Opinions

Is the Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking Justified?

Comments (35)
  1. Koh Choon Hwee says:

    Well-written article I think, but I was wondering if an argument could be made about the 'special' nature of the drug trade, since it involves international/extra-governmental syndicates, so that might politicize the issue. I'm not sure, have to read up more on this. Thanks Chetan.

  2. Rex says:

    Excellent logical analysis of the issues at stake. One minor suggestion though: Your paragraphs are too long and you should try breaking them up a bit more. While long paragraphs might be appropriate for an undergraduate essay, they will turn off the vast majority Internet readers.

    1. Chetan says:

      Hey Rex, you're right the paragraphs are too long. I'm trying to break them up. I had the same impression that they would a hindrance. I'll do something about them.

  3. Disappointed Reader says:

    This article is a very disappointing read. It is very limited in its analysis and makes the wrong assumption that the aim of preventing drug trafficking in Singapore is solely to eliminate "illegal drug intake" and "drug related deaths". If that is indeed the case, then how do you explain the fact that a person possessing drugs in Singapore will only be punished with caning and imprisonment under our Misuse of Drugs Act?

    Your assumptions of the stance the government will take is too naiive. Perhaps if you researched more, you will find out that the issues regarding the justification of the death penalty for drug trafficking extends beyond simple-minded arguments of deterrence, cost and proportionality. What about the presumption of guilt imputed onto a defendant based not on his blameworthiness but the amount of drugs he is carrying? What about the constitutional validity of death penalty for drug traffickers? These are all issues that are extremely relevant and debated all over the internet. You can claim that you've left out all the more intellectually engaging stuff "because of brevity", but at the end of the day, this is an article a secondary student can write. It is hardly persuasive, the language is informal and the entire article only deals with the most basic of arguments. With all these flaws, i applaud you for actually having the audacity to have the government "respond to your contentions".

  4. Victor says:

    Disappointed Reader,

    I thought this article was persuasive and well-written. Your criticisms are extremely petty and unjustified. E.g. "informal language"? Seriously? This is an student blog, not some academic journal. His (her?) language is perfectly fine for the target audience.

    As for the presumption of guilt and constitutionality of the MDA, these are legal issues that have nothing to do with the main question discussed by the article, which is whether the DP for drug trafficking is justified from a policy/philosophical standpoint. The writer was not trying to tackle the legal aspects of the topic.

    You need to learn how to determine when an issue is relevant to an essay and when it isn't – the fact that said issue is "debated all over the Internet" is hardly the proper test.

    1. Chetan says:

      Great response Victor. Thanks. I'm male btw.

    2. Seriously? says:

      Seriously Victor, you thought this article was persuasive and well written? Even going by your incredibly low standards, how exactly has this article properly addressed the policy/philosophical issues?

      A note to the author. The deterrent effect is essentially a deterrence TO THE CRIME OF DRUG TRAFFICKING, not to some funny extrapolation you have made. So basically if it reduces instances of drug trafficking, it works. Obviously you can't prove his empirically because you'll have to remove the DP to crunch up statistics for comparison. Just because it is difficult to get such data does not mean that it isn't justified. Instead of analysing what data we do have empirically, you choose to criticize the lack of available data on an argument you created out of nothing. BAD ANALYSIS.

      Also, it is without a doubt that the overall policy of the MDA is to protect the public from harmful drugs. I don't get any point in your argument at all. Are you trying to contest this conclusion? So you're trying to say that: "hey govt, you better show us why preventing drug traffickers is good for the public, coz i'm stupid and I don't believe that people who are addicted to drugs will either die or suffer terribly".

      Really bad article. I couldn't agree more with disappointed reader.

    3. Chetan says:

      Ok you went overboard there with that comment. I didn't expect my argument would be misrepresented in the way it has by you. So let me give you my reply:

      "Just because it is difficult to get such data does not mean that it isn't justified"

      You're right here. But think for a second. Since the government is saying that it possesses such data or that there is such data available (which backs up its imposition of the DP), the fact that it is difficult to get such data does mean that its stance is unjustified. Since its stance is built on its claim that there is such data, its needs to show this, and if not, its justification collapses.

      " Instead of analysing what data we do have empirically, you choose to criticize the lack of available data on an argument you created out of nothing"

      I didn't create this argument out of nothing. Let me again, in brief, show you how I got it. I quoted the government's claim that DP for drug trafficking is justified because of its deterrent effects. Then I said: the reason the government cares about deterring drug trafficking is because it obviously leads to societal harm/suffering. Hence, when we measure the successful deterrent effects of executing drug traffickers, we want to be measuring how much societal harm is averted by each execution.

      This is how I obtained this argument. Its not out of nothing (unless you have some very strange and unused conception of "nothing").

      About you're last point. You presented a straw man of what I said. Again unnecessary. Never did I at any point doubt the MDA's intention to protect the public from drugs, nor claim that I don't believe that "people who are addicted to drugs will either die or suffer terribly". I challenge you to show me even one instance where I said what you claim I did.

      I was interested in showing that finding a strong negative correlation between the no. of people executed and the number of people saved from the ill effects of drug consumption is going to be difficult. THIS was my point. I'm not disputing that drug consumption is bad for its recipients. What I am disputing is the likelihood of showing that executing people is going to save or protect lives from drug-related harms.

      Before you come at me all guns blazing, consider a little more carefully what I have said, and try not to present a straw man of what my arguments/claims are. Maybe letting your hot head cool down for a few hours before writing anything might help.

    4. Victor says:

      Seriously,

      You asked why I thought this article was persuasive. Simple: It observed that the deterrent effect of the DP for drug trafficking is unproven. Then it went on to point out that even if the DP does have a deterrent effect, that doesn't mean it is a proportionate punishment. For example, assume that the DP has a better deterrent effect on speeding than fines. Should we then execute anyone who exceeds the speed limit?

      Of course, given that you probably stopped reading after the first few paragraphs, I doubt you noticed Chetan's proportionality argument, which IMO is the more important part of the piece.

    5. Disappointed Reader says:

      Hey Victor,

      Admittedly, i might have been a bit harsh on the language and tone of the piece. But by setting such a huge claim that "the government should respond" and that the death penalty for drug trafficking is not justified, the writer must write with a minimal level of persuasion and formality. Just because it's a "blog" does not make it an excuse to be limited in its relevancy to current issues. If this is a "challenge" to the government, then surely he must address all possible arguments the government might take, including those that i've mentioned. He cannot simply pick and choose the arguments he wants to respond to and make up his own definitions of "deterrence" (i.e. deter people from the harmful effects of drugs) when in the government's definition, detterence is meant to deter criminals from trafficking drugs.

      I am disappointed with the arguments put forth by the author when he set out writing with such a high standard "contention against government" for himself.

    6. Chetan says:

      Victor was absolutely spot on with what he said in his reply. Here's why:

      1) I never said that "the government should respond" to my arguments. I did say that their deterrence-based stand on the DP is weak. But I attempted to show why their stance is weak. And if you are disputing my empirical contention (that its difficult for the government to find data to support their deterrence-argument), then thats fine. But remember also that I considered what would happen if the government did have empirical evidence to support its stand. I considered this possibility.

      2) "Just because it's a "blog" does not make it an excuse to be limited in its relevancy to current issues".

      You might be right, but when did Victor claim anything like this? He said that its ok to write in an informal style because its a blog. He didn't say that its ok to limit relevancy because its a blog. Don't misrepresent him.

      3) "If this is a "challenge" to the government, then surely he must address all possible arguments the government might take, including those that i've mentioned"

      You need to think more clearly here. I challenged the government to show that the DP for drug trafficking (DF) is justified. I did not challenge the government to show that their policy of assuming the guilt of the drugs possessor until he proves himself innocent is justified. Even if the government changes their stance on this and assumes innocence rather than guilt, the DP for DF can still remain. For now the government can simply say, "okay you are innocent until proven guilty, but if we find you guilty, then we will hang you". So the presence of this this policy of guilt-until-proven-innocent has no bearing on what I am focused on.

      About the constitutional validity issue: that the DP is constitutionally valid just shows merely that, that it is valid. What I am interested in finding out, is whether that law is justified. I am interested in the philosophical justification for the law rather than the existence of the law itself.

      "fact that a person possessing drugs in Singapore will only be punished with caning and imprisonment under our Misuse of Drugs Act?"

      To this point of yours, I will say the same thing. This is not relevant to my discussion. This is a different law, the justification for which might or might not be the same as that for the DP for DT. Even if it is the same, this law is not my focus in this article. My focus once again, is the DP law for DT. And from what the government officially stated about this law, I started off my entire
      article.

      3) Now I hope you do not think that I am not interested in all these other laws and policies that you have brought up. I am. But for me to tackle all of them, I need maybe 5 or 10 thousand words. I wanted to rigorously examine the government's justification for DP for DT, and that is what I attempted to do here. I can certainly write about these other issues, but this article will then become much lengthier than it already is.

    7. Victor says:

      Firstly, I think you are taking Chetan's "the government must respond" statement way too seriously. I doubt he was issuing a formal request for the government to reply to his article. Instead, he was simply pointing out that the government's justification for the DP raises certain questions that need to be answered.

      Elsewhere in this Comments section you criticised Chetan for putting words into the government's mouth and making assumptions about its stance. Again, this seems like a criticism caused by your unfamiliarity with the discursive style of writing that Chetan adopted, where he is simply postulating *possible* counterarguments and pre-emptively rebutting them. Of course there might be other counterarguments; if so, then the pro-DP camp should raise them.

      Which brings me to my second point – Issues like the presumption of guilt and the constitutionality of the DP are not "possible arguments the government might take". They are quite irrelevant to the question of whether imposing the DP for drug trafficking is justified. Even if the DP is constitutional, that doesn't make it an appropriate punishment for drug trafficking. As for the presumption of guilt, wouldn't that be an argument against imposing the DP? You are executing someone whom you are not even sure is guilty!

      It seems like you have simply cited a couple of hot button issues that are often brought up in debates over the MDP for drug trafficking, without considering their relevance to the specific question that Chetan is tackling.

    8. Disappointed Reader says:

      please refer below, k thanks.

  5. jammie says:

    The article make these two claims:
    1. If we say that “executing one convicted drug trafficker saves X number of future lives from being lost due to illegal drug intake”, then statistically identifying what that X number is might be very difficult, and even if we could identify it, this number might be very small or even negligible.
    2. This measure appears to make data collection easier, for now we merely have to obtain statistics about the damage to people’s health caused by drug intake that results from drug trafficking. But even this is not easy, as the amount of illegal drug intake may be so low that any strong correlation may be unobtainable.

    Is the writer arguing that illegal drug is harmless because: the no. of death & no strong correlation to health damage ?

    1. Chetan says:

      Hi jammie,

      Here I was saying that because of the difficulty of finding evidence (of deaths/health damage from drug use), we at least don't have statistical data to say that executing drug traffickers DOES deter. This does not mean the death penalty does not deter. It just means that with what evidence we can gather, we cannot say that it does. So in effect, we will not be able to statistically tell whether it does deter or not.

      Now we need not at all conclude from all of this that illegal drug trafficking is harmless. Drug trafficking invariably causes at least some damage to society. But now, without empirical data, we have no reason for imposing the death penalty (for its deterrent effects). Since we cannot tell whether executing traffickers has the desired effect, we should in such a case give them life imprisonment or some other non-terminal punishment. Thats the point I was trying to make in effect: that without this data, the govt (since it upholds deterrence as the reason) has no cause to hang its drug traffickers. It therefore should impose some non-terminal punishment upon them.

    2. jammie says:

      my stand:
      1. illegal drug is very very harmful to society. (period! i do not need empirical data, etc etc to justify this)
      2. illegal drug is very very evil to society.
      3. illegal drug is harmful and evil to society.

      4. HOWEVER, there could be a better way to prevent illegal drug from reaching society than death-penalty.

      Your article begins (and for 2 very long paragraphs) argues against my first 3 points above. (or at least, persuading your reader to re-consider the harmful-ness of illegal drug).

      My stand is very different from yours; not only I do NOT question the harm of illegal drug, i condemn it, i want my government to do whatever they can to prevent illegal drug in the street where my children walks. HOWEVER, i do think death-penalty can NOT be more effective life-sentence. i mean, life-sentence will put away the perpetrator for life, do we still need to kill him?!
      My point is to compare the 'effectiveness' between death penalty vs life sentence.

      On the other hand, my friend, you are arguing and comparing between the harm of illegal drug on the street and death-penalty (..before u actually move on to the point of life-sentence).

    3. Victor says:

      Jammie, your position is irrational and anti-scientific. Simply insisting that drugs are "very very harmful and evil" does not make it so. There are many studies out there indicating that not all drugs are as harmful as they are made out to be. For instance, cannabis, ecstasy and LSD are all less harmful and less addictive than alcohol or tobacco: http://scienceblogs.com/isisthescientist/2009/09/….

      The Government doesn't execute people who drink or import alcohol, so why does it do so for less harmful drugs? Singapore's drug policy is really not based on science, but depends on the irrational, uninformed opinions of people like you.

    4. SeriouslY? says:

      Seriously Victor? You seriously think that drug trafficking can somehow be related to the legal import and distribution of beneficial drugs.

      You seriously think that drug traffickers think "ah…i shall smuggle some drugs into singapore and distribute them into amounts/concentrations that only give people the high they need without the harmful effects of addiction or any other effects (which i have scientifically and rationally investigated. also, my objective isn't to make money out of addicts, NO WAY! i'm here to distribute drugs in a manner which will definitely not harm society". Seriously?

    5. Victor says:

      Where did I say that? This is a classic straw man fallacy. Either that or you failed to comprehend the relatively straightforward point I was making, which is that there are some harmful and addictive drugs (like alcohol and cigarettes) that remain legal.

      Would you support banning alcohol and cigarettes, and imposing the DP on anyone who imports such substances?

    6. Jammie says:

      Victor, my position is not irrational or anti-scientific. I simply the believe the harm of illegal drugs are too obvious to demand a proof. Btw, have you ever read about Opium War? Have ever interact with a drug addict or their family?

      Let's be clear here, Victor, we're talking about illegal drugs that carries Death Penalty in Singapore, they are (source: Wikipedia):
      (a) 100 grammes of opium;
      (b) 3 grammes of morphine;
      (c) 2 grammes of heroin;
      (d) 15 grammes of cannabis;
      (e) 30 grammes of cannabis mixture;
      (f) 10 grammes of cannabis resin;
      (g) 3 grammes of cocaine;
      (h) 25 grammes of methamphetamine;
      (i) 113 grammes of ketamine; or
      (j) 10 grammes of any or any combination of the following:
      (j1) N, α-dimethyl-3,4-(methylenedioxy)phenethylamine;
      (j2) α-methyl-3,4-(methylenedioxy)phenethylamine; or
      (j3) N-ethyl-α−methyl-3,4-(methylenedioxy)phenethylamine,

      Death sentences are also mandatory for any person caught manufacturing
      – Morphine, or any salt of morphine, ester of morphine or salt of ester of morphine
      – Diamorphine (Heroin) or any salt of diamorphine
      – Cocaine or any salt of cocaine

      Victor, tell me than where do you stand on the following:
      * on you questioning the harmfulness of drugs, is it only few drugs? ..or you are questioning the hamrful-ness of the entire drug listed above?
      * what's your opinion, if we re-classify all drugs listed above as controlled items and trade-able on our street ? (perhaps with stricker IC check)

      Victor, I wish to engage in the issue. Please control yourself and do not succumb to ad-hominem attack. I think I am neither irrational nor uninformed, instead I think your position on the harmful impact of illegal drugs to society ..is rather out of the norm. This is the first time I heard the defence against Death Penalty, is by questioning the harmful impact of illegal drugs.

      However, it's also important to keep this discussion honest.

    7. Victor says:

      Jammie,

      I did not say that all drugs should be made legal. My stand is that if drugs like cannabis are illegal, then drugs like alcohol and cigarettes should be banned as well.

      I cited a science article showing the relative harmfulness of drugs. It shows clearly that some banned drugs are actually less harmful than substances like alcohol and cigarettes, which remain legal in Singapore. In contrast, all you did was appeal to popular opinion (by criticising my position for being "rather out of the norm"). How is your position scientific or rational?

      If you really wish to "engage in the issue", then respond to the points I've made instead of avoiding them. For example, do you think alcohol should be banned?

    8. Jammie says:

      hi victor,

      thanks for clarifying. since my first post, all i'm trying to establish is that your article questions the harmful-ness of illegal drugs ..in order to support your opposition to death penalty.

      to me, the article implies that illegal drugs are harmless. But now, you have clarified that u only mean 'some illegal drugs', and you consider these 'some illegal drugs' in the banned list above ..causes only as much harm as tobacco/alcohol.

      ..tbc

    9. Jammie says:

      All the while, i feel you are rather vague when you said 'no evidence' to say whether illegal drugs are harmful or harmless. You simply refused to draw conclusion on the basis of being rational & scientific (i.e. must have empirical data). Yet, you have conveniently use Not-'harmful' as to justify your cause (opposition to death penalty) — as opposed to Not-'harmless' ..which is probably weaken your case significantly.

      You might also have forgotten that the lack of data to conclude if illegal drugs are harmful …came from the fact that the drugs are illegal. If we were to satisfy your rational & scientific demand, then we would probably have to legalize the drugs to get (as you put it..) high enough drug intake ..and big enough drug trafficking activity. For me, I believe we have a better 'science' and can be more 'rational' in assessing the harmful effect of illegal drugs than to legalize them.

      ..tbc

    10. Jammie says:

      You might also have been far too simplistic in stating that government reasons to ban some drugs are only due to 'death' and 'damage to health'. Perhaps, this is why you put illegal drugs in the same league as alcohol and tobacco. You have missed the point of social consequences & (and you might also missed) mental health of drug-addict & their family. If it's only about death & health damage, and you don't any incriminationg evidence, why wouldn't you support legalizing them anyway ?____No, Victor, I do not think Alcohol & Tobacco should be banned, Neither I think Cannabis should be legal. I do not put them in the same league you do. I can google and gives you some links on the harmful effect of those illegal drugs (there're quite plenty of them), but I'm not gonna do that -not because I don't engage in scientific or rational discussion- but because I don't think there's a point in directing this conversation towards that, I believe you have done your study carefully and reads those papers, but you have also made your conclusion to agree with those that say some illegal drugs are not as harmful.

      ..tbc

    11. Jammie says:

      Again, since my very first post, I simply want to clarify if your article claims illegal drugs are harmless. To which you have clarified that you would put 'some illegal drugs' in the same league as tobacco & alcohol. (curious, would you consider the drug that Vui Kong trafficked as part of 'some illegal drugs' in tobacco/alcohol league? – it's heroin, btw)

      So, with you clarification, I rest my case. While we may agree on the need to review Death Penalty, I sincerely reject and condemn you approach. I hope you can agree to disagree too.

      Bye.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think the question in this article should be changed to " Is the MANDATORY death penalty for drug trafficking justified?

    Note the keyword here is "mandatory". Personally if u ask me, I think the death penalty should not be mandatory. Rather, it should instead be a maximum sentence judges can impose on the offender.

    Think about this for a second:

    Suppose someone pointed a loaded pistol at your parents' heads, instructing you to traffic a pack of heroin over the causeway into Singapore or else he would not hesitate to pull the trigger. What would you do?

    Call the police? Nope. Cos by the time they get here, your parents are dead.

    And assuming if you do decide to traffick the drugs over, and you are caught, do u think you will be given the death sentence?

    Of course you would! Cos it's mandatory here in Singapore. BUT IS IT FAIR?

  7. Chetan says:

    Hey all,
    Some of you have expressed dissatisfaction with my presentation of the government's deterrent based argument. For instance, Seriously? said,

    "the deterrent effect is essentially a deterrence TO THE CRIME OF DRUG TRAFFICKING, not to some funny extrapolation you have made".

    I acknowledge his/her point here. Perhaps in order to find out whether DP really deters, we simply need to find data about whether each execution reduced the amount of drug trafficking activity, rather than what harmful health effects drug consumption generates. This might be right. I'm willing to stand down on this.

    But let me point out something that follows even if now we simply focus on drug trafficking activity. It is STILL going to be difficult to show that the drug trafficking activity is being reduced by each execution. Here's why: in order to show this, we need to have data from a time when the DP for Drug Trafficking (DT) was not present and measure the amount of DT at this time. Then we need to compare it to the time after when the DP is introduced and measure the amount of DT then. How are we to get this data when Singapore has been having the DP for DT for such a long time (I don't know how long they've had this law for, please inform me if you do)?

    The other thing is that the government still has to show that DP is a superior deterrent to other punishments like life imprisonment in deterring drug trafficking activity. This is also going to be hard, since it would need to do a comparison of the deterrent effects of having some other punishment to that of DP. Its not clear how it would be able to obtain this data.

    Thus what I want to say is that even if we simply measure the amount of drug trafficking activity, nothing much changes. So beyond this part of my article (where I discuss the difficulties of getting empirical data), the rest of my arguments will be unaffected even with this change. I hope you can see this.

  8. Disappointed Reader says:

    OMG. I think you've completely misunderstood what i've been trying to say. Maybe i should do this in POINT FORM and in a STEP BY STEP manner. Perhaps if you can stop focusing on my (as i've already admitted) more superficial criticisms and actually understand that the whole point of my comments is how simple and ridiculous your arguments are. They lack persuasiveness, contain numerous fallacies and then, only argue the most BASIC positions of deterrence and costs (and thus what I meant by you didn’t cover enough arguments). Let's go through this slowly, shall we?

    1. "First, note that when the government says that the death penalty deters drug traffickers, it is essentially saying that executing convicted drug traffickers under this law helps save its citizens and residents from the harms that drug trafficking brings."

    This is the assumption that seriously? and myself are constantly referring to. Let me help you better understand why this assumption is flawed. Let's accept that your assumption, in general, is true. You consider that deaths that are related to the consumption of drugs is the main aspect that the government is trying to deter. I quote "this is because drug trafficking in Singapore need not lead to any drug-related deaths at all". You continue to state that "since deaths caused by drug intake would require at least either high usage of weaker drugs or low usage of stronger (lethal) drugs, a large amount of drug trafficking activity may have to be existing in Singapore before any significant correlation between no of executions and deaths-due-to-drugs is obtainable." That is only looking at the direct impact and why it is an overly simplistic measure. I mean, there are statistics showing the correlation between drug intake and violent crime and many other factors that you have missed out. Do these statistics not fall under your assessment of "society's pain and suffering"? What about economic impacts?

    2. "Well if this is so, then the government will still have to establish one more thing: that the death penalty is a superior deterrent than other forms of punishment. For if the death penalty is no better a deterrent than say, life imprisonment, then it is not clear why the government should impose the death penalty rather than life imprisonment.”

    You suggest life imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty, it is also customary that those two are equated with each other (as all over the world where the death penalty has been abolished, life imprisonment is the replacement). Therefore, empirically and i assume you agree, they are proportionately the same in its severity as a punishment for drug trafficking. In the face of equal proportionality, is it then so wrong to choose the most cost effective option? After all, it's immediate death by hanging vs death by old age.

    3. You also claim, albeit as a minor point, that “the amount of money and resources incurred in trying, convicting and then hanging the guilty party may be more than is initially apparent”. I suppose you got this argument from death penalty abolishinists in the USA. The appeals there are infinite (from the trial court of a county to the state court to the circuit court and finally to the federal supreme court) and it is a money-draining process but that is limited in the US. Within Singapore itself, we do not have the multiple appeals. Death penalty cases are only tried in the high court and then the court of appeal. That’s it. So technically, there is only one appeal. If we were to take your argument and a life imprisonment was given at the high court, do you think the defendant will then not appeal that decision?

    1. Disappointed Reader says:

      4. We might not have actual Singapore statistics, but surely you don’t expect the government to risk the lives of its people so that it can gather data on whether or not the current measures are effective? In the face of no realistic way of gathering information, we can only look at data from other countries and study them to see if they indeed support the government’s claim that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment. In the USA, based on the statistics from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 30% of all federal inmates incarcerated for murder did so while under the influence of drugs. 20% of all federal and state inmates committed violent crimes in order to obtain money for drugs. As such, the Singapore government uses the deterrence approach to nip the problem at the bud, rather than to deal with the after effects of further crime. In comparison with the US, we hardly have cases of drug related crimes. As such, the current measure can be deemed to be effective.

      5. In essence, your entire essay is too simplified and overly broad. At points, it really does seem that you’ve stolen excerpts from a generic death penalty vs life imprisonment debate and then inserted some made up specifics and assumptions related to drug trafficking (and not Singaporean drug trafficking as it seems that you’ve made a lot of assumptions on the “government’s stance” – are you sure the government has released statements that they’re using the death penalty because it’s more cost-effective?) It is due to the broadness of your essay that I suggested you bring up things that are actually the main contentions of the death penalty for drug trafficking (e.g. the presumption of guilt, the constitutionality and MDP) so as to characterize the essay as a Singaporean one.

    2. Koh Choon Hwee says:

      I agree with Point 1; drug use and abuse could lead to negative social effects that would in turn harm the economy, make Singapore an undesirable place to do business in/live in etc etc. Whole domino-effect to other aspects of society.

      I think Point 2 (Capital Punishment v Life Imprisonment/other forms of punishment) is contentious though, but it is one of those classic stand-off cases with lots of literature written on it and of a different nature from Point 1 that Disappointed Reader (henceforth DR) makes. Kinda like the is there a god or not debate, or pro-life pro-choice. Definitely could be better researched upon.

      I think Point 3 is related to Point 2 but taking into consideration specific legal systems and practices.

      I think Point 4 is related to Point 1, and indeed demonstrates further negative externalities of drug usage that was not considered in the article. Point 4 also addresses the problem of obtaining statistics, which is not related to Point 1; and yes since we lack local statistics we have to look to other countries' statistics but that has its pros and cons too etc

      Point 5 — well it is comments like these that keep us learning and writing, despite knowing we're going to get bashed, that we're going to receive very harsh comments that sometime seem ad hominem, but that's the nature of the internet lah what to do. But at least there was some real critique here and not just bashing; so there's an upside to all this fiery business.

    3. Chetan says:

      Thanks for your comments Dissapointed Reader. I get your position better now. Perhaps if you mentioned all these points (at least in brief) in your original post instead of wasting that space to attack me, we would have come to some kind of understanding sooner. Let me just say at the outset that most of the things you say in points 1 and 3 are valid. I accept them, and I accept the weakness of my points there. For the other points, especially 2 and 4, I think you're again mistaken. Let me explain:

      2) Its very strange that you quote me emphasising the need to show that DP is a superior deterrent, and then you talk instead about the proportionality requirement. Where you go wrong is when you say "empirically and i assume you agree, they are proportionately the same in its severity as a punishment for drug trafficking". First of all, I do not agree with you here. And how did you come to the conclusion that empirically, DP and life imprisonment are proportionately the same in severity? What are you using as a measure of severity? Degree of pain incurred by the criminal perhaps? If so, how did you get to conclude that a criminal who is subjected to the DP experiences the same degree of pain as the criminal who suffers life imprisonment?

      And anyway, this talk about the comparative degree of severity of these two punishments misses out my whole discussion of the proportionality requirement. However severe each of these punishments are comparatively, what we need to show is that the crime in question (drug trafficking) merits either and/or both of these punishments. Even if both punishments are just as severe, DP might not be a proportionate punishment for DT. I'm not claiming that it definitely isn't a proportionate punishment, but I'm just raising the importance of this matter. I discussed this in my article at length so I do not know why you ignored this entirely in your comment. We cannot pick DP over life imprisonment even if the former is more cost effective if it fails the proportionality requirement (don't ask me why here, just read that section of the article again).

      4) I don't expect the government to risk people's lives to gather data. But the trouble is that the kind of data we can get from the US is not going to help our case. People under the influence of drugs might commit crimes, and they might commit crimes for the sake of obtaining drugs as your stats point out. But once again, what is of crucial interest is whether executing drug traffickers is going to reduce these figures. Of course the government is not going to risk its people's lives to gather data. But that does not mean that it can then conveniently assume that the DP deters, and deters more effectively than other punishments. If it cannot collect data, then it has no case for imposing DP on its people, unless it provides some alternate justification for it.

      Again remember that just because "In comparison with the US, we hardly have cases of drug related crimes", it does not show that we should keep the DP. Other punishments could be just as effective. And if they are, then we need to find some way to decide between them (cost-effectiveness, since the Singaporean government is highly pragmatic, might be one of them). If it is cost-effectiveness, then everything else I said from this point in my article comes into play.

      By the way, since we’re on the subject, here’s a link to an academic article which details the inconclusive nature of the empirical evidence for capital punishment: Desert and Deterrence: An Assessment of the Moral Bases of the Case for Capital Punishment. It discusses thoroughly the credibility of the data collected and the problems it contains. It looks like the consensus view in academia at present is that evidence for the DP is inconclusive. Let me know if you have trouble obtaining the article.

      5. Ok first thing is, I never claimed that the government is using the DP because its more cost-effective. I said that it might say this. I think it might because of its general pragmatic nature. Even if DP is no more effective than some alternate punishment, they might favour the former due to its cost-effectiveness.

      Second thing: I still don’t see why the things you suggested are "actually the main contentions of the death penalty for drug trafficking". As I mentioned in a previous comment, my argument does not hinge on them, and so I have left them out. Even if everything you said in your first 4 points is right, it still does not show that I should discuss what you consider to be the relevant issues. Sure discussing these issues might give my article a more Singaporean flavour, but again, since my focus is to identify the justification of the DP for DT, they are tangential.

      On whether I have "stolen excerpts from a generic death penalty vs life imprisonment debate", I can say that I have not. I have attempted to logically and rigorously examine the government’s present stance and the potential reasons it could use to defend itself. Please do not assume otherwise.

  9. Pick a Color for your Bridesmaid Dresses.

  10. Alternative says:

    My stand on this is from a totally different perspective, the punishment for drug trafficking should not be based on the harm that drugs can bring as all drugs illegal or not can be harmful when used incorrectly. instead the sentence should be more of a case by case basis considering the situation of which the offender has trafficked drugs in. if you break it down, you will realise that there are 3 types of people who would be caught trafficking drugs
    1- the true drug traffickers who commits this offence purely for self-benefit
    2- the drug addicts who are compelled to do so due to their addiction
    3 – the innocent who have no idea they are trafficking drugs or are threatened to do so
    Hence the sentence for drug trafficking should not be the mandatory death penalty but this:
    For the 1st kind of offenders – death penalty or life-time imprisonment according to usefulness of leaving offender alive (what i mean by this is that drugs dont just magically appear out of nowhere, they come from med-labs and drug syndicates, if the offender is willing to provide information which would help to cripple the drug syndicate, i feel that in this case, not executing the offender would be a better deterrence to the drug problem)
    For the 2nd kind of offenders, it is better to assume that they have committed the crime in an unstable state of mind and under influence of drugs thus sentence should be – imprisonment min – 6 years with rehab and mandatory 4 strokes and life rehab.
    For the 3rd kind of offenders help should be given to eliminate the threat which compel them to commit the crime and still sentence should be 3 years house arrest, or if offender is tricked into committing the crime, sentence should be 6 years house arrest in which the offender is only allowed to go to work and return home (life as normal but without play) supervised by a bodyguard paid by the offender.

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Established in 2009, The Kent Ridge Common is the independent daily of the National University of Singapore. Writers comprise largely of current undergrads with select alumni contributing to the paper. Opinions expressed are of the writer's own. Please visit our disclaimer page for our terms and conditions.
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