"Physical suffering" is not what capital punishment is about.

*Note: In this thread, I’m not addressing the **morality **or **ethics *of the death penalty. That’s another topic.
From time to time, opponents of the death penalty raise the issue of physical pain and suffering, which then leads to debate. (Does a needle cause pain? Of course. Do intravenous drugs cause pain? Maybe. Does electrocution in a chair hurt? Maybe. Does getting shot by firing squad hurt? Certainly, unless a bullet goes straight through the brain. What about gas chamber? Well, it depends on the gas. Etc. etc.)

But I would like to argue another point entirely. **I think the main suffering of the death penalty is mental, not physical.
The years of waiting in suspense on death row. The contemplation of impending demise. The wondering of what happens after death. Fear of death. The imagination of one’s execution. The days ticking down.
No execution method, no matter how humane or painless, can eliminate the waiting and suspense that comes with impending execution, especially since many of those condemned to die spend years on death row. Any debate over the merits or drawbacks of capital punishment ought to take the mental/psychological aspect of the death penalty into account.

I disagree completely. Can’t speak for everyone of course, but were I ever to be convicted of a crime that’s execution-eligible (or, if you like, falsely accused of said crime) I’d much rather spent a few months/years on Death Row as opposed to several decades in a crowded hellhole surrounded by criminal monsters. Simply can’t imagine living that long with no access to TV, the Internet, or my iPod.

There have been some criminals who actually volunteered for the death penalty, such as child murderer Westley Allan Dodd. Frankly, execution is too good for people like that – let 'em suffer in a cage for as long as humanly possible, IMO.

Also, reported for forum change.

Well, the good news for you is that you can have the best of both worlds. The typical wait on Death Row in America is 15 years.
It can be longer, the longest time betwixt cup and lip was 33 years, and about a quarter die whilst hanging about. Oddly, the delays are not due to appeals so much, with lawyers gassing on and on, as the state’s electrifying inability.

Moving from IMHO to Great Debates.

Dubious. Quite a lot of people, probably the majority, tend to think that (me included), but it seems the overwhelming majority of people actually facing this prospect seem do their best to get a life sentence rather than a death sentence. One example of the contrary notwithstanding.

Chances are, your “few months/years on death row” will be decades.


That just seems like one of the most absurd statements I’ve seen in a LONG time, even here on the SDMB.

How old are you anyway?

Like, living on Death Row is a picnic by comparison?

I’ve read some accounts of life and conditions on Death Row. Most accounts describe it as horrifyingly gruesome. Google living conditions on death row or daily life on death row to find umpty-ump articles or reports about it. Most accounts describe an unspeakably wretched existence.

I think that’s undeniable. Give that probably less than 10% of the people on death row are ever executed, it is certainly true for the vast majority. (13 executions out of 900 on death row in California) Even those who are put to death suffer more over the years then in the relatively short time they are actually being killed.

I’m not sure it’s an argument for or against the death penalty. It is a good argument for sizable compensation for those who were improperly convicted of a capital crime.

There is evidence that life on death row is better than being in the general prison population mainly because the gang culture allowed to rule in the rest of the prison is necessarily containable where people are always in individual cells or escorted.

I don’t think it would be very controversial to state that death row is only one of the major problems with the US’s prison system. In a way, it’s kind of mind-boggling. How can one of the greatest (if not the greatest) court systems in the world have such a poor system for actually carrying out punishments.

But I guess I’m derailing the thread with that thought. Sorry.

Agreed. It is a chilling thought that although only 1 in 20 of people on earth live in the USA, every fourth prisoner in the world is in a US prison! The entire system is an indicator of just how wrong a social policy can be when affected by popularism.

Perhaps we should make the death penalty more painful.

If the death penalty is about deterrence, then mental anguish is not really as obvious a deterrent as being flayed alive.

Or have I been watching too much Game of Thrones?

There’s more than one, I could name probably a few dozen which isn’t a completely insignificant portion of those actually executed, a small portion of those condemned, though.

But it’s also worth noting you may or may not have TV access, you have books to read etc. There are things to do on death row that you may like doing. You don’t tend to have a lot of human interaction, for various reasons death row inmates don’t generally get to eat in a cafeteria or do yard time with other inmates. I’m guessing because it’s presumed they need to be controlled more tightly due to having less to lose and fewer punishment/reward type things to be concerned about (good behavior can cut your time in half or even more, but obviously if you’re condemned that’s not a concern.)

I don’t know that the death penalty is typically about deterring criminals so much as it was about deterring vigilantes. It replaces lynchings with some form of law.

I do think the old monarchical heads on pikes were a type of deterrence though, or at least certainly intended to be such.