Several years ago my mother and I were approached by a prison representative standing near the entrance of a large department store. He held a clipboard containing signatures, and asked my mother if she was interested in adding hers. It was a petition in regards to whether an inmate who killed a correctional officer should receive the death penalty.
She hesitated—her daughter, my sister, happens to be a prison guard. Not knowing all the circumstances or even how she felt about capital punishment, she declined to sign. It made me wonder what I would have done if I were in her shoes.
There are many pros and cons when it comes to the death penalty. Some people believe that capital punishment violates human rights, while others consider it an appropriate punishment. The expression “an eye for an eye” would have you believe that whoever takes a life should also have his or her life taken as well. On the other hand, the New Testament stresses that in order to be forgiven, you must also be able to forgive.
In the old West a person convicted of cattle rustling would have immediately been hanged. By today’s standards that seems ludicrous and inhumane. It makes you wonder how today’s standard’s will appear in the future.
I began to pay attention to testimonies from prisoners in states where capital punishment does not exist. Some who receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole don’t even claim innocence, but do say that they have finally made their peace with God. They know they have no chance of ever being released, so it is unlikely there would be an ulterior motive for their statements.
I am still uncertain if I could decide the outcome of a person’s existence. If I were to lose a friend or family member from the act of another person’s actions my perspective might change. Being human, the normal reaction is to want revenge, and for the person responsible to pay the ultimate price.
For now I think we should take an in-depth, second look at the death penalty itself. If a prisoner has already been judged by man, I believe the rest of that person’s fate should be decided by his or her God.
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