Call me inhumane if you want, but in the wake of yesterday's conviction of six of the 10 defendants in the Catherine Fuller murder case, I say it's time to fire up "Ole Sparky."

That's the District of Columbia's electric chair, now gathering dust at Lorton Reformatory, and yes, I'm talking about bringing the death penalty back to this city.

After listening to many residents say what they felt should be done with Paul Jordan, who was recently convicted of butchering a woman and baby to death, as well as those on trial in the Fuller slaying, I am sure that there are many in this city who are ready for a change.

"I say hang them," said one man. "Fry 'em one by one," said another.

"The Bible says an eye for an eye," said David Fuller, the husband of the slain woman. "That's the way I feel."

The outrage is understandable. What we're talking about here is not deterring crime but seeking retribution for crimes committed. We're talking about sending a message that there are crimes so heinous that the person or persons who commit them should pay with their lives.

A few weeks ago, opponents of the death penalty -- including Mayor Marion Barry and City Council Chairman David Clarke -- had a fund-raiser because they know they are about to have a fight on their hands.

The arguments against putting someone to death ring of compassion.

Murderers usually kill only once, goes one plea. We might make a mistake and send the wrong person to death, goes the other. And in this city, especially, there is the old song that if the death penalty was brought back, mostly blacks would be sentenced to death.

But look at it this way: Our criminal justice system -- from our top judges to the police chief to the head of the Department of Corrections -- is now in the hands of black people.

The Supreme Court now allows the death penalty, but the D.C. government has made it clear in no uncertain terms that it should never be brought back.

Yet our criminal justice system has evolved into a revolving door of injustice that cries out for finality. For those convicted of heinous crimes against society, that finality should be death.

Meanwhile, there is a major point about the way criminal justice works in this city that should be understood.

From the day of the arrests in the Fuller murder case, according to informed sources, death contracts were being circulated and signed within the D.C. Jail and down at Lorton, where two of Fuller's sons are doing time.

Whether we want to admit it or not, "death sentences" are routinely meted out in our prison system.

They don't use electric chairs; they don't use ropes or guns. They use "shanks," long knives fashioned in the metalwork shop by inmates so proficient in their craft that they could go work for the Wilkinson Sword company tomorrow.

It is a cop-out to pretend that this society does not want and need its revenge. It does not serve the interest of the community to let the crime and punishment be in the hands of criminals.

When you get a guy like Paul Jordan who can go into a baby sitter's house and butcher-knife her and a baby -- the child of two D.C. police officers -- and then have him convicted and merely sent to prison so he can watch soap operas all day, this is not justice.

The same thing will happen to the six convicted yesterday, and that fact is an insult to the people of this city. Indeed, you can bet that at least one of them will be back on the streets before Fuller's 13-year-old son finishes high school.

Jordan will not be electrocuted. Neither will "Snot Rag," "Hollywood," or the other thugs who killed Fuller. But the city should be prepared, in the event that something like this ever happens again, to make the perpetrator pay the ultimate price.

Given the chicken-hearted nature of most criminals in this city, I'll bet that the prospects of sitting with Ole Sparky would be enough to deter at least some of them.