Why death penalty is needed
I HAVE been a volunteer with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry for more than five years, in the course of which I have counselled and interacted with a variety of prisoners, including many who were previously on death row, either for murder or drug trafficking ("Death penalty for heinous crimes not the answer"; last Friday).
In my dealings with them, the view I have come to is that for many prisoners, new as well as seasoned ones, the only punishment that they are truly frightened of is the death penalty.
Even though caning is very painful, for many of the prisoners, it is no longer a deterrent, and I know that many would be prepared to be caned again if the trade-off is that their prison terms can be shortened.
I will always remember a counselling session where we started by praying for a prisoner who was about to be caned, and within 10 minutes of the start, it became a "boasting" session among the older prisoners, many of whom were telling the man who was about to be caned that, compared to the "good old days", the caning he would soon receive was "a piece of cake".
Even though the maximum number of strokes that can be handed down by the courts is 24, I know of many prisoners who have been caned more than 50 times, over many prison terms.
Which means that for many hardcore offenders, once they have been caned, the fear of caning is no longer an effective deterrent.
With regard to the risk of hanging an innocent man, I have come across quite a number of prisoners who have killed more than once and drug traffickers who I thought should have been hanged.
The conclusion I have come to is that even though we have the death penalty, the powers that be appreciate how precious human lives are, and that unless both the Attorney-General's Chambers and the judiciary are absolutely certain that the accused is guilty of the capital offence, he will not be given the death sentence.
Even though the death sentence is against the teachings of my religion, I have unfortunately come to the view that because humans are sinful by nature, and for some of us the fear of God per se is not sufficient to prevent us from committing heinous crimes,
we need the death sentence to ensure that our society remains safe.
Joseph Tan Peng Chin