Captial punishment is revenge not justice, graduate student Darryl Freeman said at the Under The Big Tent Debate Tuesday.
"What is the state of the moral compass of a society that is so outraged by the murder of an individual that the response is to take away that offender's life?" he asked.
The topic for this debate was "Crime and Punishment: Is the Justice System Just?" One subject discussed was the war on drugs, including cases of individuals who used illegal substances.
“The idea that you can commit a crime that does not harm others, and is your own choice, is not just,” said debator Matthew Kenyon, a junior history major.
Kenyon said he believes the incarceration of individuals who chose to use illegal substances in a safe environment where there is no potential harm to others is not a rationally defended law.
“In order for a law to be just it must be based on rationality,” he said.
It is wrong that adults with these non-violent charges are locked away with criminals who do have violent charges, he said.
“In order for the justice system to be just, the foundation needs to change,” Kenyon said.
The justice system’s priority should be to incarcerate more violent crime offenders and take them off the streets rather than incarcerating non-violent offenders for using illegal substances, he said.
“The criminal justice system reflects our failures in other systems such as unemployment and education,” said debator Faith Lutze, associate criminal justice professor.
The Under The Big Tent debates are sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement, Compton Union and WSU Libraries. Erin McIlraith, coordinator of marketing and communication at the Center of Civic Engagement, said the center has three goals in mind when putting on a debate.
“The first is to involve the campus and extended community on critical issues,” she said. “The second is to specifically look at issues that are important to us on a local, national and global level."
McIlraith said as an example during this past spring semester there was a debate on alcohol presence on campus, a very important topic for WSU and the Palouse on a local level. She said national and global issues could potentially include topics such as the presidential election or the current war on terror.
“Our third goal is to reclaim the tradition and art of public discourse,” she said.
These days debates can often be biased or become shouting matches, she said. With reclaiming the tradition and art, McIlraith intends Under The Big Tent debates to be calm and civil discussions.
Graduate student and audience member Jenna Battillo said the debate met that goal.
“Overall it went well," she said. "I was surprised at the agreement between the debaters.”
Many of the statements and arguments presented during the debate were often referred back to and agreed with during discourse.
Battilo said she was comforted by the agreement.
“I was disappointed though that there was no discussion on the prison industrial complex or the corruption of the justice officials, police and politicians,” she said.