Humanity Man

Happy spring, my dear zombie, I’m so glad you chose to join us once again.

  Did you catch the semi-recent interview CBC’s Peter Mainsbridge did with our not-so-illustrious head honcho Stephen Harper? If you didn’t, good for you for having something worthwhile to do with your time.

  But even if you missed the actual interview, if you read the newspapers or listen to radio talk shows, I’m sure you’re aware that “ole Stevie” inadvertently-on-purpose re-opened the death penalty debate. Both pro and anti-death penalty views are now cropping up in letters to newspapers, radio talk shows and internet blogs. It seems like every zombie and their cat has an opinion on the death penalty.

  It’s pretty entertaining stuff, too. The pro death penalty team, of course, automatically trots out beasts like Clifford Robert Olson and Paul Bernardo as good reason to bring back government sanctioned murder. The anti execution squad then throws out names like Guy Paul Bertrand and others who spent years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted.

  It’d be nice if both sides recalled the following quote. Sorry, I can’t remember who said it, but they were way smarter than yours truly. He or she once said, “Extreme cases make bad laws.”

  But where do you stand on this issue, dear zombie? Are you comfortable with legal slaying?

  The death penalty debate has become so complex and muddied, it borders on insane. Is our legal system fail-safe enough so that no innocent people are killed? Is the system fair enough so the rich can’t plea bargain their way out of the death sentence, while the poor make do with overworked public defenders? Is there really any difference between using lethal injection or stoning someone to death?

  If we strip all of the rhetoric aside, though, isn’t the main question the following—“Will the world be a safer place if we murder the murderers?”

  This is a question Jeanne Woodward and her staff would ask each other after an execution at San Quentin Prison. (Woodward presided over four executions when she was the warden there. She is also a former director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, so methinks it’s safe to assume she knows what she’s talking about.)

  Once a prisoner was put to death, they would ask each other, “Is the world safer because of what we did tonight?”

  In the proverbial clamshell, my dear zombie, the answer would have to be a resounding ‘No’. The world is safe enough if we lock up our murderers for life without parole. But killing them? Would our streets be safer?

  Now, the pro death penalty advocate will argue next that our tax dollars shouldn’t be used to house these monsters. It’s got to be cheaper just to off them, right?

  Think again. In her eye-opening essay on this matter, Woodward smashes that old chestnut with a wrecking ball. Woodward writes that it actually costs more to execute a prisoner than it does to condemn the prisoner to life without parole. Woodward figures that in California, the price tag for having the death penalty costs the state $200 million extra, each and every year. Woodward ponders on what that yearly $200 million could do if it was invested in investigating unsolved crimes, modernizing crime labs, or expanding effective violence prevention programs.

  Woodward’s writing also brings us to this month’s lesson, my fellow zombie. Think more. That’s it. Just think more. 

  Hopefully, Stephen Harper and death penalty ghouls will do the same.


Humanity Man resides on this beautiful yet quirky planet we call Earth. He likes peace, love, and Jeanne Woodward’s essay on executing humans. He dislikes war, hate, and the death penalty.