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The place for vengeance

Roebuck, K. (1997, June). The place for vengeance: Many grieving families seek comfort and closure in the execution of the murderer. Do they find it? U.S. News and World Report.


The Center for Youth Studies is pleased to have the following article review offered by a high school student. We believe that insight from young people themselves is important for today’s youth workers.

A new reason to support death penalty has emerged. This reason is the right of the victim’s loved ones to gain relief through the death of the murderer. Survivors of murder victims often can’t begin to really grieve until the murderer is dead. They focus all of their anger on the murderer and it can only be released once he is dead. One of the reasons for the strong anger felt by loved ones is their treatment from the criminal justice system. Police are often indifferent to the pain and suffering of the survivors judges sometimes arrange seating in the courtroom so as to keep the jury unbiased in relation to the victim, and many times families and friends are not informed if a hearing is delayed. In Oklahoma in 1979, two drifters broke into Brook Douglass’ house, raped his twelve-year-old sister, and shot his parents, him, and his sister in the back of their heads. His parents died. Glen Burton Ake was tried and convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison while his accomplice, Steven Keith Hatch got the death penalty. It took 18 years for Hatch to be put to death. Douglass watched Keith’s execution and afterwards felt that it was not enough.

The effectiveness of this right to vengeance aspect is still under dispute, but more often than not, families of murder victims do not experience the relief they expected to feel at the execution, says Lula Redmond, a Florida therapist who works with such families.


  1. What can be inferred from this article about the complexity of the death penalty issue?
  2. What importance does the issue of capital punishment hold for society as a whole?


  1. The death penalty can be used to teach that moral decisions are not usually black and white choices, but complex issues that need to be thought out.
  2. Capital punishment can also be used to introduce talk about rehabilitation. Are criminals completely hopeless with regard to changing their behavior or is there room for forgiveness and rehabilitation? If there is room, is the death penalty really necessary?
Jeffrey Harrington cCYS