A tough prison system is more of a deterrent than execution.
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In a perfect world, the judicial system would be able to execute the certifiably evil in our society without the possibility of error, causing an innocent individual's death. But, we don't live in a perfect world and mistakes are made. Also, the prevailing perception that the death penalty provides little deterrent to would-be murderers has brought me to the opinion that other options, other than execution, need to be examined. The problem with this, as I see it, is to avoid the constitutionally prohibited 'cruel and unusual punishment'.
To avoid the 'cruel and unusual punishment', our society has determined that the purpose of a prison sentence is incarceration, not (deserving) punishment. I submit that this makes time in the custody of the state an ineffective deterrent. Many inmates thrive in this atmosphere, maniacally preying on the weaker prisoners. An emphasis on punishment, structured to make those who have chosen to harm their fellow man dread waking in the morning, knowing no enjoyment will be possible, would be very effective. This degraded quality of life is what the moral populous of America believes the anti-social deserve.
I don't pretend to have the answer to how we can amend the 'correctional' system to make prison a destination to be avoided at all costs. But we have social scientists, corrections officials and other experts who, if charged with the task, could find improvements and refinements to the current structure. If effective avenues of deterrence are created, media outlets can 'educate' those prone to malignant activity of the ultimate (thoroughly unpleasant) result of their action. Today's media, with its' 24 hour cable news networks, social and journalistic internet sites, and over-the-air TV allow the law enforcement agencies the ability to communicate to the entire American population a list of deterrents to criminal activity that, through their severity, could be more effective in saving lives than the death penalty ever accomplished.
Joseph P. Kaufman