The death penalty simply does not work. Those two morons who murdered that soldier in Woolwich, were asking to become martyrs. That is why they did not flee the scene. The armed response unit wisely fired shots into limbs, so they could be taken and put on trial. Had they shot to kill, the two miscreants would have got what they wanted.
During the troubles in Northern Ireland and without making judgements, there were hunger strikes which without force feeding, would have resulted in deaths. This what the prisoners wanted. In their anger and misguided mental state they wanted to become martyrs. The best policy is to rob them of the opportunity to become martyrs, then after a fair trial - with a jury - give them time to think about what they have done and possibly come to regret. I stress fair trial, because many prisoners in Northern Ireland in the 1980s had been put there on the decisions of a judge at "Diplock Courts" with no jury. The prisoners considered themselves to be political prisoners and victims of injustice. Many proved to have been wrongly imprisoned in later and more enlightened years.
I have personally met and talked with a number of murderers from the 1960s and' 70s, one a multiple murderer. They had all committed hideous crimes and in conversation I could tell they were not the firebrands, or unthinking maniacs they once were. They were changed men, humbled by their experience of being behind bars, for more than forty years in some cases. I was able to talk to them alone, because they were extremely ill and could barely move. They were much wiser than they had been and were all well aware of it and yes, they all regretted what they had done. This was not the regret of men thinking to smooze their way past a parole board, because I had no authority and no means of passing my observations on and they would not have been able to enjoy more than a few months outside. They were just talking about the past and the common theme seemed to be "What an idiot I was when I was young." They were also thinking about their victims and their victims families.
I have also met a number of murderers at the beginning of their sentences. They did not recognise what they had done and all believe they had been given a raw deal, and expressed no thought for their victims, it was all about them and their needs. This type are often full of rage and quite a few are ready to commit suicide to prove their point. They are all deranged. Let us see how 30 or forty years behind bars changes them.
If we were to hang them, the focus would be upon them and worst of all worlds, some would see them as victims and try to comfort them, campaign for them. There are far more nutcases on the outside than inside. Murderers are similar to mad dogs. Mad dogs should be shot, but humans who kill their own kind have the capacity to learn regret and that over a long period of time is a far worse punishment than a few hours of intense fear, which finishes at the end of a rope. Most went to the hangman in a calm state, very few fainted or kicked up a fuss. It was all a bit of an anti-climax.
Long years of learning to regret and then years more spent in the realisation they had wasted the lives of others and their own lives is retribution like no other form.
As regards the cost of keeping murderers alive, at current rates it costs about twice as much to execute a murderer in the USA as it does to keep them fed and secure for the rest of their lives. It might be argued that it is done cheaper in other countries, but I think we still need due process before we go for the drop. Those nations which convict and go quickly to execution are over time, coming to realise that many injustices are done when justice is hurried. Once someone is hanged they cannot be brought back. If they are wrongly imprisoned they can be released and at least, financially compensated for their lost time and the ruin of their lives. There have been a great number of such releases in the UK in recent years.
When we read of gangsters, pedophiles, or terrorists who commit murder, the gut reaction is to want them dead. Far better to keep them under lock and key and with no chance of parole. Once a person has crossed that threshold, society cannot be sure they will not offend again. Let them serve a term for punishment, then keep them securely held for the rest of their lives. There is no way that atonement can ever balance the books, or guarantee public safety.
Finally, murderers who were hanged are remembered long after their victims have been forgotten by society. In a twisted way they seem to have achieved an immortality comparable to great historical figures. An immortality in their notoriety which their victims could never have. The names of Neville Heath, John Christy, James Hanratty and the much lamented Ruth Ellis, may be remembered, but who did they kill? In the USA we may know of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, but again, who were their victims? Instead of executing them it would have been far better to let them fall into well deserved obscurity and serve out their lives behind bars.
In more enlightened times, Ruth Ellis may have been considered to have been driven to a Crime of Passion. Not after they hanged her though. It was her execution which caused the futility of the death penalty to penetrated the minds of the nation and eventually bring it to and end. The Death Penalty never stopped a single murder.