Fancy Killing People For a Living? Sri Lanka’s Advertising For Hangmen


Perhaps you’re a psychopath who enjoys the terror on peoples’ faces as they understand they’re just about to die. Possibly you’re a well meaning and good natured sort who just thinks the world would be a better place without certain types in it. Whichever it is that leads to your desire to kill people your luck is in. For Sri Lanka is looking to hire hangmen:

Sri Lanka began advertising for hangmen this week, as the country’s president ramps up his war on drugs. The last execution in Sri Lanka was 43 years ago, but President Maithripala Sirisena wants to resume the use of capital punishment for drug traffickers in the next two months.

Not that capital punishment particularly reduces the flow of drugs even as it nibbles away at the number of drug runners. Iran has been hanging – often enough from a crane, something that doesn’t require a skilled hangman – drug runners and dealers for decades and the place is awash with heroin and the like.

As Gary Becker pointed out it’s the likelihood of getting caught times the punishment which is the expected cost of the crime. Death plus a one in a hundred chance is a minimort risk, hanging plus a one in a thousand a micromort. At some point even with the death penalty drug dealing becomes as risky as driving a car – something that does have an appreciable risk of death.

Drug trafficking is a capital offence in Sri Lanka, although no one has been executed for any crime in the country since 1976, with all death penalties commuted to life in prison since then. The country’s last hangman quit in 2014 without ever having to execute anyone, citing stress after seeing the gallows for the first time. Another hired last year never turned up for work.

There are some technical requirements over and above that simple desire to do the job. Given the British colonial background Sri Lanka executes by long drop, not the more American method of strangulation. So an ability to calculate weights and drops is necessary.

The Sri Lankan government has started advertising for hangmen with ‘moral character’ after the previous executioner quit with stress after seeing the gallows for the first time.

It’s that requirement for moral purity which is a bit odd. Over the generations executioners have been regarded as very much outside that normal public morality. One English one was let go for drunkenness but that was actually on the job which was thought to be a bit off.

Be the perfect job for a certain type.

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[K]not the type of job that interests me….