I was reading on someone elses blog about the death penalty in the States, and it turns out that in the last 31 years in America, of the 1099 people executed 57% were whites. A little more than half of that number were black. Does that mean that the death penalty has worked in terms of dissauding blacks from perpetrating crimes, and that whites think they are smart enough to beat the system, or does it mean that whites (in America) are at the lowest level in terms of the scum bucket.
Also quite shocking: 120 people were released from death throw. That doesn't mean they were innocent, maybe some were, but on appeal there was not enough to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
I had a heated discussion on this topic, and my reasoning is simple: do you allow criminals to murder (50 murders a day in this country) and deprive your own community of defending itself (because that is exactly what it is, one small means of defending a community against out of control predators)?
The counterarguments are to be expected: what about the guy who gets sentenced to death in error?
1) I'd argue that this individual is probably pretty sick and has a record of sick activity to get him facing this sort of sentence. In other words, you;re not talking about putting innocent or even seemingly innocent people on death row. You want the Criminal World's Top Achievers.
2) More lives are spared because the burglar or kidnapper decides not to also murder the woman he has just raped, reasoning, quite correctly, that if caught the most he could get is a life sentence. The death penalty may save thousands of potential lives in the sense that the criminal has pause - not in every case but in many cases - not to take the lives of people that come into harms way each and every day in this country.
In this sense, the saving in terms of lives saved - I'd argue - is incalculable, especially in South Africa.