if I hadn’t read it with my own eyes. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby routinely turns my stomach with his paleoconservative rants. But this one is nothing short of breathtaking:
California has 641 murderers on death row, yet it has executed only 10 people since 1992. That is a travesty — no less so than if hundreds of killers sentenced to life were routinely released after only a few months behind bars.
Think about that for a sec: Jacoby is saying that there is no difference between murderers rotting in prison waiting to be executed and murderers out on the streets after serving a few months of a life sentence. Did it occur to him that at least the guys sitting on death row don’t pose much of a threat to the public? And did it occur to him that a big part of what the criminal justice system is supposed to do is to protect the public from dangerous people by locking them up? Christ!
To the eye-for-an-eye fanatics like Jacoby, justice and vengeance are essentially interchangeable. And the big danger of that position is that it completely loses sight of the possibility that criminal justice might actually do some good in the world, either by protecting society from dangerous people, or by making dangerous people less dangerous, or maybe even both. In my view, reasonable people can and do disagree about the death penalty. But Jacoby’s obsession with execution as an end in itself borders on being downright ghoulish. It’s particularly frightening coming from someone who considers himself a religious man.