Mon, Apr 19, 2010 - Page 8

Capital punishment debate

The proposal that capital punishment should be abolished was a shock to many, and yet it is an issue that deserves serious debate.

We all know life is precious. We also know we should give those on death row a chance to start new lives. If one day a prisoner truly wants to repent, start anew and lead a virtuous life to compensate for their past behavior, that would be a wonderful thing. The Taipei Times should be applauded for reiterating that abolishing the death penalty is a global trend (“Global trend to abolish death penalty,” April 5, page 8).

However, we should also consider the families of the victims. It is difficult for us to understand their pain and suffering, which should be taken into account. If the victims were our own family members or friends, would we agree to release the convict who killed a loved one?

There is also great concern that the public’s security would be put at risk if the death penalty is abolished. I agree that harsh rules and severe punishments are vital in a chaotic society, and many feel that capital punishment can act as a useful deterrent.

On the other hand, human rights are of great concern. When a judge deprives a person of his or her right to life, it is a form of torture. Thus, in cases of murder and violent robbery, judges should not make their decision to sentence a convict to death rashly.

In Michael Tsai’s letter to the Taipei Times (Letters, March 14, page 8), he mentioned the option of life imprisonment: “On the other hand, if he were kept in solitary confinement for life, he would not be able to harm society anymore; thus life imprisonment would be a better deterrent.” This might be a reasonable alternative that the general public can endorse.

The Ministry of Justice should tackle this complicated and challenging issue of human justice very carefully in the wake of the global trend to abolish death penalty.

Melody Wu


Collateral damage unease

Huang Cheng-yi’s article on capital punishment (“Capital punishment and deterrence,” April 17, page 8) offered a balanced, thought-provoking view. While I accept that he has intentionally limited his focus to the issue of deterrence, it means that other reasons for taking a stand against capital punishment have been ignored. I am thinking particularly of cases where people have been found guilty and sentenced only to be later exonerated — the lucky ones before they have actually been put to death.

Nobody can deny that justice systems sometimes fail, and the idea that the state and its citizens should accept such cases as something akin to collateral damage seems particularly hideous.

John Coomber