If this is where punishment has brought us, to systematic killings and mass incarceration, then it’s time to reexamine punishment. We must reflect on what it is we really want out of punishment, and whether or not we can achieve it some other way.
One of the most basic things we want out of punishment is a way to restore respect for victims and their dignity. When a murderer escapes conviction, our anger comes out of solidarity with the victim.
What better way to respond to crime, then, than by demanding restitution for victims or their loved ones? The focus there is placed firmly on showing respect for those harmed, and away from bringing new harm to the criminal.
The most obvious objection to such a proposal is that no amount of monetary compensation will ever bring back the dead, or undo an assault, making full justice impossible under restitution. While this is unfortunately true, it is also true of punishment — even if Lockett had suffered for three hours, his victim would still be just as dead.
The difference is that with a restitutive model of justice, we can at least go some way toward healing the wounds of crime. With a punitive model, no steps are taken in that direction at all and new injustices are committed.
Read it in full: Abolishing Capital Punishment is Not Enough