Thursday, December 15, 2005

Some Thoughts On Revision of the Death Penalty in Light of the Case of Stanley (Tookie) Williams

I consider the execution of Stanley (Tookie) Williams, despite the extenuating circumstances in his case, to be a horrendous breach of justice and the sending of a terrible message to the youngsters who he spent years of his life trying to save.

Perhaps, we might find some redress for this outrage by formulating a new program of rehabilitation for those sentenced to death based on his life's work.

I propose that a mandatory long sentence on death row should be required, I would say some twenty-five years, of a person sentenced to death. There would be no "sweetening" of this phase. The entire term would have to be served. During that period the prisoner would be required to become a model prisoner and undertake some kind of service that the community benefits from. Not everyone has the capability that Tookie had to initiate new programs and write books, but each would be required, to his or her own ability to undertake some sort of public service.

Near the end of that period the public would be presented with the relevant information about the case that a parole board might, to wit, the community service that the prisoner is rendering, the prisoner's progress, his or her credits and liabilities in character, behavior in prison, participation in rehabilitation and therapy, relations with other prisoners, expressions of remorse, etc.

The public would vote in a referendum whether or not to commute the execution to life imprisonment. Again, there would be no possibility for parole or release from maximum security prison. The required punishment for murders horrible enough to require the death penalty cannot be less than a life sentence of incarceration.

Alternatively, because the US is probably not prepared for so populist a social mechanism, the information about the prisoner could be presented to a parole board. This, however, has the disadvantage of the parole boards coming to decisions that are not in keeping with the will of the majority.

I realize that a referendum like this is more unwieldy than allowing a parole board to make the decision, but if we are going to have a more democratic system, the public must be more directly involved in the decision making process.

The prisoner would be required to continue serving the community in any way, shape or form that he or she can. Any marked recidivism on his or her part after the death sentence was commuted to life in prison would automatically revert the decision back to a death sentence.

Feedback is respectfully requested.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

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