Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our society errs

At yesterday's New Hampshire Senate hearing, a group of four victims' family members testified in support of the death penalty repeal bill that passed in the House not long ago. Those victims' family members were Arnie Alpert, Carol Stamatakis, Rep. Steve Vallencourt, and Bess Klassen-Landis. Here's an excerpt from Bess's testimony:

Although I was not proud of my feelings, and I didn’t voice them out loud, when I would hear about awful crimes, murders of young children, and the murderer had been convicted and given the death penalty, something very smug inside of me said, "Good. He deserves it. I don’t care about you at all.” In my mind, I imagined my mother’s murderer could be no less than someone damaged beyond control, a monster. Someone who was so sick that they were unredeemable.

It took me 37 years to be able to overcome my fears enough to recognize that my repressed hateful feelings only worked to extend indefinitely my feelings of grief, trauma, and fear.

We all know individuals who have lost someone to cancer, or to a tragic accident. Never in our wildest dreams would we go up to that person and tell them to hold onto hate and anger. To fill the deep void within them with hate, that hate would bring them peace and closure. Why do we do this to murder victim family members, who have already suffered so much?

When a horrible crime is committed, society is left with two big jobs: First, to find a way to help lesson the pain, fear, and loss of the victim family members, to help them regain a sense of safety, normalcy and peace in their lives. To provide them counseling, support groups, financial support, whatever it is that they need.
And second, to figure out what to do with the murderer/how to keep society safe.

Our society errs when we try to address both of these issues with one action, the death penalty.

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