05/11/2012 07:30 EDT | Updated 07/10/2012 05:12 EDT

The Death Penalty? Canada Can Do Better Than That


As jurors in the Tori Stafford decide fate of accused child killer Michael Rafferty, the gruesome details of the case have renewed calls to bring back the death penalty in such brutal murders. Abubakar Kasim argues that those who are are opposed to the death penalty would change their minds "instantly if their loved ones were brutally murdered." Thankfully, our lawmakers are not so quick to decide legislation based off emotion.

But beyond this point, does the death penalty truly offer any sense of justice? Hardly. If it is to tip the scales of anything, it would be of restoring population to its original odd -- or even -- number. What's so distressing about capital punishment is two things: firstly, what it represents, and secondly, that it's a mediocre solution.

The death penalty, if we were to water it down, is nothing more than the Sharia Law mantra of "an for an eye." This is the set of laws which led Mohammad Shafia to "honour kill" his daughters. This is the same family which Kasim argues should suffer the death penalty -- the irony is outstanding.

A country such as Canada has no business whatsoever adopting such barbaric practices as killing its own men and women.

And beyond thinking of its own image and moral integrity, one must also think of what the death penalty does. For the prisoner, death is nothing but a form of release, it is in fact freedom; freedom from having to atone for one's sins, freedom from judgement, and freedom from prison.

The argument that upon death, the murderer will have to face Saint Peter and his VIP guest list at the Pearly Gates is a comforting ideal, but little more than that. And in state matters, such things cannot be taken into account. Simply put, to adopt the death penalty would be to adopt an ineffective way of dealing with the country's worst citizens.

It is also important to keep in mind that those who are tempted to commit the ultimate sin are often themselves devoid of any fear of death; what sort of deterrent is that? All ten of the states in the U.S. with the highest homicide rates employ capital punishment -- clearly this isn't scaring criminals enough.

If it's clearly not working in the United States, why would it work in Canada? Besides, with all this talk about capital punishment, this is the chance for our nation to get creative, and maybe even save some money.

What could be greater punishment for an individual than to be separated from society for the rest of his life, to live in discomfort, and be forsaken to, as a child is told by his teacher, "think about what he's done?" Isolation from one's peers, from his loved ones, regardless of what Sartre says, is the ultimate hell. Especially if one knows they are so near to the fence, outside, living life as the criminal once did -- to be aware that outside his small cell there is a world that continues to revolve without him, that is the ultimate punishment.

Now of course, there is the issue of cost. Currently, Canada spends $312 a day keeping a prisoner warmly blanketed, well fed and entertained. The last part is no exaggeration. Today's prisons have all the amenities of an airport hotel, and each of them paid for by the good folks who observe a law-abiding life.

So clearly, the idea of life imprisonment being the ultimate punishment is a bit skewed when this is taken into consideration. However, if Canada were to stop giving murderers menus at meal times, and take away those linens that run the state $1.7 million a year (clearly, this airport hotel is a member of the Four Seasons family), then a lifetime in a gray block might better fit as the ultimate punishment. Naturally, such barren accommodations should be extended only to those who have committed murder.

It is also important to keep in mind that those who are tempted to commit the ultimate sin are often themselves devoid of any fear of death. Additionally, for a great deal of criminals, prison is merely a better-heated and better-furnished place to live than the accommodations they currently hold. And maybe most attractive of all: They don't have to pay a thing.

In prolonging the pain and suffering of those who have caused others eternal pain and suffering, there is a sort of real-life reminder of what happens should one commit murder; as opposed to when the murderer has gotten the needle and has disappeared into the realm of memory, and runs the chance of being forgotten, or worse yet in some rare cases, romanticized.

There is another point against capital punishment which Kasim conveniently seems to forget. You see, death is not exactly reversible, and should there ever have been a mistake, well, there is not much the state can do to rectify its errors. Keep in mind that the costs for trials in which the death penalty might be the outcome are insurmountably high. Using Kansas as an example, trial costs alone amount to an average of $508,000; 16 times greater than for non-death cases. Now, if the courts are wrong, as they sometimes are, half a million dollars will be spent on a mistake, and unfortunately for the taxpayer, there is no refund.

By cutting down on the amenities of prisons, and reducing them to what they should have always been -- vacuums of the soul, barren places where this is nothing to do but be awake, and sleep (in short, do almost the complete opposite of what the Scandinavians do in their four-star "prisons") -- and taking costs into consideration, not to mention the moral debacle of killing men and women outside of war time, there is no possible way in which the death penalty for murderers can be justified. It is a barbaric practice, one which caters only to an individual's shortsightedness, and animal-like craving for instant gratification.

The death penalty, it could be said, is a consequence of murder; not its deterrent.