I am not sure how the discussion began.

I was in my "Writing for the Media" course in SUNY Old Westbury. We have many interesting and stimulating dialogues, usually based on newspaper stories and current events. The subject was "The Death Penalty -Yes or No." What happened next was a true surprise to me. The feelings ran deep on both sides of the issue. Should we trade one murder for another?

One rather mild student was extremely militant and rather hostile in her defense of the death penalty. "If someone murders a member of my family, I want to see them die a slow and painful death." Even the professor was shocked at her ardor in this matter. She had never seemed to be so aggressive.

Others chimed in with "There is more suffering in a prison life sentence than with the death penalty." This was countered by 'The offender gets a roof over his/her head, three square meals a day, gymnasium privileges and television viewing." This is not a true penalty of punishment for a ghastly crime.

The family of the murdered victim was next brought into play. If the murderer was alive in the penitentiary, would they ever have true closure? The family would know that the evil-doer was still alive and would never stop thinking about them. If, on the other hand, they were executed within a reasonable time, closure would begin to occur.

This opened up the argument that the perpetrator's appeals could last up to 20 years or so. This appeals process would draw in the victim's family and stretch out justice for an interminable length of time. Was this acceptable? Many cases of innocent men being incarcerated wrongly was introduced. The American jury system remains imperfect.

Someone said, "Have you ever spent much time in a 7-foot by 10-foot room? That is true punishment." The mild student again voiced her decision for a slow, painful death. There were some Swedish students in the class. They seemed split on the issue, even though Sweden is known for its liberal persuasion.

The intensity and the charged air in the classroom died down slowly. Soon another topic (less volatile) was brought forth and the discussion of the death penalty subsided. I was proud of my classmates for examining this touchy issue carefully and bringing out many good points on both sides of the argument. The professor allowed everyone who had an opinion to speak their mind.

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