To More Inmates, Life Term Means Dying Behind Bars

Saturday, October 01, 2005
This is the headline for a story in the NYT this morning. The gist is that sentences of life without parole are being carried out. The hidden message seems to me to be that this is not right or at least not "fair". Question: Are those who are against the death penalty also against life without parole? If so, what do they suggest for the individuals who, but for abolition of the death penalty, would typically receive that sentence?


Anonymous said...
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David Thomson said...

I am reminded of Karl Menninger’s peculiar The Crime of Punishment published in 1968. The New York Times piece does indeed seem to imply that a real life sentence is somehow an injustice. Morally and pragmatically, I firmly reject this line of reasoning. We should send a strong message to those even thinking about committing a heinous crime. Common sense dictates that it will inevitably deter a lot of criminal activity. The available evidence also suggest that I’m right to think so. The nation’s crime rate has dropped dramatically in the last few years.

Rick Ballard said...

Well, it is the NYT. Their writers have to prove inability to handle any process involving logic prior to being employed. This is the same paper that prints articles expressing surprise that while the number of incarcerations increase the crime rate actually falls. I can acknowledge that the premise that a higher rate of incarceration can't be proven causative wrt a lower crime rate but I can't say that I'm surprised at the apparent correlation.

The philosophical well from which the NYT draws its brackish water never changes. There are no "bad" people, only "disadvantaged" people who can be "improved" through the application of "sufficient resources". That's the line of thinking that changed the Bureau of Prisons to the Department of Corrections. If the NYT had control of nomencalture I'm sure we would resort to the Corrective Code rather than the Penal Code when determining the nature of a particular crime (although it would be called an infraction).

As to what they would have done with those who exchanged life without possibility of parole for a death sentence - why, the NYT would just refer you to Father Flanagan's dictum - "There are no bad boys". Repeat it 'til you believe it. Or perhaps you require correction?

flenser said...

The arguments used against the death penalty are all applicable against the justice system as a whole. It can be summed up as "It's better for all the guilty to go free than for one innocent man to go to jail."