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The death penalty is not progress in modern society

By Michael Hayworth - posted Friday, 24 May 2013

For years scientists have theorised that it's not intelligence that makes mankind unique, but our conscious ability to learn, and to improve. That's simply the nature of progress.

Today, in a world where significant advancements in science, technology, and industry exist, the role of governments is to protect their own people from harm, not kill them, no matter what side of the globe you are on.

But when some governments around the world are permitted to kill and to use outdated and barbaric forms of punishment like the death penalty, when lives are at stake, it is time to ask ourselves and the societies we live in the difficult questions.


How we answer these questions is the real measure of how much we have progressed.

For instance, we know that narcotics can do great harm to society and that there are laws in place to prevent these harmful effects.

Those that commit crimes must undoubtedly face the legal system and be held accountable. But state-sanctioned killing is not justice - it's calculated punishment, of a violent and cruel nature handed down in the name of justice - and it demeans us all.

Prior knowledge of the consequences doesn't change this.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran must have known that the penalty for drug trafficking in Indonesia is death. Now, sitting on death row, they await their final clemency appeals to the Indonesian President, their last chance of avoiding death by a firing squad.

There are those that believe the death penalty is what criminals deserve, and even more so justifiable when unthinkable crimes have been committed.


In recent weeks, nothing speaks more to this belief than the horrific news of Ariel Castro, the man charged with the kidnap and rape of three women imprisoned in his basement for almost a decade. There are reports that Castro may now be facing the death penalty.

As terrible and unimaginable as such crimes might be, it is dangerous to build a criminal justice system based on what is essentially an eye for an eye philosophy. Revenge is not progress.

The reality of a modern-day government killing should not sit comfortably with global citizens, especially when there is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty deters criminals or stops such despicable crimes from happening.

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About the Author

Michael Hayworth is the Crisis Response Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International Australia. Follow him on Twitter

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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