The Third Way

I can’t get the conviction of Tochi out of my head. The 19 year old Nigerian was given the death penalty for drug trafficking. He’s well and dead now. It didn’t feature in the Straits Times and the forum pages are not talking about it. But I was just thinking how wrong the conviction was. This blog post is a little delayed and I wanted to leave it as it is. A lot of people were convicted of drug trafficking. This is nothing new. So I tried to accept it. But I just can’t swallow it. He died at 19, not having seen much of the world. It was his first trip overseas and he was caught redhanded. It didn’t matter that there may be a reasonable doubt that he didn’t know he was carrying the drugs, he’s presumed to know. Need our laws be so … cold and draconian? There were no mitigating factors. It’s the mandatory death penalty we’re talking about.

There should be a moratorium on the death penalty. And I want to skip the discussions that surround the death penalty and get straight to the point. Perhaps most Singaporeans (working ones particularly) think that since it’s cheaper to kill them rather than imprison them for life, why should their taxes be used to feed and shelter such dodgy and suspicious characters for the rest of their lives? The taxes could be used for a worthier cause, for orphaned children, the elderly and more sheltered walkways. There are always ways to spend taxes. I think this is the main reason why Singapore is so slow in having a moratorium on the death penalty. We always compete with Hong Kong on corporate taxes and whatnot, no? Let’s compete with them on human rights– they have abolished the death penalty. Let’s do the same. It might not just be an issue of cost, but also an issue of space. We’re planning for a good 6.5 million people to stay in this sunny garden city. There’s no space to keep the prisoners.

I think that the best way to manage such costs and competing interests is to let the famous invisible hand do the job. Let’s privatise Singapore’s prisons. In the US, they have proven to be more cost effective than state agencies. You can save lives, lives that need not be sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and land scarcity. If this becomes a viable or even desirable option, maybe it’ll ease the way to abolishing the death penalty.

In a truly twisted vein, can you imagine if such corrective organisations become a source of economic growth? Perhaps then we won’t be so averse to the idea of doing away with capital punishment for good.

5 Responses to “The Third Way”
  1. lorelai says:

    in the spirit of using one “evil” to comabt another “evil”, privatization of prisons has led to economic deprivation of lower classes in the states and the widening income gap because you have brought the 3rd world into homeland, thus killing off whatever unskilled jobs there are even left for poor americans. i know i’m not making a super coherent argument and i’m not saying that the death penalty should stay but economic deprivation do increase violent crime rates. so, in the end, people outside of prison are going to get harmed (ok granted singapore has a slightly different ecological setting). we are merely moving death rate out of the prisons to the streets. while, i agree that we should abolish the death penalty, privatization of prisons is certainly not the way to go.

  2. shiuan says:

    eh. another Australia lor, if economic growth and all.

    keke. I do like Australia – as a tourist – k?

    disclaimer: this is a non-law student commenting in her standard cannot-be-bothered to think way. just in case – i’m scared of your avid readers.

  3. Hi lorelai! Hmm, the issue is whether it is a lesser evil between the two evils. And if so, whether it’s worth considering. I don’t really see how privatization leads to economic deprivation too. Yes shiuan, I like Australia too. Lol.

  4. lorelai says:

    so lah… it’s like i read so many things for my crime classes that i just assume you can see the links. so privatization of prisons (ie they become self-sufficient and profit making) means that cheap labour becomes in-country. think $0.59 per hour for telemarketers you pay for inmates as opposed to paying indians in india (labour might be cheap but overseas charge leh?) as opposed to paying average americans to man the telephones. in the end since most annoying complainers come from in-country, so make use of the in-country cheap labour lah, save on overseas charge also. wow then conspiracy theory comes in, no incentive for politicians (they get a cut from profits made by prisons by the way) to keep crime off the streets since more inmates = more cheap labourers. so then cheap labourers also = to less unskilled jobs for uneducated americans, so jobless and poor leads to frustration and surprisingly increases interpersonal crime rates (ie rape, homocide and assault), so more people go to jail… the whole cycle continues and booms. so my other point was that privatization of prisons don’t really save lives because it causes lower class frustration and contributes to climbing interpersonal crimes in communities that faces concentrated poverty/disadvantage. of course, singapore is a totally different climate but just that the american example is terrible.

  5. Yoz! Heh, I guess there’s a lot of studies that pertain to US. Well, perhaps instead of privatizing prisons across the board, they can just privatize those facing life imprisonment, reducing the impact of economic deprivation. Besides the govt can also regulate the extent of how far these correctional facilities can croach into the private sector. All in all, I think it might be better than hanging them because it’s cheaper.

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