Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Death to Drug Dealers?

I do not support the use of drugs.

I do not support drug dealers.

I do believe in the death penalty, at least in some very limited cases.

I however, do not believe that drug dealers should receive the death penalty for their crimes.

Let’s look at this from the extreme cases - the neighborhood dealer and the drug kingpin.

The neighborhood drug dealer: how many racial and class stereotypes can you put into one label? Chances are, when talking about the end-of-the-chain drug dealer, pretty much any and all of them might fit in some way. But there are plenty of drug dealers that are not the local street thug, standing on the street corner. While I don’t think that this is the guy that President Trump had in mind regarding the death penalty, who knows?

The drug kingpin: maybe these are the types that are deserving of a death sentence. But you have to ask yourself – do you think that the drug kingpin is losing sleep at night, worrying about US judicial procedure? I think it far more likely that he has much more “tactical” life-and-death concerns. Do you really think that breaking the law is a bigger deterrent (and the penalties that come with it) than the active hunting by rival drug cartel and special operations forces in their country? Ironically, the US penal system is likely the safest place that a drug kingpin could ever hope to live, regardless how long he has to live there.

The death penalty will always be an interesting thing to me:

Is it an instrument of deterrence? It obviously fails in nearly every regard.

Is it an instrument of punishment? How is this successful? Are those sentenced to death somehow more remorseful than those incarcerated? Plenty of antidotal evidence to show that they are not.

Is it an instrument of revenge? This seems the most likely. But then you have to ask if the various systems of government should be the mechanism for revenge in any aspect.  I suppose that there is a degree of comfort to those directly affected by the actions of the criminal, and for that reason, I still see that there are extreme circumstances where the death penalty would make sense.  But – using that standard – bringing some level of comfort to a victim of a drug related crime seems extremely farfetched and unrealistic.

The SCOTUS has deemed it possible to pursue the death penalty in crimes other than murder, specifically for “offenses against the State”.  I guess that executing a drug kingpin could bring a degree of national catharsis.  Again, not certain that this is the kind of justification that I want from the government, but others obviously do.

We’ll see how this plays out, and honestly – I seriously doubt that President Trump’s drug policy will have any impact on the drug crisis. I also believe that it is unlikely that we will see a death penalty case against a drug kingpin any time in the near future.