Friday, 25 January 2013

Inside death row.

Adam has been out painting the town red this evening so I've been able to partake in one of my most cherished pastimes - watching the most ridiculous real life documentaries. Everyone at work has been banging on about the new two-part Trevor McDonald feature in which he travels to Indiana's maximum security state prison to speak with prisoners currently on death row so I decided to give that one a whirl.

What resulted is one of the most sombre two hours that I think I have ever experienced. Never before has a television programme affected so much that I struggle to shake the words and image from my head hours after it has ended. The nature of such an environment; completely void of what we deem to be 'normal' life, the direct way in which real people speak of such unspeakable crimes committed by their own hands, the idea of legally putting someone to death - a concept so far detached and so alien to anything I have ever known. Just wow.

I guess if anyone had ever asked me prior to watching the documentary whether I believe in the death penalty, I suppose my answer would have been a resounding 'no' but now, after that - I'm not even sure what I think. Seeing such remorse and pain and anguish in some of those murderer's eyes, I can't help but focus on the tragedy of their lives and resulting actions. They are still human beings after all, yet their treatment and presentation could be compared to battery farmed chickens, herded around and referred to merely as numbers. Despite their horrendous actions and sentiments of pure evil, it is unnerving just how unsettling their dehumanisation is. I should be angry and hate those people, I should want them to die, but all I could think of was the tragedy; the discomfort at how low a grade of human being they are in the population's eyes, stripped of everything that once made them individuals.

It feels wrong even typing it. They're evil and that should be that.

I don't think I will ever fully get my head around the idea of a governing body being able to legally take a man's life. It seems so alien, so wrong to someone that was born in raised in Europe where even the strictest of laws and decrees seem child's play to elsewhere in the world. Yes these prisoners have taken lives themselves but is it then right to take theirs in return? Is it right that humans as a collective should be able to choose when it is okay to take another life? On the other hand is it a mere case of punishment fitting the crime? Does the planet have the resource to keep every high risk prisoner locked up for life and is this a valid enough reason to enforce the death penalty?

As with the meaning of life, wouldn't it be perfect if we could just all sit down, discuss the issue and reach a logical conclusion? But we won't. 'Cause we're humans and humans have feelings, lots of feelings with oh so many opinions and views. And after dwelling for hours, I'll take my feelings and send them to bed, still not having made sense of them at all.

I blame you, Trevor McDonald.


Ms. Moon said...

It is a very good thing to have your mind opened so wide. Even if it hurts.
I, personally, do not believe that the state has the right to kill. But that's just me.

Steve Reed said...

It's always a good sign when a documentary makes you think so deeply! I haven't seen this show. Is it on the BBC web-player, I wonder?

There is a strong sentiment of revenge that runs through the American justice system. (As an American, I'm allowed to say that -- LOL!) There's a sense that unless you murder the murderer, the victims have somehow not seen justice. I think it's warped and entirely, appallingly wrong -- like Ms. Moon, I don't think the state ever has a right to kill. It's just cheap revenge. When we apply the death penalty we diminish ourselves as a society and as a people.

It also abandons any goal of rehabilitation and any potential for remorse and forgiveness.

Polls have consistently found, though, that most Americans support the death penalty. So Ms. Moon and I are in the minority.