Re: Cryo-suspension for death row

From: Christian Weisgerber (
Date: Tue Oct 10 2000 - 11:22:19 MDT

[Non-member submission]

Brian D Williams <> wrote:

> As a death penalty advocate, I would be against any attempt to
> cryonically suspend anyone to whom the death penalty has been
> administered.

Well, we seem to have another death penalty discussion at hand.
This appears to generate lots of opinions, but little reasoning
from first principles. When we administer criminal punishment,
what are we trying to accomplish in the first place? Several things
come to mind:

- Revenge.
   I find it difficult to come to grips with this rationally.
   Clearly, we have a strong desire to do unto others as they do
   unto us, especially if they harmed us. This looks like an evolved
   survival trait, but I'm uncertain how to justify it in a rational
   manner. The death penalty fulfills the revenge urge very well.

- Reform.
   That's what they told us in religion/ethics class back in school.
   Supposedly reforming the criminal to make them a better citizen
   is the primary purpose of punishment. In practice, it doesn't
   look like this to me. Capital punishment does nothing for this,
   of course.

- Removal.
   This also applies to prison and deportation. The goal is to
   remove criminals from society in order to keep them from doing
   any further harm. Clearly, the death penalty is a supremely
   effective means to get rid of a problem person.

- Restitution.
   Have the criminal repay the damage they did. Basically, this is
   only applicable to property damage, and in practice usually only
   to minor ones. Putting a price tag on a human life is difficult,
   but killing yet another person doesn't provide any economic gain
   in itself.

- Deterrence.
   I'm under the impression that US experience tells that the death
   penalty does little to deter criminals, although I'm uncertain
   about the psychology involved. If you build a system based on
   deterrence, you have to carefully grade punishment. Once people
   are subject to the maximum penalty if caught, they have nothing
   to lose, and that's one of the least things you want. ("Hey, I
   already killed a cop. Five more won't change anything." Bad.)

Christian "naddy" Weisgerber                 

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