Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Give 'em death?

I think I may have stepped into it a little with this morning's column in the London Free Press.

Our London - the Canadian one - has always been seen as a sleepy, mid-sized city that has managed to avoid the plagues that have besieged larger North American centers. Maybe it's just a perception thing, but we seem to have a lower crime rate, along with more relaxed neighborhoods. Some folks here still don't lock their doors at night.

It's the kind of atmosphere that first drew us here. Parents told us it was a great place to raise kids. We figured any town that managed to take the edge off of daily life couldn't be a half-bad place to lay down roots.

That was then.

A few years on, we're in the midst of a record-setting year for murders. Anecdotally, those easygoing Londoners who used to happily share stories of walking the streets at night seem to have become a quieter minority. Fear is slowly creeping into our formerly-cloistered little world.

So I wrote this piece in the hope that I could shake up readers' perceptions on crime and how a civilized society should address it. I realize I've opened something of a Pandora's Box by bringing up the dreaded death penalty - which means I'll likely have to batten down the hatches for a day or two - but I'd rather float it out there and see what happens than say nothing and wonder what would have been.

Otherwise, what's the point of writing?

Your turn: If the death penalty doesn't suit your fancy, what will, in your view, help society rein in violent crime? Can we ever truly be protected?

Note: Click on the image to view it in higher-resolution. Here's the text-form version:

Slayings may spur new look at noose

I find it difficult to believe that I could be the only one deeply disturbed that London has set a new record for homicides (13) in a year – and we're not even out of September yet.

I similarly find it tough to swallow that we’re supposed to assume that this is some sort of statistical anomaly.

It isn’t. And sitting on our haunches while the city’s leaders tells us everything will work out in the end isn’t exactly my cup of tea.

All that matters to me is keeping my little corner of the world safe. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel well-protected these days.

The same old approaches to deterring violent crime don’t seem to work anymore.

As we’ve watched ongoing gang wars turn Toronto into a mere copy of the typical American metropolis, we can no longer smugly claim it’ll never happen here. It already is.

Although we abolished the death penalty in 1976, perhaps we should consider reinstating it again to control this rampant acceleration in violent crime.

Nothing else seems to be working.



Jill said...

Criminals should be required to do some type of labor rather than lounge in a cell all day or roam out in a gated yard. And while the American City comparison does smart a bit, I have no stats to back up any defensive comment.

Anonymous said...

The stereotype American city, i just that - they just dont want you to see that, bad for tourism and such. i say reinstate the DP for killers. And maybe lengthen jail sentances for life and so on.

Corrections Departments in Canada are very WIMPY to punishing KILLERS!!


sage said...

I wasn't able to get your article to enlarge so as to read it and my eyes--in the past few years--have required extra help to read the fine print... I would be interesting in reading it.

As for the death penalty, I fear it is just a cheap solution that doesn't work. Personally, I favor life imprisonment for violent criminals w/o parole. Let's build a society that honors life. Also, the recnet number of criminals in the US who have been falsely convicted of capital crimes (a small number but significant) makes me wonder about the wisdom of using the ultimate punishment.

Interestingly, just a week or so ago, there was a report that violent crimes was at a historic low in America. And since (I believe) most violent crimes in the US (and probably Canada too) are "crimes of passion," done when emotion overtake reason, it seems executions would have little impact in criminal prevention.

Kimberly said...

Statistics in the US have shown that imprisoning someone for life (without parole) is less expensive than going through the legal process involved in executing them.

I worry, as Sage noted, about the cases in which someone who not guilty is convicted of a capital crime. At least a lifetime prison sentence allows for appeals and introduction of new evidence.

Finally, I'm morally opposed the death penalty. I don't have a carefully reasoned argurment against it, but a gut level feeling that killing another human being is wrong, and is uncivilized behavior, no matter how we may dress it up.

ribbiticus said...

the death penalty issue is such a touchy one. on one hand, it seems like it's the only way to curb the growing brazenness of would-be criminals. on the other,it is still curtailing a life, albeit in the interest of justice. my view is, i'd rather put a stop to all the heniousness by reimposing the death penalty than just stand by meekly while the perpetrator counts victims.

Plain Jane said...

Perhaps we can find another land mass to drop them off on...