Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Death Row

Recently I have been made aware of this thing called death row... I'd faintly heard of it before, but it wasn't until recently that I realized it was still very much a real thing taking place more frequently than we would have thought. Did you know that as of January 2013 there were 3, 125 people on death row in the USA? Breaking those numbers down, between 1976, and August 2012, one thousand, three hundred and four people lost their lives. They committed a crime in which the punishment was the loss of their life.

On June 18, 2010, a man was placed in front of a firing squad to be killed. His name - Ronnie Gardner. He was 49 years old, and left behind a partner and two children. He grew up in a home with an alcoholic father who abandoned him. He was sexually abused by his siblings, and was found malnourished and wandering the streets alone at age 23 months. He was addicted to drugs at 10 years old. He was later placed in a foster home with a cross dressing pedophile. He became a prostitute. He was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder - a disorder that stopped him from being able to care for others, and left him with a prohibited ability to feel guilt. This disorder is said to be brought on partly by genetics, but mostly by environmental factors, and traumatic family situations.
He murdered 2 people and committed a string of other crimes - and for that, he was killed.

I'm telling you his story because I think it's important to realize - every statistic has a face and a name, every statistic is a person - so when I say 1,304 have been executed since 1976, I'm really saying that 1,304 people just like Ronnie Gardner were killed. And I'm willing to bet that if you looked into those people's stories, you would find a story just like Ronnie's - a tale of abuse, abandonment, and mental disorders.

I do not agree with the death penalty. I do not think it's right that at this moment 3, 125 (probably more now) people in America are currently waiting to find out whether they can live or die. I dont think that we have the right to decide when a person's life should be over. I believe in second chances. I believe in a God Who loves and forgives anyone who is truly repentant. I believe that people can be rehabilitated. I believe people deserve a chance at life.

By sentencing people to the death penalty, we are directly going against Scripture. Deuteronomy 30:19 says that God has set before us life and death, but we are to choose life. Scripture says that life is God's to give, and God's to take. Scripture says that He numbers our days, that He has planned a season for everything. The Bible says that God is our Judge, and that we are not to murder anyone. 

I get it, I truly do. I can only imagine how it feels to have someone in my family brutally murdered. I would want the person who did that to be dead. I would want them to suffer. But the Holy Spirit in me reminds me of Grace. Because the thing about our God is that all sin is the same to Him. There is no sin worse than another. So really - why aren't we all on death row? We've all sinned in one way or another, we're all deserving to die.

Why is it we insist that some crimes are worse than others? Why is it that a person can commit murder and be sentenced to die, while a person who exploits children into the sex industry gets off with a 15-20 year sentence in prison? Why can a person commit armed robbery and get off with a good behavior bond, while a person commits armed robbery and actually fatally shoots someone, and then is given the death penalty because of it?

The truth is, our justice system is messed up. I don't believe that people should not be punished, I really believe that prison is necessary. But I also think time in prison should be spent on rehabilitating people. Why wasn't Ronnie Gardner's past looked into before he died? Why is that they chose to ignore the fact his childhood had everything to do with the man he became? Because that's the thing - his actions were a reaction to every wrong action that had been committed against him. No, he shouldn't have brutally murdered people. He did the wrong thing. BUT, why wasn't he given a chance to receive help? Why wasn't he given the chance to receive counselling, to realize and become repentant for what he had done? Instead, they looked at the actions, forgetting it was just a reaction, and decided to kill him.

As you can tell, this is something I feel pretty strongly about. Yes, injustice makes me want to throw up. When I hear these stories of brutal murders and crimes, my blood boils and I feel sick. But I know every person has a story to tell. I know every person has a purpose and it is not our right to take away that person's opportunity to live. I know I serve a God Who can save anyone - who can change anyone. I serve a God Who sees people's heart, and truly knows them. He alone knows the bigger picture - so He is rightfully the only One Who can decide when a person's time is up.  Maybe it's time we let Him. Maybe it's time for this world's justice system to change.

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