Should convicted abusers of children under the age of 13 get a mandatory life sentence? Apparently that proposal passed 83-12 and 31-8 in the Virginia House and Senate. Does that seem like a good idea to you?
Not to me. Not unless Virginia also has the death penalty for murder AND regularly applies it. Let’s see…it has executed four men in the past thirty months. That’s not enough. So I’d probably have voted against the bill myself. Or at least abstained.
I once had a conversation with a woman who thought rape should be punishable by death. I pointed out that the best chance police have of catching rapists is to get descriptions from the victims. So, after the deed is done, what’s the downside in rape-murder? What can the authorities do, execute him twice? Rapes would go down, true…but murders would rise correspondingly.
Note that I don’t have a philosophical objection to life sentences for crimes other than murder. Not even an objection to capital punishment for child rapists…on a case-by-case basis. Let each judge and jury decide. But when the punishment for child rape is identical to murder, you’ll see more murdered children.
Actually, I’m taking this a bit further. The death penalty for murder should be based on the severity of the murder.
Let me explain.
Case A: I walk up to someone and shoot him in the face, instantly killing him. Death by hanging, long drop.
Case B: I kidnap someone and slowly torture him to death. Death by the breaking wheel.
We should never give the criminal an incentive to murder his victim. On the other hand, the present societal hesitation to demand the ultimate penalty is itself a sort of incentive to murder.