Singapore, from Craig Mee

May 18, 2011 |

 Is the Singaporean enthusiasm for the death penalty just hard-nosed economics– it's cheaper to bump them off than keep them in jail? Hardly, the Singaporeans also have a very high imprisonment rate – 388 per 100,000 population according to current British Home Office figures. Australia's imprisonment rate is 115 per 100,000, Britain's is 141, the highest in the European Union. The USA has not only the world's largest prison population (now more than two million) but also the highest imprisonment rate (701 per 100,000). Russia comes second at 606.

The US imprisonment rate is so high it probably skews US unemployment figures, making them look better than they really are. Singapore leaves them all in the dust. The squeaky clean city state is not just secretive about its execution figures it's positively vague. When Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong was asked by the BBC in September 2003 why he didn't know the precise number of people executed (his guess was 70 or 80 when the actual figure that year was closer to 10) he replied that he had "more important things to worry about."

Yishen Kuik writes:

Singapore executes you for owning firearms, murder and drug trafficking, in that order of frequency. Drug trafficking is most of it (70%?), mostly couriers and dealers. We are not in the business of storing drug dealers, we are in the business of burying them so they dare not hawk their wares. Other nations make this a cause celebre because Singapore routinely executes their citizens (about 1/3 of all executions), especially the Australians. They never make the same fuss when Singapore executes Singaporeans (the remaining 2/3 of the time).

What they don't realize is that once upon a time, when Singapore was governed by the British, it was a free port with meager tax revenues. To pay for municipal administration, the colonial government promoted and taxed opium. 50 % of govt revenues was from opium before WW2.

As a result Singapore was a giant opium den with huge numbers of addicts. Having been there, there is an institutional memory among the older generation of the ruinous effect of drug addiction, and hence support to apply capital punishment to drug dealing.



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