To the editor: Have prisoners been asked what they think of the death penalty? I would not be surprised if a significant portion of those with very long sentences would prefer death to "suffering many levels of hell," as Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, puts it. ("Judge Alex Kozinski on bringing back firing squads: No, I wasn't kidding," Op-Ed, July 30)
We should poll the entire prison population to find out how many would prefer death, who they are and which method would they prefer. And then we should respectfully permit them to die in the manner they choose. This would alleviate much unnecessary suffering as well as save money.
Unless, of course, making prisoners suffer the torments of hell is what the penal system is all about, despite our claims to the contrary
Chuck Almdale, North Hills
To the editor: Kozinski's response to the question of why most other Western countries have abolished the death penalty — that "most of these countries have in their recent past abused it," referring specifically to the horrific 20th Century histories of Germany and Romania — is either disingenuous or ignorant.
There are at least 98 countries (including virtually all of Western Europe) that have abolished the death penalty entirely and an additional 42 countries that have either abolished it in practice or retained it only for military crimes or extraordinary circumstances (and not for "ordinary" crimes like murder). Judge Kozinski defames most of these 140 countries collectively by his careless statement.
In any event, the U.S. modern history of both arbitrary and racially discriminatory imposition of the death penalty counts as abuse in my book. The Innocence Project counts at least 18 people exonerated through DNA who had served time on death row.
It is long past time for the U.S. to join most of the Western world in abolishing the death penalty.
Kay Virginia Webster, Agoura Hills