The Attorney General of Louisiana, Jeff Landry, has recently announced that he plans on bringing back more diverse options to the implementation of the death penalty if the problems relating to lethal injection are not solved. Many progressives consider this a massive regression in a state that the larger Union already perceives as politically antiquated. What does it mean for Landry, as the Times Picayune put it, to “have not pushed changes to the state law on his own?” The political blame-game of who wants to kill convicted inmates with more efficiency is a reflection of a Napoleonic system that rewards punitive punishment over rehabilitation.
The ludicrous nature of the argument becomes apparent to all who look closely enough at the options given to states in which the death penalty is legal. Would the Governor of Louisiana prefer firing-squad or frontiersman hanging to lethal injection? Should we make the inmates take 20 paces and duel? Such options may sound tongue and cheek, but the reality of the death penalty in Louisiana has historically been one born from political hawkishness, rather than there being an actual societal preference. What the death penalty reflects is the nature of Foucault’s ideals of Crime and Punishment, or more simply, the idea that a convict must suffer for their crimes rather than simply atone for them civilly.
In 2018, is there a place for capital punishment in a state that already has so many problems regarding its justice system and legislative direction? The questions to any voting Louisiana citizen is simple; is the proper use of lethal injection really our number one concern on the political scale? Are there not other things Jeff Landry should be taking his time dealing with? Have our political leaders shown any indication that they have the moral temperament to have such powers?
Ultimately, it is up to us as voters to answer such questions and more importantly, to come to terms with the physical nature of the death penalty itself. What are we willing to stomach and what are our politicians willing to use to grandstand against their electoral opponents. As New Orleanians, we have a special duty to scrutinize a legislature that has already shown its incompetency in our most critical moments of need.