Before I begin, allow me to give some insight into who I am and what I believe.
I am politically and socially liberal. I support a woman's right to chose, a terminal patient's right to die and equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. I am a feminist and a registered Democrat. And I support capital punishment.
Liz Monahan's Sept. 30 opinion article, "Capital Punishment: The Cost of a Life," raised many excellent points and I agree with several of them. It was a well-written and carefully thought-out article, and I applaud her for writing it.
Yet, because I support capital punishment, allow me to share my opinions from the other side. I'm well aware that I'm not taking a popular stance, and I'm opening myself up for criticism and a negative backlash.
But this is an important issue that should be discussed, and if we can't sit and debate the merits and detriments of something like capital punishment, that says some very unfortunate things about the University of Richmond community.
As Monahan pointed out, it may be cheaper to imprison a wrongdoer indefinitely rather than place him (I use the masculine pronoun because well over half of all violent offenders are male) on death row.
I also agree that "killing someone because I'm 98 percent sure they committed a heinous crime" is a horrible thing to contemplate.
But I have enough faith in the American justice system and in our forensic labs to believe that the majority of convicted criminals committed the crimes they were accused of.
I would add to Monahan's case that one of the original arguments in favor of capital punishment, that it acts as a deterrent against crime, has been proven false.
When I make the decision to live my life without murdering anyone, it's not because I fear the death penalty. It's because I cannot fathom doing so; my morality prevents me.
People who are in a position to become murderers -- members of drug cartels or the Mafia, for example -- live with the threat of execution every day. The death penalty is simply not a deterrent and never has been.
In spite of this knowledge, I support capital punishment.
Monahan said in her article: "Teresa Lewis [a woman recently put to death in Virginia] may be no Einstein, but at least the lifetime she could have been spending in jail might have taught her a lesson. What does killing her teach her about the value of human life?"
While the desire to rehabilitate criminals and show them the error of their ways, and even, as Monahan said, to "teach [them] about the value of human life" is undoubtedly honorable, it is fundamentally flawed.
The majority of violent offenders, or people who organize violent crime, cannot be rehabilitated. It has happened on occasion, but it is very, very rare.
When the criminal in question is sexually-motivated -- many serial killers, child molesters and rapists fall into this category -- there is almost no chance of rehabilitation.
Stanton E. Samenow, a renowned clinical and forensic psychologist, holds the same opinion. In his book "Inside the Criminal Mind" (first printed in 1984, Crown Publishers), he said: "Rehabilitation as it has been practiced cannot possibly be effective, because it is based on a total misconception.
"To rehabilitate is to restore to a former constructive capacity or condition. There is nothing to which to rehabilitate a criminal. There is no earlier condition of being responsible to which to restore him."
John Douglas, a former FBI agent and one of the very first criminal profilers under the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, has spoken with and interviewed many criminals to gain insight into their psychology and behaviorisms, including Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam.
Like Samenow, he believes rehabilitation is simply an unrealistic expectation in many cases.
In his book "Journey Into Darkness" (first printed 1997, Pocket Books, co-written with Mark Olshaker), he said: "I would like to believe in redemption and I hope rehabilitation is possible in some cases. But ... I cannot place more faith in what I would like to be true than what I know is reality.
"I am much less interested in giving a ... killer a second chance than in giving an innocent potential victim a first chance."
Look at serial killers like Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy.
These two men murdered more than 50 people between them and probably more, many of them children and young adults. Both of these men were put to death for their crimes, and in my opinion, deservedly so.
Does anyone truly believe that they could have been rehabilitated?
That they could have understood the value of human life? For these men, human life had no value. Personally, I'd rather them be dead than live in a world that housed such monsters.