The Death Penalty

I'm a big believer in the death penalty but not in the death "sentence." No judge or jury should be saddled with the awesome responsibility of sentencing anyone to death. And I've come up with a unique idea on how to preserve the death penalty without invoking the death sentence. Hear me out (grin).

This idea came to me a few years ago while watching a TV news item. Due to jail overcrowding, the Multnomah County Jail (Portland, Oregon) did a mass release of inmates. Seeing all those inmates running out of the jail didn't impress me very much. But, I found the "method" used by the county to determine "who" would be released intriguing. Each inmate was assigned a crime severity rating - and the inmates with the lowest ratings were released.

I think this method can be put to use in our prison systems. I'm moderate enough to suggest that, say, if a state's average felony conviction rate saddles society with a prison population of 1,000 (just for ease-of-math sake), the humane thing to do would be to have a prison system that can adequately house 1,000 inmates. Here comes the fun part.

Let's say a jury convicts a man of 1st degree murder. The judge sentences him to life in prison but, at the same time, doesn't specify how long that life might be. He's given one (and only one) chance to appeal. If he chooses to appeal, he gets a crime severity rating of ZERO - pending the outcome of the appeal. If he chooses not to appeal, he's given a crime severity rating of, let's say, 1,000 points. As long as the state's prison population stays below 1,000 inmates, he continues to live. But what happens if the prison population is 997 and a jury/judge convicts 4 other men, sentencing them to prison for lesser felonies?

You can't have a prison system that can accomodate 1,000 inmates endure the 1,001st inmate. Prison overcrowding should be considered cruel and unusual punishment to prisoners (and taxpayers, too). So, the warden and a couple of guards go to the cell of the prisoner with the highest crime severity rating and immediately escort him to the death chamber where he's executed. Later (grin), the warden can send an email to the murderer's lawyer saying, "Oh, by the way, your client was just executed."

This would not be "mere" justice, it would be "poetic" justice as well. Murder victims tend not to know in advance that they're about to be murdered. So why should murderers be given advance notice that they're about to be executed?

However, there's ONE WAY the murderer can escape execution. Let's say the crime severity rating for rape is 300 and an inmate is convicted of 4 rapes. His crime severity rating would be "cumulative" (1,200). So, guess who goes to the death chamber? This cumulative approach would be especially useful for criminals who are released and become "repeat offenders" - finding themselves back in prison. A murderer might escape death for a good long time if his fellow inmates are severe repeat offenders.

Bottom line? Prisons would never be overcrowded. If a state's prison system continued to maintain a population under the 1,000 inmate level, everyone would escape death. If not, the prison would continue to remain under or at the maximum population level that can be housed humanely. Of course, there could be situations where inmates are "tied" for the highest crime severity rating. In such a case, the only fair thing to do would be to execute all the tied inmates.

Off pulpit (grin).

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