Thanks For Hanks, Plus: I’m Dying For Your Opinion

If I’m a bean counter in City Hall, a grants writer, a department head or anyone in the building that wants Congressman Jim Himes’ attention, I’m making friends real fast with Shante Hanks.

Shante has been hired by Himes to serve as point person for the filtering of federal infrastructure stimulus funds. Shante most recently worked at Housatonic Community College as student life and special projects coordinator with grant-writing experience. See her credentials in prior commentary.

From what I can tell from Himes’ news release about Hanks, if the city wants a piece of that federal recovery dough you had better process your handywork through her. She’ll be splitting her time between the Bridgeport and Stamford office.

Why do I get the feeling Shante is an overnight sensation? In fact, I’m extending an invitation to Shante to join us at the OIB party March 12 at Matty’s Corner in Black Rock. That should draw a City Hall crowd.

Death Penalty Debate

I see that the economics of the death penalty has Connecticut–and even fire-engine-red states such as Kansas–rethinking frying people. Connecticut could save roughly $4 million a year by abolishing a death penalty it has used once in the past 50 years.

Interestingly, what so many do not get is that it costs the government more to kill men and women than to lock them up forever in a long, slow, painful, lonely super-max facility. Death row requires far more security with legal costs astronomical. Yes, we put people to sleep and call it justice.

People say it’s a deterrent. Baloney. There’s not a stat on the planet that shows the death penalty is a deterrent. You want to say government-sanctioned killing is revenge, call it what it is, revenge. If it’s a deterrent why is our murder rate among the highest in the world? The biggest economy on the planet, the European Union, doesn’t believe in the death penalty. That’s right, the nations of the European Union do not support it.

Let’s see now, hundreds of men on death row in this country have been exonerated in the past five years through DNA testing. Two men this past year in Connecticut, one a rape case and another a murder (although not capital felony) were granted freedom and a new trial because the government got it wrong.

Yeah I know, I’ve heard the ear-splitting refrain of wimpy pols–until the pus has oozed out of my ears–fearful of being framed soft on crime: the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst, says Republican State Rep. Themis Klarides of Derby. That’s the typical horseshit we hear from pols that support the death penalty. Translation: I’m worried about losing the election.

Funny, all of those men who’ve been exonerated through DNA testing were called the worst of the worst.

I wish the Catholic Church would weigh in as heavily against the death penalty as it does against abortion rights. Would Christ, a man put to death by a barbaric government, be for the death penalty? I think not. Fire-breathing conservatives don’t want to hear that when their blood thirst drips with rhetoric.

Connecticut’s death penalty went unused for 45 years, the last a Bridgeport guy, until Michael Ross was iced several years ago. Connecticut pols, granted, do not froth for frying as do legislators from Texas, the execution capital of the world, so we don’t have nearly as many on death row.

So, should Connecticut abolish the death penalty?



  1. Touchy subject. I have to ask you a question. If your wife and daughters (sons) were brutally murdered like that family in Cheshire what would your feelings be on the death penalty?
    I believe people are against the death penalty as long as they are not affected by it.
    I feel that late-term abortions are state-sponsored murder and I don’t see any uprising against them. So I guess it comes down to whose ox is being gored.
    Lennie I don’t mind telling you this is a lousy topic.

  2. Lennie, I couldn’t agree more. It’s not a deterrent, it costs a fortune and it’s morally wrong. The thought that the State may have put innocent people to death sickens me.

    Instead, I think we should focus on a humane way to detain violent criminals that isn’t as comfortable as your typical prison. I know it sounds funny to call a prison comfortable, but I believe for a lot of these people being in a locked cell with three meals a day and a roof over their head isn’t a large deterrent either.

  3. Lennie,
    Bad news. Judith’s response to mud wrestling was “As I said, NO mud wrestling for you!!! I wouldn’t like that …” She is way too elegant and classy a woman to hang out with a mud wrestler. But that begs the question, why would she be dating a troll?

    1. “As I said …”???

      So this isn’t the first time you asked her?

      Maybe if you ask her a few more times, you’ll wear her down.

      Lennie, keep that wrestling contract ready just in case!

      (Troll! Troll! Troll! Troll!)

  4. I’m all for the death penalty. I’ve never considered it to be a deterrent, just a damned effective punishment for heinous and hideous crimes.

    But (and this is a really BIG BUT), there is no way on earth I would ever serve on a jury in a capital case and vote to put a person to death. Why? At last count, more than 100 condemned prisoners have been completely exonerated as a result of improved technological forensic measures. I shudder to think how many innocent people were put to death over the years.

    While I feel that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment, I do not think that it should be applied until we have, in force, a system by which absolute guilt can be established. The test of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is simply not sufficient in this regard and, in my view, it never will be.

  5. “Wondering”, I agree with this part of your comment, ” I believe people are against the death penalty as long as they are not affected by it.” I would change your comment to this question “If your wife and daughters were the one who commit murder what would your feelings be on the death penalty?”

  6. Lennie,
    The Catholic Church, for all its faults and the disgraceful way it covered up the abuse scandals, does in fact take a strong stand against the death penalty.

    Let me turn the question around: How many anti-death penalty advocates out there are also pro-life? Here’s another: Ever meet a pro-life animal-rights activist?

    On a totally unrelated topic, does anyone have any prediction on where the mil rate will land? No one I’ve spoken to–homeowners, City Hall employees, even a couple Testacrats–seems to have an idea.

    1. It is a part of the beliefs that I learned as a boy going to church every Sunday that everyone should be forgiven, no matter how heinous the offense. We all must serve penitence, whether it is around ten bloody marys and ten how’s-your-fathers or serving time in a prison cell. We are obligated by our creator to hold out for the possibility of redemption, no matter how remote.

  7. I have no problem with capital punishment … I don’t give a rat’s ass what Europe does. I have no problem with revenge. Don’t understand Ron Mackey’s riposte about what if it were your kids.

    Having said that, we should not waste the time pursuing these punishments because it’s a farce.

    Lennie you need to grow a pair and quit being so freaking kumbaya.

  8. Christ Lennie you are talking about $4 million and not a peep about the wasteful spending coming out of Washington with both parties tripping over themselves to get their pork in the new budget. Not a word about the millions being spent to study the odor given off by pigs and cows. Millions to study honey bees or millions to study shrimp in Las Vegas and the list goes on. The millions being spent to remove barriers so small fish can migrate. Just a thought.

  9. On the Hanks point, hey, you know it sounds as if someone is trying to ensure that the federal economic stimulus money actually gets down to the people by heading off the corrupt political apparatus of the various needy towns in Fairfield County. Good deal, good show. Hallelujah and amen, brothers and sisters!

    On the death penalty debate … I lived in Florida for eighteen months back in the ’80s, a state that was a little slow to move from electrocution to lethal injection. (Old Sparky was decommissioned only after a condemned inmate’s head caught fire during an electrocution procedure.) The death penalty works as a deterrent in only a very limited capacity: Michael Ross was convicted of raping and strangling several young women back in the ’80s. His execution deterred him from ever doing it again. But that could’ve been accomplished by sending him to prison for the rest of his life, which is the cheaper alternative. The very second a convicted person is sentenced to die for his or her crime, an appeal is automatically filed with the court. In Texas, Florida, Georgia, states that regularly prosecute the death penalty, there are cottage industries of attorneys specializing in death-penalty appeals. Who pays for these lawyers? The taxpayers, of course.

  10. The week got off to a depressing start. The hopelessness and despair that preys on everyone’s mood in the homeless fraternity was becoming a greater burden than the worldly possessions carried on my back, weighing my spirit down like a cast-iron tortoise shell. Sunday was the worst, gray skies all day, strong biting chill winds cutting through to the very marrow of my bones. After the free-for-all under the bridge I was beginning to lose grip on who I was; felt as though I was fading into the masses of Those Who Are Invisible To The Middle Class.

    Yesterday I worked for about six hours. Not much but it put some jing in my pocket and got my ass out of Bridgeport and the Rescue Mission for a few hours.

    I was loafing around Black Rock yesterday afternoon waiting to get paid, when the phone rang. It was a caseworker from Operation Hope, calling to inquire if I was still interested in a bed. I wanted to respond with a rhetorical witticism along the lines of “Does a bear shit in the woods?” but chose to respond simply in the affirmative. Two people offered me a ride to the bank and the front door of the shelter. I got there, filled out the paperwork, and got a comfortable bed for sixty days, use of a washer and dryer, television viewing hours, a quiet room to write in, use of a telephone for local calls, and the services of a caseworker to assist in long-term housing, employment, etc. In the space of about thirty-seven minutes my life changed for the better.

  11. *** If the death penalty were actually carried out much quicker then it is now; say after 3 appeals (max) to be certain without any doubt on guilt, then it would be a deterrent! Which means, everything legally must be moved along much faster if it’s a death-penalty case. Trial & sentencing, 3 appeals (max) including DNA testing, mental & physical state, etc. Lets say 7 years from start to finish with top priority, due to being a death-penalty case. But to have someone on D/R for 15 yrs. or more just waiting, with appeals that come & go throughout the years, including all the money involved in the case from start ’til finish. Then it’s obvious to all that it’s not a deterrent but a waste of taxpayers’ money for a particular type of justice that does not work! So put them in a super-max; limited privileges, single cell, radio, bible and basic prison issue, 1 phone call, prison Dr. and family visit a month. One shower a week, 1-hour rec. alone in courtyard a day, no clocks & limited glass-blocked windows up high for some sunlight. C/O talks to inmate when needed, otherwise there’s no talking between staff & prisoners period. *** Time will do the rest! ***

      1. *** In this day & age with all the scientific crime tests, DNA, 3 appeals, plus mental & physical test, etc. within a 7-year period should be enough time to make the final decision to call for a state of execution in a true capital case! ***

        1. It’s not as simple as that. Many states limit the access of the condemned to DNA analysis and other forensic testing of evidence. There are pending appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court on this subject; decisive case law in favor of inmates may be the result, even with a right-leaning court.

  12. “Denis OMalley” stated “I have no problem with capital punishment … I don’t give a rat’s ass what Europe does. I have no problem with revenge. Don’t understand Ron Mackey’s riposte about what if it were your kids.”

    Mr. OMalley, I ask you, “If your wife and mother were the ones who commit murder what would your feelings be on the death penalty?” I am not using what happened in Cheshire as my example.

  13. If the state eliminated the last of the Blue Laws by approving Sunday liquor sales and eliminated the death penalty, that could make up to $19 million available to plug the budget deficit.

  14. Rob, I agree with you. It is more economical to just give life in prison and if there is exculpatory evidence down the road the person is still alive not dead. I understand the emotional arguments both ways, but it is the factual ones that sway me. There are too many mistaken convictions, no additional deterrent benefit can be proven and there is substantial evidence that many countries with no death penalty have less crime.

    Rob, correct me if I am wrong but the historical legal purposes of punishment in our legal system are as a deterrent, retribution, rehabilitation and incarceration (protection of society.) If you look at everything logically and pragmatically the death penalty really only serves retribution, the other reasons are served by life in prison. For the sake of retribution do we want to risk the death of an innocent person? It is not cost effective, nor does it reduce crime. Passion for justice is wonderful, but misplaced passion and religion should not write our laws.

  15. A little something from Amnesty International. Be sure to check out the good old USA. It’s right there with those other champions of justice like Zimbabwe, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

    Death penalty – Abolitionist and Retentionist countries

    More than two-thirds of the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The numbers are as follows:

    Abolitionist for all crimes: 92
    Abolitionist for ordinary crimes only: 10
    Abolitionist in practice: 36

    Total abolitionist in law or practice: 138
    Retentionist: 59

    Following are lists of countries in the four categories: abolitionist for all crimes, abolitionist for ordinary crimes only, abolitionist in practice and retentionist.

    1. Abolitionist for all crimes

    Countries whose laws do not provide for the death penalty for any crime

    Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome And Principe, Senegal, Serbia (including Kosovo), Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Holy See, Venezuela

    2. Abolitionist for ordinary crimes only

    Countries whose laws provide for the death penalty only for exceptional crimes such as crimes under military law or crimes committed in exceptional circumstances

    Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Fiji, Israel, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Peru

    3. Abolitionist in practice

    Countries which retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes such as murder but can be considered abolitionist in practice in that they have not executed anyone during the past 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions. The list also includes countries which have made an international commitment not to use the death penalty

    Algeria, Benin, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo (Republic of), Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Kenya, South Korea, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar, Nauru, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Zambia

    The Russian Federation introduced a moratorium on executions in August 1996. However, executions were carried out between 1996 and 1999 in the Chechen Republic.

    4. Retentionist

    Countries and territories that retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes

    Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Burundi, Chad, China, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, North Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad And Tobago, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe

  16. I must be a neanderthal but society needs retribution/revenge. The good must see the bad are punished. It underscores why they want to be good … A moral risk/reward ratio.

    We do not send people to prison to be rehabilitated but to be punished. If in the price they reap that benefit, great!

    Again, it’s all academic, debate society stuff. There is essentially no death penalty. I have no problem with the death penalty but am now against it because it’s not worth the time & cost.

    Again to Ron’s point, bit of a ridiculous question. If my wife or mother performed such a heinous murder, why would my “feelings” have anything to do with the death penalty? Society and the justice system handle the issue, not my feelings!

  17. I am glad to see that Amnesty International considers murder an ordinary crime. Rwanda has no death penalty; I guess genocide takes care of that. Has anyone read about what is going on in Mexico with its drug wars? Serbia–not that long ago genocide was prevalent. Damn it John why didn’t you mention the countries that have no death penalty but practice genocide or is it that you like giving the US a jab. You’re tilting too far left.

    1. Taken collectively, which group of countries would you rather see the US grouped with–those that have the death penalty or those that don’t?

      Bottom line for me–The death penalty is barbaric and serves no useful purpose. Apparently, most of the countries in the rest of the world agree.

  18. It is kind of easy for some Americans to sit back and pontificate about retribution/revenge as long they don’t know the murderer or as long as they are not affected by it. I mean who cares, for the sake of retribution/revenge do we want to risk the death of an innocent person? According to Denis OMalley, kill them even if it’s his wife or mother, that’s deep.

  19. *** Most of the countries that have no death penalty either have a dictator or warlords that do the killing! Whether it’s in prison or out does not matter because someone somewhere will be calling the shots, good or bad. In America, they fill the prisons up but don’t give up the money needed to run the place safely. So the prisoners’ lives aren’t safe, nor the staff or public in the hosting communities! Institutions reach maximum cap. so they release career criminals that should be doing longer time or really should never get out! In some countries the government patrols everything outside the prison grounds with the prison lifers & gang leaders controlling everything inside the human Zoo! *** The bible says an eye for an eye, and that sounds fair to me! *** Why, because in this world there has to be more of a deterrent than life in prison! *** Killers like having ultimate power over someone or something, playing God so to speak and once they’ve killed, it becomes that much easier for “some” to kill again, etc. ***

  20. Lennie, I wouldn’t let you die, at least not all of you!

    I’m against the death penalty as it’s currently applied.
    I remember the weeks after March 8, 1994. That’s when I went to Hartford and gave Gov. Weicker the finger. Yes, stubby is going to be 15 years old. The same politicians who favored the death penalty were of the opinion that amputating the trigger fingers of folks convicted of using guns in a crime was cruel and unusual punishment. Does it matter whether the state executes inmates by lethal injection; the gas chamber; a firing squad; or hanging them at a Seaside Park tree? What if they were chopped into pieces starting at the fingers? Is there really a humane way to execute a person?
    There are over 100,000 sick and dying people waiting for an organ donor to save them. About half will die this year. Why are States executing young and healthy inmates and allowing their organs to go to waste? I’d push for organ harvesting of those sentenced to death. For every one put to death we can save or extend the life of five or more. As an elected official, I would sleep much better knowing that I made someone pay for their crime and saved lives in doing so. If I had a son who was put to death by a state and his organs were donated, I would feel better knowing that in a strange way, he is to some extent alive and free.

  21. *** Hey Butch, hey Butch, wanna talk? Hey, hey, Butch, did you hear what I heard? Hey Butch, Hey Butch, tell me a story? “Nah”! Okay Butch, okay, I really didn’t want to do those things anyway! But did you hear this one Butch, did you hear it? *** Forget about it! ***


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