Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Peculiar Institution -- Discussion Question
#9: As stated on pg 24, "Why is it that at the very last moment, when the much proclaimed sentence is about to be carried, the official strategy suddenly shifts to one of concealment and containment?"
We left off our discussion on this question because it makes an important point on the evolution of the death penalty and how America still uses it. Garland mentions how the American government does everything within it's power to hide the actual act of carrying out the death penalty from the view of the public. Not only do they hide it, but they have completely reversed all aspects of what one thinks of historically as capital punishment. Most people when you think of capital punishment through a historic lens think of hangings, the guillotine, or even the electric chair. Beginning in the 1970's the United States, being the last Western country to use the death penalty, started developing the most "humane" way of killing someone. What it has evolved into is the lethal injection. The lethal injection is everything that the former death penalty is not. It is done in the most private of settings with very minimal observers, medical staff has taken the place of the executioner, and the people who do observe the event are prevented from seeing the actual injection. I find this practice to be a contradiction to the whole concept of the death penalty. I feel that if the government is so ashamed of it why do they continue to use it?
Garland makes a great argument that the reason they conduct the penalty in this manner is to distance themselves from any relation to the history of lynchings in the American South. However there is still several similarities and deep connections to lynchings within the modern use of capital punishment. I will not divulge into those here. Overall, I believe that America continues to carry out capital punishment because it is the will of the people. No matter how ashamed the government may be about it, they act on how the people vote (in regards to capital punishment at least). Not to do so would go against the founding principles of this country, therefore, capital punishment will continue to be used so long as the people support it and the government will do its part to keep it as humane as possible.