Punishment with a capital P

Kirjoittaja on New Yorkissa varttunut ja Helsingissä naisistunut copywriter.

Dear Mom,

I hear you. Although here it’s the norm, eating pizza with a knife and fork should absolutely be a punishable offense. At least in the states of New York, New Jersey and possibly even some areas in Connecticut.

Speaking of states and punishable offenses, I read that Missouri and Wyoming are now considering the use of firing squads to execute death row inmates. Seems a little Kim Jong Un-ish and Talibanesque, don’t you think? On the other hand, what could possibly be more American than death by gun?

Not unlike the question of eating pizza with utensils, living outside of the U.S. for the past 20 plus years has also given me room to rethink capital punishment. Growing up in New York I just kind of figured that an eye for an eye is the way “the world” works. When I got to Finland, the staff at the Political Science Department of the University of Jyväskylä did away with those quotation marks before student orientation was even over.

All of a sudden I felt embarrassed that the most states in the U.S. choose to ignore the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But deep down, I still believed that the punishment really should fit the crime. And to be honest, I still do.

I mean, it’s not too hard to agree with the Ohio state prosecutor telling death row inmate Dennis McGuire last week: “You’re not entitled to a pain-free execution.” Come on. This dude raped and stabbed a pregnant woman to death. And my guess is she suffered for much longer than the 15 minutes it took him to die. If she had been your mother, daughter, sister or friend, wouldn’t you want to kill the guy who did it?

Does it make a society and a penal system more civilized when the maximum penalty for even the worst crimes imaginable is just 15 years? Maybe. Is that justice? Not in my opinion.

I guess this is just one of those things my brain and heart will have to agree to disagree on. Like my love of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and desire to squeeze myself into leopard print spandex pants. Happy Monday,