they high school drop-outs?

I think we really owe it to people, whether they be ex-cons or not, to figure this stuff out before we choose capital punishment.

Why does the idea have to come down to punishment necessarily? Because this is the model the US has always used? What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. It's madness to look for 'better' ways to punish. It's clear to me that if people are doing the same things over and over, then we need to perhaps show a different way?

(Oh yeah and as an aside, I thought the US was the Christian capital of the world, doesn't the New Testament teach that you ought to turn the other cheek? Sorry, I couldn't resist mentioning that. :) )
Wilson wrote: ...And I certainly don't buy that executing a criminal makes you no better than that criminal, since in most cases he killed an innocent person who did nothing to deserve his or her fate, and the murderer richly earned his trip to the death chamber.
That's assuming the person who committed the crime is the same one as is off to the death chamber. Or that it was a case of self-defence but the lawyer for the accused couldn't prove it because he didn't get any funding from Legal Aid. Or that the accused is not intellectually able to really grasp what they have done. If any of these situations comes up and they have, I can't rightly stand by the idea of putting them to death. There are too many loose ends, imo, to simply believe everything you see and hear, especially when it comes to the judicial system.
Transformative fire...

Wilson
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Re: Capital Punishment

#26 Post by Wilson » November 15th, 2010, 9:31 am

Marian wrote:I think the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world as well as the worst rehabilitation rate. Clearly something is not working. Do we set criminals up to reoffend by creating environments that are hostile to ex-offenders? What kind of situation did they have that made them turn to illegal activities in the first place?
I don't suppose it could be because we have more criminals here, could it? Blacks and Hispanics are greatly overrepresented in jails in the US, that's true, and I can assure you that that is because they are doing more crime, not just - as I'm guessing you suspect - the authorities are picking on them. The reasons for that are complicated and not easily solvable but beyond dispute. With guns out of control over here, we're not just talking about petty crime, either; a lot of it is violent, and more a lifestyle choice than poverty-related. Unfortunate, but if you accept that what I say is true, I'm curious as to what you would have us do.

I think you have a romanticized idea of the criminal class. They're just like us, you think, except that they were starving and had to steal a loaf of bread to feed their family. The truth is that certain people are sociopaths. They are the criminal class. They have no empathy for others, or very little. And that's not fixable. They can rape, kill, steal, and conscience never makes an appearance. Why do they turn out that way? Maybe it's partly genetic, but mostly I believe it's because they never see compassion in action in their formative years. A lot of drug use in the inner cities makes for very bad parenting. It's a terrible situation and you're correct that some of those poor kids really have very little chance of economic success - but while we may have sympathy, we do have to deal with those bad guys in the real world, for self protection.

philbo
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Re: Capital Punishment

#27 Post by philbo » November 15th, 2010, 10:02 am

animist wrote:
Paolo wrote:
Marian wrote: The only advantage I can see for having built the electric chair was that it was a 'step up' from the alternative ie. hangings, guillotine. None of these options are really preferable although for speed and accuracy, the chair was probably more effective than the other two.
I'm not sure that's true - the guillotine was a wonderfully effective method of euthanasia - just a bit messier than the electric chair. With effective drainage and powerhosing it would probably be a very efficient and cost effective method today. Much cheaper than the chair!
this is tangential (maybe like the trajectory of the head after guillotining, I don't know) but my very favourite comic film scene is in the "Carry On" film about the French Revolution: Jim Dale plays an aristo about to be guillotined, and is handed a written note - he says "Put it in the basket, I'll read it later"
:)

..shortly before he gets rescued by the Black Fingernail, isn't it?

Marian
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Re: Capital Punishment

#28 Post by Marian » November 16th, 2010, 1:32 am

Wilson wrote: I don't suppose it could be because we have more criminals here, could it? Blacks and Hispanics are greatly overrepresented in jails in the US, that's true, and I can assure you that that is because they are doing more crime, not just - as I'm guessing you suspect - the authorities are picking on them. The reasons for that are complicated and not easily solvable but beyond dispute. With guns out of control over here, we're not just talking about petty crime, either; a lot of it is violent, and more a lifestyle choice than poverty-related. Unfortunate, but if you accept that what I say is true, I'm curious as to what you would have us do.
Yes, Blacks and Hispanics are greatly over-represented with Black males between the ages of 20 and 30 are more than 7x as likely to be incarcerated. There are a number of indicators that 'stop and search' by police are biased toward ethnic minorities, particularly blacks. 'Stop and search' means that the person in question does not have to be actually engaged in criminal activity for the police to stop them. ie. routine traffic stop, or just walking down the street etc. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/ ... se-england , http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/racial_profiling/)
Wiki shows that it's not violent crime that has increased the incarceration rate but it's punitive public policy, ie. 3 strikes you're out, longer sentences and the 'war on drugs' that have caused this. Apparantly, violent crimes rates have been static or decreasing from 1980 to 2003. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarcerat ... tates#Race)
Unless you're willing to provide me with some hard evidence that what you're saying is true, then, respectfully, I'm going to have to call your bluff. Also, you accept what you've said as true, what do you think the US ought to do?

Wilson wrote:I think you have a romanticized idea of the criminal class. They're just like us, you think, except that they were starving and had to steal a loaf of bread to feed their family. The truth is that certain people are sociopaths. They are the criminal class. They have no empathy for others, or very little. And that's not fixable. They can rape, kill, steal, and conscience never makes an appearance. Why do they turn out that way? Maybe it's partly genetic, but mostly I believe it's because they never see compassion in action in their formative years. A lot of drug use in the inner cities makes for very bad parenting. It's a terrible situation and you're correct that some of those poor kids really have very little chance of economic success - but while we may have sympathy, we do have to deal with those bad guys in the real world, for self protection.
So are you saying that Blacks and Hispanics are sociopaths or only the ones who get incarcerated since they have the greater rates than whites? Sociopaths are found among all races. I think the rate is something like 3% of the population would fit under that category. Let's see something here. If Blacks are stopped more often under stop/search policy, isn't it likely that they might end up incarcerated more? Does this mean Blacks are automatically sociopaths? I don't think so but you are not alone in your thinking about this as any google search will show. It seems to me that the term sociopath can be applied to anyone who has a criminal record but without looking at individual cases, it would be hard to specify whether a person had empathy, for example.

Finally, I have to take issue with the idea that Black mothers/parents are not compassionate because they use a lot of drugs and are bad parents. Not everyone in low income areas are drug addicts etc. Sociopathy might be partly attributable to environment but what is being discovered is that there are neurological abnormalities in the frontal lobe and this, combined with a negative environment, are more likely to produce sociopathic individuals.
Transformative fire...

Wilson
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Re: Capital Punishment

#29 Post by Wilson » November 16th, 2010, 8:35 am

Marian wrote:There are a number of indicators that 'stop and search' by police are biased toward ethnic minorities, particularly blacks.
There are rules against racial profiling but policemen have enough discretion that it certainly occurs. Statistically, a black or Hispanic man stopped at random is way more likely to be involved in illegal activity, so there's some logic in doing so - but it's not pleasant for an innocent member of those ethnic groups. I'd sure hate it if it were me.
Marian wrote:Wiki shows that it's not violent crime that has increased the incarceration rate but it's punitive public policy, ie. 3 strikes you're out, longer sentences and the 'war on drugs' that have caused this.
I certainly believe that's true. And I believe that part of the reason that violent crime is down is that the chronic and repeat offenders are being locked up longer. The number of hardcore criminals is relatively small, and I think it's a good thing if we identify those guys and keep them in jail and away from mischief. I'm in favor of three strikes, as long as it's done fairly.
Marian wrote:So are you saying that Blacks and Hispanics are sociopaths or only the ones who get incarcerated since they have the greater rates than whites? Finally, I have to take issue with the idea that Black mothers/parents are not compassionate because they use a lot of drugs and are bad parents.

Of course the majority of black and Hispanic people are good citizens and good parents. But the percentage of sociopaths is much higher in those groups, which leads them into crime, and it's a vicious circle. There are a lot of black and Hispanic gangs, and few white or Asian gangs.

Wilson
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Re: Capital Punishment

#30 Post by Wilson » November 16th, 2010, 8:54 am

By the way, sociopathy is not a great word. What I'm really talking about is lack of empathy, because that allows someone to rape, kill, assault, or steal without feeling bad for the victim.

I live in California, near the towns of Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Santa Cruz is mostly white, Watsonville is mostly Hispanic (Mexican and a few Salvadorians), and the populations are fairly even in number. The crime page of our local newspaper, which covers both towns, has about 80-90% Hispanic names. Santa Cruz is starting to see Hispanic gang activity, and there have been a couple of unprovoked killings of white kids. It's hard to draw any conclusion except that Hispanics are involved in a dramatically higher percentage of illegal activities than the white folks.

Let me suggest that you rent the DVD's for "The Wire", which in my opinion is the best television the US has ever done. Largely it's about inner city Baltimore, including the drug and crime culture. One of the principal writers for that show was George Pellicanos, who has written a bunch of novels mostly about inner city Washington, DC, and I recommend them highly as well. He is genuinely sympathetic to the black men in his stories, even those who are criminals, and his protagonist is a black detective. The Wire and his novels have the ring of authenticity about them and might give you a new perspective on what things are like there. I should point out that the writing by Pellicanos is brilliant, and the dialog, plotting, acting, and directing in The Wire is astoundingly good.

Marian
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Re: Capital Punishment

#31 Post by Marian » November 18th, 2010, 2:11 am

Wilson wrote: Statistically, a black or Hispanic man stopped at random is way more likely to be involved in illegal activity, so there's some logic in doing so...
Please provide me with some evidence that a black or Hispanic man is more likely to be involved in illegal activity. More likely than whom?
Wilson wrote: I'm in favor of three strikes, as long as it's done fairly.
What is your definition of 'fairly'?
Wilson wrote: But the percentage of sociopaths is much higher in those groups, which leads them into crime, and it's a vicious circle.
Again, please provide me with some evidence of this otherwise, it's merely opinion. This is all very fine but I think you really ought to indicate as such not make such broad pronouncements.
Wilson wrote: What I'm really talking about is lack of empathy, because that allows someone to rape, kill, assault, or steal without feeling bad for the victim.
I agree that a lack of empathy means that you don't feel bad for the victim but I suppose that would apply to anyone who acts in the above manner. Lack of empathy is not racially divided; most serial killers tend to be white men.

Wilson wrote: I live in California, near the towns of Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Santa Cruz is mostly white, Watsonville is mostly Hispanic (Mexican and a few Salvadorians), and the populations are fairly even in number. The crime page of our local newspaper, which covers both towns, has about 80-90% Hispanic names. Santa Cruz is starting to see Hispanic gang activity, and there have been a couple of unprovoked killings of white kids. It's hard to draw any conclusion except that Hispanics are involved in a dramatically higher percentage of illegal activities than the white folks.

So, you're telling me that based on the names in the local newspaper, you've decided that the Hispanics are engaging in dramatically higher illegal activities. Hmm, let's look at the statistics collected for 2006, for example, in both places. For Santa Cruz, if we are looking at aggravated assault the number is 454.3 per 100,000. The same crime for Watsonville, the one you say is filled with criminals is: 411 per 100,000. Gee, if I didn't know better I'd say that Santa Cruz had more violent people. For the crime of rape: Santa Cruz has 68.8 and Watsonville has a whopping 35.2. Lot more rapists in Santa Cruz; the town of white people. http://santacruz.areaconnect.com/crime1.htm and http://watsonville.areaconnect.com/crime1.htm

Wilson wrote: The Wire and his novels have the ring of authenticity about them and might give you a new perspective on what things are like there. I should point out that the writing by Pellicanos is brilliant, and the dialog, plotting, acting, and directing in The Wire is astoundingly good.
Thanks for the suggestions. I almost never watch TV but I might make an exception. Novels are fun to read but the reason why they are called novels is because the truth is perhaps slanted in certain ways to make for better reading. Nobody would buy a novel with the stats I produced above because it's not exciting enough. Maybe the novels are based on real life so they're probably an interesting read. But I live in a big enough city to have seen it all from all walks of life and from all races. No particular culture is immune to crime although you might find that whites tend to have higher white collar crime rates because they are the predominant group in that sector.
Transformative fire...

Wilson
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Re: Capital Punishment

#32 Post by Wilson » November 18th, 2010, 8:30 am

Marian wrote: Please provide me with some evidence that a black or Hispanic man is more likely to be involved in illegal activity. More likely than whom?
More likely than a white or Asian man. As you know, the incarceration rate is dramatically higher for blacks and Hispanics. I'm sure you believe that actual crime rates are similar among all races and it's just the nasty old police who target those races. I don't think anything I write or any statistics I could show you would change your mind. You're prejudiced against anything that has a whiff of prejudice, even if true.
What is your definition of 'fairly'? (three strikes)
That the person really is a chronic or career criminal, especially if there is violence in his history.
I agree that a lack of empathy means that you don't feel bad for the victim but I suppose that would apply to anyone who acts in the above manner. Lack of empathy is not racially divided; most serial killers tend to be white men.
I agree with that - although your last comment sounds racially prejudiced to me.

Marian
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Re: Capital Punishment

#33 Post by Marian » November 18th, 2010, 3:35 pm

Wilson wrote: More likely than a white or Asian man. As you know, the incarceration rate is dramatically higher for blacks and Hispanics. I'm sure you believe that actual crime rates are similar among all races and it's just the nasty old police who target those races. I don't think anything I write or any statistics I could show you would change your mind. You're prejudiced against anything that has a whiff of prejudice, even if true.
First off, don't patronize me with your comment about the nasty old police. I have steadfastly provided evidence which show your claims to be untrue and yet your fallback argument is to say that I am prejudiced and nothing would change my mind. Methinks you are talking about yourself here. Please show me where I've gone wrong with more than just anecdotes.
Wilson wrote:That the person really is a chronic or career criminal, especially if there is violence in his history.
Fair enough. I could agree with that but that's not how the 3 strikes works. It's applied from the first offence even if that offence is for smoking pot. So two more times and into the slammer you go. Very punitive but for a silly reason.

Wilson wrote:...although your last comment sounds racially prejudiced to me.
I didn't say that people of other races aren't serial killers but they are a minority (pardon the pun) compared to white males. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/crime ... tutes.html, http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/lon ... 09124.html, http://www.deathreference.com/Py-Se/Serial-Killers.html
Transformative fire...

Wilson
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Re: Capital Punishment

#34 Post by Wilson » November 18th, 2010, 6:51 pm

Marian wrote: First off, don't patronize me with your comment about the nasty old police. I have steadfastly provided evidence which show your claims to be untrue and yet your fallback argument is to say that I am prejudiced and nothing would change my mind.
Sorry, you haven't provided evidence that proved me wrong. You showed me crime statistics in the two local towns, but there was nothing there about the race of the criminals. There are plenty of Latinos and Caucasians in each town, and they aren't far apart. And the crime statistics are shaded by how many crimes are reported by the local citizens; the illegal immigrants, I'm sure, don't want contact with the police, and only the worst offenses make it onto the books.
Fair enough. I could agree with that but that's not how the 3 strikes works. It's applied from the first offence even if that offence is for smoking pot.
Not how it works in Califiornia. One of the strikes must be violent. I certainly don't want three strikes for minor offenses, myself.

The last comment was just a little joke. But I must say that my complaint about your attitude on this subject is similar to my complaints about religious people: That you believe what you want to believe, because of your own internal needs, even though the evidence is against you.

Marian
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Re: Capital Punishment

#35 Post by Marian » November 19th, 2010, 12:40 am

Wilson wrote: Sorry, you haven't provided evidence that proved me wrong. You showed me crime statistics in the two local towns, but there was nothing there about the race of the criminals. There are plenty of Latinos and Caucasians in each town, and they aren't far apart. And the crime statistics are shaded by how many crimes are reported by the local citizens; the illegal immigrants, I'm sure, don't want contact with the police, and only the worst offenses make it onto the books.
Very interesting sleight of hand there, Wilson. You are the one who brought up that one town was white and the other not. Your story now changes. Curiouser and curiouser...
Wilson wrote:The last comment was just a little joke. But I must say that my complaint about your attitude on this subject is similar to my complaints about religious people: That you believe what you want to believe, because of your own internal needs, even though the evidence is against you.
You are somehow an expert on my internal needs? Do I even know you? Please tell me what these needs are, I am very curious.
Here's a nugget of advice. When we are joking on-line, we usually put a smiley to indicate such. Less confusion that way.
Transformative fire...

Wilson
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Re: Capital Punishment

#36 Post by Wilson » November 19th, 2010, 7:34 am

Marian, here's an article from today's Santa Cruz newspaper to show you what we're dealing with around here: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_166 ... ntinel.com

Marian
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Re: Capital Punishment

#37 Post by Marian » November 19th, 2010, 9:50 am

Wilson,
My whole issue, all the way along here, is not to question your personal experience of gang behaviour. Or to say it doesn't exist where you live. I understand that it does. What I took issue with is your broad sweeping generalization about blacks and Hispanics. Just because it's an issue where you live, doesn't mean that all blacks or Hispanics are engaged in criminal activity.
Transformative fire...

Wilson
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Re: Capital Punishment

#38 Post by Wilson » November 19th, 2010, 6:27 pm

Marian wrote:Wilson,
My whole issue, all the way along here, is not to question your personal experience of gang behaviour. Or to say it doesn't exist where you live. I understand that it does. What I took issue with is your broad sweeping generalization about blacks and Hispanics. Just because it's an issue where you live, doesn't mean that all blacks or Hispanics are engaged in criminal activity.
Marian, you know I never said that all blacks or Hispanics are engaged in criminal activity. I just think you have to look at national US crime statistics to see that in the prison population they are hugely overrepresented. I don't think that can be explained away by racial stereotyping by police and the court system, though that is a factor. I wish it weren't that way, but it doesn't do any good to ignore the facts.

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Alan C.
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Re: Capital Punishment

#39 Post by Alan C. » November 19th, 2010, 6:42 pm

Wilson
Marian, you know I never said that all blacks or Hispanics are engaged in criminal activity. I just think you have to look at national US crime statistics to see that in the prison population they are hugely overrepresented.
I must agree with Wilson on this point, the same is true in the UK, not with blacks or Hispanics but with religiots, I believe Muslims make up something like 3% of the UK population but 12% of the prison population, I don't mean to single out Muslims; the same can be said about all religions.
There aint many Atheists in jail :)
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Wilson
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Re: Capital Punishment

#40 Post by Wilson » November 19th, 2010, 9:19 pm

Alan C. wrote:There aint many Atheists in jail :)
True. Our punishment will be in hell, and eternal, if we're wrong.

I'm not worried.

seyorni
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Re: Capital Punishment

#41 Post by seyorni » November 20th, 2010, 9:55 pm

Two wrongs make a right? Penalty the same as the offense? -- Questionable.

Why is a group's decision to kill someone more legitimate than an individual's?

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