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When is change worthwhile?

March 5, 2014

Via Gawker’s Letters from Death Row series (Postcards from the Edge), the Ray Jasper letter has been given more media for its clarity and insight in the face of death and in the eventual aftermath of participating in murder. Without knowing the facts of the case or any rehabilitation of the criminal, the letter itself is an opportunity to learn about the realities connected to academic discussions of ethics and democracy.

What, for example, do we think we are doing with our criminal justice system? Should we kill some who has been fully rehabilitated and is a changed person after committing a terrible crime? What is the objective, the purpose of the system? Is this slavery revisited in the “unacceptable face of capitalism,” to quote Conservative British Prime Minister Edward Heath on a different subject. Many related questions and passions. How much positive change is possible in a person, and should we encourage positive change in every case? This is not only to be taken rhetorically. It’s a matter of life and death and of whether anyone’s life is ultimately worthwhile in the community, regionally as in Texas, or as part of the human race.

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