in france, death penalty was abolished in 1981. the death penalty was to be replaced by sentences of life-long prison terms ("réclusion criminelle à perpétuité ou détention criminelle à perpétuité"). however, and since the very beginning, life-long never actually meant life-long. nowadays, in the worst cases, it usually means 20 years of prison. often, however, criminals who used to be punished by death now come out after 10-15 years.
when speaking about imprisonment, most people consider the retributive aspect of the sentence. however, there is another essential and much more important aspect, namely the protective aspect. society is effectively protected from a dangerous criminal if he is locked up in a prison. now, the obvious advantage of the death penalty is not so much the retribution society enjoys (or not), but the protection from this person. most people do not come back after they have been killed. therefore, from the protective aspect, the only alternative to a death penalty is actual life-long imprisonment or detention.
as long as this is not the case, and as long as the historic fallacy of substituting death with 20 years prison is not exposed, we should ask for the implementation of the previous, effective method.
(by the way, it is interesting to note that lawyers will now frequently oppose long (5-10 years) prison terms for their older clients on the grounds that it would amount to a death penalty. it is very cunning to mix the concept of being likely to be in prison until death, or at one's death, with the one of death being inflicted at the end of the judicial process. people will be fooled.)
yet all these evolutions are part of an ideology. any criminal is, first and foremost, a victim. now why is he a victim? because, essentially, he was unable to adapt to some of the stringent standards society imposes on its members without distinction. e.g.: do not kill your parents. do not eat your neighbour. do not rape a 2 year old child. is it the criminal's fault if he mentally and physically cannot abide by these standards, by these laws? no. hence he must not be punished, but he must receive help.
in this respect, it is fascinating and very telling that the lawyer of the indiviudal who committed parricide and who was released by the court (see my previous post) said that the prosecution's and administration's efforts (verbatim: "acharnement") to exert some amount of control over him were inacceptable "eugenism". mind you, there is no question of executing him or sterilising him, but just to prevent him from living in the house of his deceased parents.
what conclusion can we draw from this? society should not be permitted to defend itself when attacked. now are such social behaviours tenable over the long-term?
it doesn't matter. proponents of this ideology are not interested in reality but ideals. in the end, they might think, it might even be better to have no society than an unjust one. this kind of thought runs very deep these days.
to come back to our justice system: what will happen? will all trials soon be mockery? and will there be private justice or violence to counter this tendency?
as we move to criminalise derogatory discourse about other groups that fail to adapt to perceived standards (religious extremists, homosexuals, etc.), will it soon be a felony to call a murderer a criminal? wait and see...