A mass of contradictions…

I don’t agree with the death penalty. Alfred Pierrepoint who served as executioner in Britain for 25 years famously said that it was never a deterrent, it was only revenge. I struggle with the sadly all too regular updates coming out of America where executions have gone wrong, or have been in error; particularly regarding the executions that proceed when the defendant has been diagnosed with mental incapacity.

Two Australian men are scheduled to be executed imminently for smuggling drugs into Indonesia. The media is up in arms. The politicians are up in arms. But it is reported that international pressure is having no effect on the Indonesian government in changing their minds. Tony Abbott, our Prime Minister said that because Australia had supported the country so much after the tsunami, the two men who masterminded the drug run should get clemency (yes really).

In the years they’ve been waiting for their execution, they’ve exhausted every appeal, every option. The Indonesian government are taking a hard line on drug smuggling, they have been open that if you’re caught smuggling drugs into their country, if you’re found guilty, you will receive the death penalty. I think it was one of the defendant’s fathers was on the news last night who was saying ‘My son doesn’t deserve to die with a bullet in his chest’. That is how they’re going to be executed, tied to a stake and shot by firing squad.

The death penalty was not a deterrent to the Bali Nine, they continued with their plan to smuggle drugs into Indonesia, running the risk of being caught in any case. With or without the assistance of the Australian Federal Police who provided information on the syndicate to Indonesian authorities, they made a choice that the money it would bring them was worth the risk.

Over the weekend, I caught up with Dateline on SBS. Covering Staten Island, where addiction to prescription opioid painkillers is at epidemic proportions, the controls placed around people being able to doctor-shop and get prescription upon prescription filled is having a positive effect, at least in some quarters. The prescription drugs at least are now harder to get hold of, but the addicts are moving to heroin instead, because it’s more readily available and it’s cheaper.

People just don’t ‘end up’ on drugs. I don’t know where to buy them, I don’t know anyone who does them. But if I asked enough questions, somewhere, I guess I’d be able to find them. The gossip columns are filled with people who’ve become famous, been given some money that they’ve never had before, don’t know what to do with and all of a sudden are coming out of rehab. Sports stars too, they’re paid so much money and have so much free time, is it any wonder some end up off the rails? Are there people actively on the celebrity fringe who are lurking around, looking for people to say ‘Here, try this?’

One of the people featured on Dateline had been medicating himself from when he was 14 years old. Fourteen! If your teenager dies because they’ve got hold of heroin, or cocaine, or ICE, or whatever else is on the market at the time, wouldn’t you be angry? Wouldn’t you want to shut the supply down? What about your adult child, or your parent, best friend? Anyone you love who gets addicted to drugs, of any description, including alcohol, (let’s not beat about the bush here – that kills far more people than the less acceptable drugs do), is running the risk of their own death penalty.

Indonesia are also cracking down on alcohol, I guess they’re fed up with the tourists flocking from Australia to drink themselves silly and create merry hell in their country. Sydney imposed alcohol lockout laws that are being looked at by other states in Australia to see if similar laws will help reduce assaults, accidents, deaths.

I find myself watching these last few hours unfold; people hurting as they head to a remote island to say goodbye to their children, but feeling entirely unsympathetic to them both. The other seven of the nine received custodial sentences, primarily as they weren’t the ringleaders. The two men are heralded as regretting their actions and have changed their lives around – of that I have no doubt. It’s a pity that they hadn’t thought about that before they decided that the money was worth more than the human lives they were going to wreck by taking the drugs into Indonesia.

As I said, I’m a mass of contradictions. Water cooler chats show similar opinions at work. Yes it’s sad, but they brought it on themselves. I don’t support the death penalty. But when you make the choice, you accept the consequences, whether that goes for using drugs or supplying them. I feel for the people who are left behind to pick up the pieces, wondering what happened to their loved one. Wondering if the drugs weren’t available in the first place, if they’d still be with them?

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