Thoughts on killer’s sen­tence

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FROM THE COVER -

As Spencer Whit­ney makes clear, the death penalty is less of a pun­ish­ment for the 22-yearold Dy­lann Roof, steeped in the worst of Amer­i­can racism, than life in prison with­out pa­role would have been. In prison for life, Roof would not only “see mi­nori­ties thrive in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety,” as Whit­ney wrote, but he would also be forced to live among the very peo­ple he has been taught to fear and de­spise. Many of the pris­on­ers he would have to live among, as well as the prison staff he would have to an­swer to, are African Amer­i­cans, a fact which could only be felt as a pun­ish­ment to him.

The death penalty might be emo­tion­ally sat­is­fy­ing for those met­ing it out, but it fails the ra­tio­nal test of what pun­ish­ment is sup­posed to ac­com­plish. There is even the pos­si­bil­ity that in that en­vi­ron­ment, Roof would be­friend a non­white pris­oner and learn how the poi­son of racism, like Dr. Franken­stein, cre­ated a mon­ster that led to his own de­struc­tion.

Michael Kroll, Oak­land

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