Educational Editorial: Death penalty, equity and fairness

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - This week Virginia faces multiple decisions with the scheduled execution of the first woman in nearly 100 years. The most obvious debate focuses on capital punishment. Should an "eye for an eye" be applied in any form of justice or is incarceration enough?

In the same week a 21-year old man has plead guilty to killing four people in Farmville and has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Some would argue that justice has not been served either for the victims or the taxpayers.

But this editorial is not about capital punishment…it is about equity.

The cry of many groups historically has been for equal rights. In reality, the call should not have been for equality "sameness" but for equity "fairness."

With the crescendo of equal rights for women, my wife always quipped, "If we have equal rights, I'll have to give up some."

What do we teach young people about behavior and consequences? In the late 1990s Virginia struggled with the question, "if you do adult crimes, should you do adult time?"

New laws were passed that permitted local prosecutors to determine if juveniles should be tried as adults. Criminals frequently used young people because they had the "first bite of the apple" and would be released at 21.

Ironically, much coverage of the week focuses less on the heinous nature of the crimes committed and more on the age and sex of the murderers.

Civil rights leaders fought long and hard to insure that justice is colorblind. It seems now that justice is being asked to look through a lens of age and gender. The use of capital punishment is honorable debate; its selective application seems to beg the relationship between crime and punishment.

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