Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Thoughts 28 - Drugs + Death Penalties

I don't get super serious or talk about controversial topics too often on this space.  Today, I don't have funny gifs or memes, and I'm not talking about books or posting photos of my fur babies.  Today, I'm getting serious.  I fully anticipate that not everyone will agree with me.  That's okay. 

For further information on this case, or if you don't like my quick summary, google "Bali 9"; there will be plenty to read about.  
Photo source

Last week, Indonesia executed two convicted drug smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were Australian citizens, a penalty that many, particularly in the Western world, believe is unjust and brutal.  Death by firing squad.  A lot of opinions and controversy, even diplomatic fractures have surrounded this case in Australia and Indonesia in recent months and weeks. The guys were convicted in 2006 of smuggling approximately $4million worth of heroin. They were described as the ring leaders who recruited others to be drug mules, and allegedly, this was not the first time that either were involved in drug trafficking offenses. So...they got caught and justifiably deserved punishment. 

Australia doesn't have the death penalty, so a lot of Australians do not support it ever. Indonesia has some pretty sketchy laws about who they execute and who they don't. For instance, this year they freed a guy who organized a bombing in Bali that killed people (including Australian tourists), but they executed the drug smugglers. 

Many media reports surrounded these two guys showing they were remorseful and completely rehabilitated. Lots and lots of media stories paint them in a favourable light. One of them became a minister while serving time in the Indonesian prison.  There were tons of stories from their families, mothers and siblings pleading for mercy.  Some of the family footage was heart-breaking to watch. 

Sensationalized stories surrounded a legitimate news story.  Sometimes, it was difficult to decipher what to read and who to listen to.

Australian politicians, ambassadors, and diplomats got involved. Indonesian authorities got pissed, pretty much saying don't tell us how to run our country. Lots of media, debates, panel discussions, interviews, updates, and social media banter flooded the news for weeks. With all of the news coverage, it was pretty difficult not to think about it and come up with my own personal views on the situation.

I do not agree that death by firing squad is the correct punishment for this case. But. The laws and penalties in Indonesia are well-known in this part of the world. These guys took a risk, broke the law, got caught, and were punished for it.  

Being from Texas, there's a lot of exposure to news stories about the border drug trade between Texas and Mexico. If you get involved with the drug trade in Mexico, there's some stiff penalties. Mexican prisons are not nice places, but if you get involved in the drug game in Mexico and get caught, a prison may be a luxurious form of punishment compared to the Mexican cartels getting ahold of you.  Not just death, but beheadings and torture are part of their punishment. Those Mexican cartels don't mess around.  To avoid these unpleasant punishments, what should you do?  Don't get involved in the drug trade.

So. Australians know Indonesia has drug laws that are punishable by death. If you smuggle drugs, you take that risk. If you're caught, you may not like or agree with the punishment. 

I am not trying to sound hard or heartless.  I've thought a lot about this.  Here's what stuck with me:  I've broken the law. I've driven drunk. I am not proud of that fact.  Not one little bit.  I could've injured or killed someone. If that horrendous possibility would've actually happened, I would have deserved the stiffest penalty under American law for that offense.  If I had committed that offense in another country, I would have deserved their punishment.  I wouldn't have liked going to prison.  I wouldn't have enjoyed or looked forward to receiving that penalty.  But, I made a terrible, terrible choice.  So, I would have deserved the penalty. 

I feel sympathetic towards the families. They didn't make the choices their sons or brothers made.  Without a doubt, these families are suffering, mourning, feeling a tremendous sense of loss and unjust.

I may sound like I'm stepping up on a soap box...I know this...but I'm going to do it anyway...I'm entitled to an opinion.  Drugs are bad.  Drugs kill.  Families fracture because of drugs.  Rapes occur because of drugs.  Robberies, thefts, and burglaries occur because of drugs.  Murders occur because of drugs.  Some children are abandoned by their parents because of drugs.  Some babies are born addicted to drugs.  Governments spend a lot of money to combat the drug trade.  Many tears are cried, many hearts are broken, many souls feel lost and empty because of drugs.  The ripple effect of drug trafficking is far and wide.  Punishment for smuggling $4million worth of drugs into or out of another country should be hefty.  I just don't think the firing squad is the answer.

Some opponents of capital punishment say it does not serve as a deterrent.  I say this: if you followed the Chan and Sukumaran case, and you are Australian, and you are a drug smuggler, if you do not see this case as a deterrent for drug smuggling in/out of Indonesia, I don't know if anything will deter you.  Therefore, you deserve the punishment that you get.  

Stepping off soap box.  


  1. I agree with you completely. Drugs are bad but not death penalty bad. We can do better than that.

  2. Never ever travel without knowing the laws of the land you're in. And stay out of places where you don't agree with the laws of the land.

  3. I totally agree with you about being subject to the laws and punishments wherever you are. I remember a case years and years ago of an American kid that was in...Hong Kong? Singapore? I can't remember the location, but he had done some vandalism and was sentenced to be caned. Americans were up in arms about this horrible form of "torture" and tried to get it stopped. I can't remember if they were successful or not, but even as a young junior high school kid, I knew he deserved it since that was the law of the country he was in.

  4. I was amazed that this wasn't broadcasted hardly at all in the US. I know we had other serious things going on, but I get really frustrated/disgusted that we don't put much emphasis on the world around us. I literally only knew about this case because of you and Axl Rose writing a letter about it that my GNR obsessed bff posted on FB. But you couldn't say it enough - if you're going to travel anywhere let it be The United Kingdom to Indonesia you need to research and have a basic understanding of the laws and culture.

  5. i love this post Erin. I completely agree. Of course drugs are bad and the firing squad is absolutely not the answer.. but the fact is, it is the answer there and we should always respect the laws of the countries we are in. I'm not heartless, but if you break the law in your own country or another.. you broke the law. You knew what you were doing was wrong. I'm sorry you were killed but there isn't a single Australian who doesn't know the laws in Indonesia, you know?

  6. I am against the death penalty, no matter in which country and how you do it. But of course these guys knew that there is the death penalty in that country and that you can get sentenced to death for drug smuggling there. So yeah, it is their fault. Feel bad for the families.

  7. I completely agree with you! I think the death penalty should only be used in extremely rare cases, and I don't agree with the death penalty for drugs. Granted, drugs are serious and bad, BUT they aren't murdering people left and right for fun.


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