Location: Santa Ana, California, United States

Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers' Compensation Courts. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with deep interests in Social Psychology and politics and an admitted diet fanatic. She has performed therapeutic services for more than 20 years and has studied the effects of cultural forces and employment on the individual. The author of two interactive workbooks, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual and Diet With An Attitude: A Weight Loss Workbook, she also publishes a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge and various weight loss mini-courses. She can be reached at,, or

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Does The Death Penalty Make Sense Anymore?

This week, Tookie Williams was killed by lethal injection. Regardless of whether we, as individuals, are for or against the death penalty, we need to ask ourselves about our handling of those cases where a judge or jury have decided that someone no longer deserves to live.

If we had been standing, armed, outside the convenience store where a young father was shot in the back of the head, would any of us have hesitated in shooting at the perpetrator? Probably not. If we had walked into the motel office where an innocent immigrant, his wife, and his daughter had just been cold-bloodedly murdered, would we feel empathy for the killer or simply seek immediate retribution?

Even at trial a year later, we would still feel outrage at the heinous, and still fresh, acts of unjustifiable and senseless killing. At such a moment, many of us would be tempted to return a verdict of death.

Fast forward - no, slow forward - twenty six years, a lifetime for many (such as the convenience store victim). With the passage of years, the initial outrage has waned. The killer is no longer the same person who committed the crimes so long ago. In our cultural ambiguity about state sanctioned murder and the rights of the condemned, have we not delayed justice to the point where an execution has lost all meaning?

The decades of stays and appeals, while the condemned prisoner changes, matures, and even blooms, as a rehabilitated and ultimately valuable human being, make a mockery of any concept of "just desserts." As a society, we need to decide whether to dispense punishment swiftly and surely, or whether to grant the time for rehabilitation that makes the original sentence obsolete.

The next scheduled California execution is in January, 2006. This time it is not a widely recognized and highly respected author and preacher of peace. Who knows if this killer has undergone virtuous changes or self-growth?

We do know that he is 75 years old, riddled with medical problems, and partially blind and deaf. He lives in a wheelchair giving the term "dead man walking" a totally new twist. Will a formal execution make us any safer in our beds at night? Will the state-sponsored murder of a pathetic old man deter the gang-bangers from their violent sprees? Will society save money by spending thousands of dollars on last minute appeals rather than letting him live out his little remaining time in the hell-hole of a maximum security prison?

What is our goal here, folks?


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