Argument: Life in prison is a greater punishment than the death penalty

Issue Report: Death penalty


Anton Chekhov, The banker in The Bet, Works, vol. 7, p. 229, “Nauka” (1254) – Capital punishment kills immediately, whereas lifetime imprisonment does so slowly. Which executioner is more humane? The one who kills you in a few minutes, or the one who wrests your life from you in the course of many years?[1]

Albert Camus, French-Algerian Philosopher and author (1913-1960). “Reflections on the Guillotine”. 1961 – there comes an hour when all murderers are like me, emptied from the inside, sterile, without any possible future. That is why they are eliminated, they are no longer good for anything.

Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck: “American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing”. 2001 – He sometimes found himself wishing the final moment would come sooner, rather than later. ‘I’ll be glad to leave this f—–up world,’ he said. ‘Truth is, I determined mostly through my travels that this world just doesn’t hold anything for me.’ In McVeigh’s opinion, his sentence is nothing more than state-assisted suicide. ‘I knew I wanted this before it happened. I knew my objective was a state-assisted suicide and when it happens, it’s in your face, motherf—–s. You just did something you’re trying to say should be illegal for medical personnel.’[2]

Miriam Thompson, letter to the editor. Newsweek. 9 July 2001 – Well, Timothy McVeigh got just what he wanted. He went out in a blaze of media attention, however notorious. He does not have to live with what he did. Those who remain do. Maybe locking him away by himself without access to media or any other soapbox would have led him eventually to a state of remorse that could have led to true repentance. Now we will never know.

Lynn Waddell and Arian Campo-Flores. “Execution: What Happens After?”. Newsweek. 6 Nov. 2006 – Witnessing an execution can be a letdown—or worse. For one thing, it often seems more peaceful than people expect. ‘The severity of the punishment did not fit the crime,’ says Ricky Paules, Tracy’s mother. Over time, those yearning for some peace of mind are often unfulfilled.

Dawne Adam. “The Death of McVeigh: A Time to Reflect”. New York Times. 13 June 2001 – It is punishment enough to sit in prison with no possibility of parole. And it is barbaric for any country to murder its citizens, despite the damage they may do.

“Is the Death Penalty the Worst Punishment?”. Reuters. May 26, 2008 – the truth is that I realized that the agony of a life in prison without parole may be seen by some as more harsh than death. Whether cultural, religious or pragmatic, the visceral reaction that death is always worse may not hold true for everyone.