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Editorial

Vote for life

November 3, 2006

While the proposed marriage amendment has been widely discussed during the past several months, Wisconsin voters seem to have overlooked another life-changing issue on the Nov. 7 ballot -- the death penalty.

The issue comes in the form of an advisory referendum, meaning neither a “yes” nor a “no” vote has the power to directly change the law. But voting on this referendum is still important, as it points legislators in the direction of the majority’s values.

Guilt and regret are incredibly powerful emotions, and can make for useful tactics when dealing with violent criminals. It is our opinion that a life consumed by these feelings is far worse than a quick and painless death. With a lifetime sentence, offenders become prisoners of their own shameful minds, trapped in solitude and driven toward change.

But even greater power comes in the form of forgiveness.

While natural instinct initially leaves victims’ families seeking revenge, peace of mind is often only attainable by making peace with the criminal -- whether through interaction or mere clarification. “An eye for an eye” is far less fulfilling than an apology. Questions are so frequently left unanswered in violent cases that there is virtually no possibility of discovering verifiable truth once the convict is six feet under.

And what about the doubt that lingers within the judicial system? Between the death penalty’s reinstatement in 1976 and 2005, 119 people on death row were released after their innocence was finally proven. What a shame to think the United States has empowered itself with the ability to author the murder of so many wrong- fully convicted individuals.

We all know someone who has messed up - through drugs, alcohol, abuse or crime. Yet our love for that person allows us to see the good inside - no matter how deeply concealed. Now who are we to impose death upon others without offering another chance simply because we are far removed from their lives?

When you cast your vote Tuesday, have faith in humanity, all the while realizing the logic of human error.

Dissenting opinion

As the saying goes, “Let the punishment fit the crime.”

If someone is convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, they should expect the same treatment in return. The victims who were murdered don’t have the opportunity to avenge their death, so it is up to the state to do it for them.

Those who commit such vicious crimes are most likely not going to be reformed, no matter how much psychological treatment they receive.

For some victims’ families, the institution of the death penalty would be a form of closure. Allowing the murderer to walk around in prison will do nothing for the consciences of those who are emotionally scarred by their actions. There is no reason to keep these people locked up in a prison where they are only taking up space.

If we have to wait for these convicts to fulfill their life sentence in order to get them out of our jails, the state will have to continue to erect prisons to house them. We are spending valuable resources on those who are worthless to society.

The fact that these people have it easy while they sit in prison is sickening. They are given meals, have access to athletic equip- ment and live in a lap of luxury when compared to the lives of the homeless who have murdered no one.

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