Regaining the Moral Clarity to Punish Criminals

 

shutterstock_208296562Sounds easy right? Just a boring topic that states the obvious. The problem is, when it comes to the criminal justice system, the mainstream media has, on one hand, created the myth that prison is hell on earth, and, on the other, horribly mislead the public about the death penalty. The prison systems in the United States have been locked in the 1960s liberal fantasy that we can — and, worse, should — always try to rehabilitate career criminals.

To be clear, I am focusing this post on the worst of the worst: the murderers, violent gang members, rapists, child molesters, etc. The people who my wife and I have dedicated our lives to prosecuting. I will save discussing how retribution should apply to addicts or non-violent first time offenders for another day. But how we punish the worst of the worst will shock you. There is a massive moral deficit in the criminal justice system, one that values criminals far above victims — and it is disgusting. If we are to regain the moral clarity and fortitude to punish the worst of the worst, it will only come from the political right.

Those who don’t have experience in the trenches of the criminal justice system get a very myopic and negative view of it: cops are renegade vigilantes with a badge; the death penalty costs too much and often punishes the innocent; prisons are nothing but raping grounds and murder houses; cowboy legislatures keep increasing not only what is criminal but also the sentences associated with crime. Some of these debates are worth having, but the casual listener must understand that he is only being given anecdotal information from a pro-criminal left that seeks to relegitimize the liberal fantasy of the reformed killer. One needs only to look to how the left slobbers over Mumia Abu-Jabal — a convicted cop-killer who has turned his crime into celebrity — to see how morally bankrupt the criminal justice system is. In a moral society, Abu-Jamal would have been vilified and put to death — as most of those on death row or serving life sentences should be.

We do not do to criminals what the left wants us to believe that we do. As NYLS professor Robert Blecker has pointed out the media only report one dimension of punishment: duration — how many years the criminal got. But in doing so, they completely ignore the second dimension of punishment: intensity. How unpleasant is the time that you spend in prison? For the intensity of the crime, most people only have television shows like Lockup, Lockdown etc. — shows that are produced by that agenda-less bastion of truth, MSNBC.

What MSNBC does not show is the child-raping murderer getting a college education, playing organized sports on the rec yard (complete with taxpayer-supported uniforms!), receiving contact visits with his family and friends, indulging in arts-and-crafts time, or, in certain states, enjoying conjugal visits. Arizona’s death row gives each murderer a flat screen TV and premium movie channels. This was driven home to me as I was listening to the phone calls of a man I put on death row for torturing and killing someone to get into the Aryan Brotherhood. He was telling his mom about how he was learning about Wicca, watching movies and Sons of Anarchy, and eating potato chips. This was just after my wife and I reduced our cable to just local channels because we couldn’t afford the $140 a month for expanded cable. Would I want his life right now? Of course not. But I didn’t torture a man to death.

One needs only to look at the mission statement of any Department of Corrections to see how far from the idea of punishment we have gone. I challenge readers to find a single state that even mentions “punishment” in their mission statement. You won’t. I took a quick sample of large states as an illustration here, here, and here but they are all the same.

Take a quick look at the mission statements and you’ll easily see the main theme: prisons do not exist to punish, but focus on safety, security, and rehabilitation. Rehabilitation has its place for the vast majority of non-violent offenders. It has no place for criminals like Kermit Gosnell. What is the appropriate punishment for what he did? It’s probably no shock that I fall on the side of a quick but painful death. Even those who don’t agree with that, however, would probably balk at the intensity with which he is actually serving: dorm setting, medium-security prison, in and out of his cell when he chooses, recreation, contact visits, sweets ordered from the store, arts and crafts, and the ability to socialize with his fellow “inmates” (a chummy word that has unfortunately taken hold in our society. They are prisoners, not inmates). Once a criminal leaves the headlines and heads into the prison system, no one will ever ask what he did to get in. Corrections officials almost have a phobia about the topic — they’re not about to tailor some sort of confinement commensurate with the crime.

No I am not proposing the rack, burning at the stake, or water torture. But free college educations?  Should a brutal child-rapist like Patrick Kennedy get contact visits? Does he really need to play on a softball team? Or eat chocolate? Charles Manson — arguably, America’s most notorious murderer — was recently in the news because he was going to get married. While the press took a tongue-in-cheek approach to the story — especially once the wedding didn’t pan out — I was shocked at the real story: we are letting this man get married? How does our society step over the bodies of those victims and allow a criminal like Manson to enjoy one of the greatest blessings we have in life? As a free man, Manson lived in absolute squalor, a filthy hand-to-mouth existence. In prison, he enjoys a vastly better life than he ever could have had otherwise. Our rapists and murderers enjoy more access to quality of life opportunities than our homeless veterans. That is a moral outrage and a failing to victims of crime.

We have a moral obligation to punish the worst of the worst. It is an obligation that is as old as society itself.  And no, this does not extend to the parents of innocent blood. It is our obligation to the victim — the actual victim — not to foster an environment that leads back to blood debts.

Our society has lost its moral compass on a number of fronts. And while there is plenty to debate and reform in the criminal justice system, we must regain our moral fortitude to once again punish the worst of the worst.  Our side is the only one that is capable of leading this charge. If not us, who? If not now, when?

Published in Domestic Policy, Law
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 59 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Excellent post!

    I still shake my head at the honors bestowed on convicted cop killer Wesley Cook, a.k.a Mumia Abu-Jamal.  You should add him to your list of outrages.

    • #1
  2. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    I had a friend who was a prison guard was always in favor of having activities and entertainment because they pacify the prisoners.  Bored prisoners come up with schemes to kill their fellow prisoners and prison guards.  I think the main function of prison is to keep dangerous people out of our society.  Even with the flat screens and the awesome team building experience of prison league softball loosing one’s freedom is something I wouldn’t want to experience.  I’d much rather have our prison system keep guards and other prisoners safe than finding ways of punishing prisoners further.

    • #2
  3. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Thelonious has a real valid point. Since we can’t just kill these people quickly( I wish we could) and painfully we should protect the prison guards. I have a good buddy who is a prison cop and he feels like the one Thelonious mentioned. People close to the scene probably know best.
    With that said , money will get tighter and bring about some fun times for these scum. So expect conditions to get worse.

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @carcat74

    A long time ago, I saw a TV show where the convicted murderer was given a choice.  Either death administered promptly, or he was set free within a compound and hunted by the victim’s spouse or father.  If he made it alive to a certain point, he would be imprisoned, not killed.  I may not be remembering it right, but sounds like something Rod Serling would have produced.

    I don’t know if it would work for us, but what can be done?  Maybe someone needs to do some undercover filming to get the real story on how prisoners are actually treated.  Let’s not let the left control the narrative on this subject.

    • #4
  5. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Vince, your post reminds me of a story my brother shared with me this week. (I will look for link – my iPad has lost ability to copy url addresses). A white family was the victim of a violent home invasion and perps were black. At some point the white victim shared in court that his toddler was now afraid of black men.

    The judge gave the perps probation and chastised the father.

    I fear any moral clarity we ever had as a society has been long lost and can’t be regained. Instead it must be retaught.

    Edited to add link:  Black Judge Attacks White Victims of Home Invasion for “Stereotyping” Black Men.

    • #5
  6. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I agree with you Vince. I lived in San Fernando Valley during the Manson spree and was absolutely sickened to realize people were evil enough to do the things they did. All of them should have stood before a firing squad. Gosnell is another one. Kennedy too, it was his step daughter he raped. These evil, evil people deserve death according to Biblical Law. Murder is the only commandment that is punishable by death if broken.

    Maybe if money gets tight enough we can start eliminating these people instead of spending tax $$ to keep them alive. I admit I am a bit biased as my daughter’s life long friend was murdered by Gerald Gallego. He killed about 9 other people on his sexual slave spree with the help of his wife. It was only a fluke she wasn’t with her friend when they went shopping.

    • #6
  7. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    thelonious:I had a friend who was a prison guard was always in favor of having activities and entertainment because they pacify the prisoners. Bored prisoners come up with schemes to kill their fellow prisoners and prison guards. I think the main function of prison is to keep dangerous people out of our society. Even with the flat screens and the awesome team building experience of prison league softball loosing one’s freedom is something I wouldn’t want to experience. I’d much rather have our prison system keep guards and other prisoners safe than finding ways of punishing prisoners further.

    OTOH, prison should be boring with one exception.  Prison is about punishment, so nothing that resembles normal, outside life should be allowed, even if it reduces the chances of prisoners coming up with schemes as mentioned.  Nor should prisoners be allowed weight-lifting equipment, or martial arts classes, where they can become larger and even more dangerous, both within prison, and when they get out.

    As for administering the death penalty, it must be quick and painless, but it should also be without fanfare – no victims’ family or press allowed to witness the execution.

    The exception?  Prisoners should be allowed to read The Bible – not the Koran, not Wiccan books, but The Bible.  Yeah, I’m letting my Judeo-Christian bias show, but I’m biased for a reason . . .

    • #7
  8. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    DocJay:Thelonious has a real valid point.Since we can’t just kill these people quickly( I wish we could) and painfully we should protect the prison guards. I have a good buddy who is a prison cop and he feels like the one Thelonious mentioned.People close to the scene probably know best. With that said , money will get tighter and bring about some fun times for these scum.So expect conditions to get worse.

    Yes—I’ve heard the same thing from the corrections guys I know.

    Incidentally, though I am against capital punishment for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here, if I personally had to choose between death and spending my life in prison as Mumia or Charles Manson or whomever, I think I might choose death. No matter how many flat screen TVs you gave me, about the worst thing I can imagine is a life spent anywhere as Patrick Kennedy.

    You know, we might try walking around every evening with a bottle of sleeping pills with the lethal dose printed in bold type on the side…”having trouble sleeping, Mumia? Why don’t I just leave these right here for you…”

    But that’s an evil thought, unworthy of a Woman of the Cloth, so pretend I didn’t say it.

    • #8
  9. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Boring?  Dunbar would have loved it.

    • #9
  10. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    As a woman of the cloth you might want to listen to Dennis Prager on the 6th Commandment. Of the Ten, it is the only one that carries the penalty of death, should you break it. Dr. Prager explains why.

    http://prageruniversity.com/Ten-Commandments/Do-Not-Murder.html#.VTQZEpOjepo

    • #10
  11. Vince Inactive
    Vince
    @user_659173

    thelonious:I had a friend who was a prison guard was always in favor of having activities and entertainment because they pacify the prisoners. Bored prisoners come up with schemes to kill their fellow prisoners and prison guards. I think the main function of prison is to keep dangerous people out of our society. Even with the flat screens and the awesome team building experience of prison league softball loosing one’s freedom is something I wouldn’t want to experience. I’d much rather have our prison system keep guards and other prisoners safe than finding ways of punishing prisoners further.

    It is certainly the position of prison wardens that the benefits that they give prisoners are intended to mollify the violent. I have two responses and they are interrelated: first, keep in mind I am discussing the worst of the worst, which is a fraction of the prison population. Rapists, child sex offenders, and the most violent murderers. Everyday we ask police officers and the military, brave men and women, to go into dangerous situations on our behalf. Couldn’t we ask the same of Corrections Officers when it comes to the worst of the worst? I have many friends who are Prison Intelligence in my local jurisdiction, and when asked what they would prefer– uniformly they respond that they wish they could just get the lawyers and bureaucrats who have never walked a tier out of the prison, regulating their jobs. The non-stop fear of lawsuits is far more present than fear of highly controlled prisoners. Anecdotal, sure, but that has been my experience. Second, it does not have to be a zero-sum game. It can be incremental in taking joy out of the life of a rapist. Why must a serial rapist be allowed to enjoy chocolate or breakfast sausage or braised chicken? Most prisons have a “loaf” that is completely nutritious and utterly tasteless. Why not reserve that for death row? Why should a murderer feel the cool breeze of Spring on his face? These are joys in life that we can take away incrementally, at a minimal risk to the staff.

    But it’s interesting you mention harm to the DOs. Our current hug-a-thug posture endangers their lives just as much as the perceived threat of what would happen if we suddenly began to punish. Jesse Con Ui was a Mexican Mafia murderer. Convicted of murder and given a life sentence in Arizona. The feds got him on a federal drug charge and put him in federal custody. Arizona obliged, it’s relatively expensive to house Mexican Mafia murderers. But despite being a convicted murderer he was walking around in a federal prison in Pennsylvania in medium security. Of course, that makes sense because he was not a trouble maker and prisons do not ask what the criminal has done. Despite having an enormous increase in his freedom compared to Arizona, Con-ui wasted no time in stabbing a young CO to death. NOW the feds have him in “Supermax” awaiting the death penalty. He is in Supermax only because he could not be “adequately managed”, it has nothing to do with his crime. And I take little comfort in the DOJ prosecuting a death penalty case. Federal prosecutors have an embarrassing track record when it comes to death compared to State prosecutors.

    • #11
  12. Vince Inactive
    Vince
    @user_659173

    Kate Braestrup:

    DocJay:Thelonious has a real valid point.Since we can’t just kill these people quickly( I wish we could) and painfully we should protect the prison guards. I have a good buddy who is a prison cop and he feels like the one Thelonious mentioned.People close to the scene probably know best. With that said , money will get tighter and bring about some fun times for these scum.So expect conditions to get worse.

    Yes—I’ve heard the same thing from the corrections guys I know.

    Incidentally, though I am against capital punishment for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here, if I personally had to choose between death and spending my life in prison as Mumia or Charles Manson or whomever, I think I might choose death. No matter how many flat screen TVs you gave me, about the worst thing I can imagine is a life spent anywhere as Patrick Kennedy.

    You know, we might try walking around every evening with a bottle of sleeping pills with the lethal dose printed in bold type on the side…”having trouble sleeping, Mumia? Why don’t I just leave these right here for you…”

    But that’s an evil thought, unworthy of a Woman of the Cloth, so pretend I didn’t say it.

    But they already have that choice. My point is we must look at prison and punishment as it is not as we hope it to be. Any prisoner in any part of the prison, death row included, has unlimited access to any drug they want. If they want to commit suicide because “prison is so terrible” they can get a hotshot of heroin faster than most people on the street. It wouldn’t be that bad of a death. And yet, it rarely happens. Serial Sniper Dale Hausner is the only one in years. Appeals after appeals after appeals are filed by death row criminals to… remain alive. Very few death penalty appeals are asking for outright reversal. By and large the vast majority of the appeals are to commute the sentence of death. By definition that means a natural life sentence for most of them. If prison is so terrible, monotonous and boring, why do they fight with everything they have to live?

    As rationale human beings we love to put ourselves in their shoes and think “I would hate to be in their shoes”. That’s well and good, but I am assuming you are not the type of person that can torture another human being with a blow torch, a power saw and a kitchen full of plastic. A scene that would make Dexter blush. Or to rape a 5 year old child, on video, such that the child begs for death. These are real cases, real victims. That child’s life is worth more than his rapist. But under the current criminal justice system no one will care about the emotional well being of the victim 5 years from now. But the rapist will have candle light vigils, and a Pope speak against his natural life sentence because he won’t have access to videos and books now.

    These criminals always have the option to take their lives, any time they want. They choose not to. They are different from you and I in every respect, and they choose life in prison again and again.

    • #12
  13. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    DocJay:Thelonious has a real valid point.Since we can’t just kill these people quickly( I wish we could) and painfully we should protect the prison guards. I have a good buddy who is a prison cop and he feels like the one Thelonious mentioned.People close to the scene probably know best. With that said , money will get tighter and bring about some fun times for these scum.So expect conditions to get worse.

    Sitting in the bleachers as a Soccer Aunt in SoCal, I got to know one of the fathers who was a prison guard at LAC and according to his testimony the single most destructive/expensive thing that occurs in these hellholes is associated with mail and visitation. Prisoners receive all the cash, drugs and most of the weapons that threaten the guards from the outside.

    • #13
  14. Vince Inactive
    Vince
    @user_659173

    Don’t forget the abuse of “legal mail”. Doesn’t take much to fake letterhead with a scanner and a color printer these days. Scan a couple of your lawyers letters, put “legal mail” on it, and the COs can’t touch it.

    • #14
  15. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    There was always a rumor that a friend of mine was smuggling heroin into a client of hers via the mail, and he in turn using the heroin to buy protection.

    I’ve never asked her about it, but I’m sure she felt justified doing it if she was convinced it was saving his life.

    • #15
  16. user_428379 Thatcher
    user_428379
    @AlSparks

    Vince: The people who my wife and I have dedicated our lives to prosecuting.

    When it comes to abuses, I’m more worried about the lawyers than I am the cops.  A prosecutor engaged in misconduct is less likely to be punished than a cop is.

    Really, if you’re a prosecutor, what you posted is disturbing.  I expect people engaged in law enforcement to dispassionately enforce the law, not go on a crusade.

    Another example of a crusader in law enforcement is the federal Attorney General, Eric Holder.  He should never have been entrusted with prosecutorial discretion.

    Just because you’re on the other side of that equation, doesn’t make you right.

    • #16
  17. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    These criminals always have the option to take their lives, any time they want. They choose not to. They are different from you and I in every respect, and they choose life in prison again and again.

    I know. I even know what you mean by “these are real cases.”

    Even knowing the few real cases that I know (that is, really know—firsthand, with all five senses operational) —which is a tiny fraction of what you have to carry around—it is hard not to think of them as, in the immortal phrase of one of my lieutenants, a bunch of oxygen thieves.

    And you’re right—they could take themselves out of this life. And they don’t. I can’t imagine suffering through a single day inside their skulls—but somehow, they don’t seem to mind all that much.

    We could make life more unpleasant for them. But what we can’t do (thank God) is take a blow torch to the blow-torch guy, blow the legs off the Boston Marathon bomber, or brutally rape Patrick Kennedy. We can’t turn Patrick Kennedy into an eight year old girl and then brutally rape him either. In other words…we can’t have revenge. We want it, and we can’t have it. Trying to have it makes us into something we don’t want to be.

    The most compelling arguments I’ve heard against the death penalty (and other cruel and unusual punishments) doesn’t have to do with what it means for the condemned, but what it means for those who have to carry it out. People will say ‘oh, I’d be willing to kill that guy,” but it’s easier to say than to do. For that matter, it’s easier to say ‘oh, I’d lock that guy up and feed him nothing but nutritional loaf for fifty years” than it is to actually do this.

    I remember reading about a case in Leavenworth prison—a man was convicted of murder during the hiatus when the death penalty was outlawed nationwide. So he gets sent to prison for life, and while he’s there, he murders someone. So now what? He’s already serving life…and he’s dangerous. So they build him a special cell, a sort of cage. And he was kept under observation at all times by two guards. If he behaved himself, he was given his art supplies. (I think he might have been the model for the guy in Silence of the Lambs?)

    I thought of him when I read Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking. She suggests that “life without the possibility of parole” is a reasonable alternative to the death penalty. I tend to agree—but I don’t think we should kid ourselves that it is necessarily more humane. Keeping a guy in a cage with neither privacy nor company (other than his jailers) for fifty years is, basically, torture. Whether or not we care whether this bad person is tortured, we do care whether good people must take on the role of torturer.

    How do we punish the worst of the worst without punishing the people who have to carry out the punishment, without causing damage to them?

    I don’t know what the answer is. Moral clarity would certainly help. It would help if people stopped making stupid, sentimental excuses for evil people, and acknowledged that there is such a thing as an inexcusable crime and an irredeemable person.

    Mike Huckabee had a nice editorial about the death penalty back when he was running for president the first time—I’ll see if I can find it.

    • #17
  18. Jason Rudert Inactive
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    I think prison is currently about as bad as it needs to be. What do I gain as a citizen by treating prisoners worse? I place no value on whatever satisfaction you gain by “punishing” them, whatever that means. So what other arguments do you have for convincing me that they need to be treated more harshly? I can’t work up any outrage over whether they get chocolate and TV. I don’t care what they read.
    Bear in mind that you are taking away years of these mens’ lives–prison is a sort of fractional death penalty, and it is often more than half of their lives. It’s not a part of the design of the prison experience that they also get all manner of diseases which generally go untreated (hepatitis in particular) but it is nonetheless part of the experience, and one that does make prison worse.

    • #18
  19. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    I can’t work up any outrage over whether they get chocolate and TV. 

    As a taxpayer, I am easily outraged at the $35k per price tag these derelicts incur annually.

    • #19
  20. Jason Rudert Inactive
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    EThompson
    I can’t work up any outrage over whether they get chocolate and TV.

    As a taxpayer, I am easily outraged at the $35k per price tag these derelicts incur annually.

    Why? It’s just part of the cost of running a society. It keeps them out of your house.

    • #20
  21. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Jason Rudert:EThompson I can’t work up any outrage over whether they get chocolate and TV.

    As a taxpayer, I am easily outraged at the $35k per price tag these derelicts incur annually.

    Why? It’s just part of the cost of running a society. It keeps them out of your house.

    There are approximately 2.3 million prisoners in this country. Do that $math.

    • #21
  22. Vince Inactive
    Vince
    @user_659173

    Al Sparks:

    Vince: The people who my wife and I have dedicated our lives to prosecuting.

    When it comes to abuses, I’m more worried about the lawyers than I am the cops. A prosecutor engaged in misconduct is less likely to be punished than a cop is.

    Really, if you’re a prosecutor, what you posted is disturbing. I expect people engaged in law enforcement to dispassionately enforce the law, not go on a crusade.

    Another example of a crusader in law enforcement is the federal Attorney General, Eric Holder. He should never have been entrusted with prosecutorial discretion.

    Just because you’re on the other side of that equation, doesn’t make you right.

    Define “prosecutorial misconduct”. My guess is you don’t understand what that means if you think it goes unpunished.

    Son, don’t you think for one second Eric Holder gets to call himself a prosecutor just because some politician appointed him to a (in theory) prosecutorial agency. I ain’t no federal lawman pardner. I actually try cases, meet victims and talk with jurors.

    • #22
  23. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Kate: How do we punish the worst of the worst without punishing the people who have to carry out the punishment, without causing damage to them?

    The punishment for the worst of the worst is death as the Torah states. They cannot continue their murderous behavior. Society is free of them, leaving those who could possibly be rehabilitated to do so.

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    My knowledge of prisons is not good, I guess. I thought that prisons and prisoners were fairly well sorted out. Martha Stewart went to Camp Cupcake while the murderers went somewhere else.

    I also thought the states shipped some of their violent offenders to other states better equipped to handle them.

    It strikes me that we could do better with sorting out the prison population if we took a regional approach.

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    Kay of MT:Kate: How do we punish the worst of the worst without punishing the people who have to carry out the punishment, without causing damage to them?

    The punishment for the worst of the worst is death as the Torah states. They cannot continue their murderous behavior. Society is free of them, leaving those who could possibly be rehabilitated to do so.

    I can see that—and I think that’s what Huckabee said: that the death penalty has to exist, even if it is used rarely, because there are people who are beyond the reach of rehabilitation and even our ability to safely constrain.

    More to the point, however, I am very sorry about your daughter’s friend. That is a terrible loss for everyone who loved her. The effects of a murder are so profoundly different and more complex than any of the deaths I have (so far) had to endure, and it always amazes and humbles me to meet the relatives and friends of murder victims and find them still upright, still able to engage thoughtfully and generously with life. and love. Whenever I am tempted to lament my troubles,  I think about people like you.

    • #25
  26. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

     I ain’t no federal lawman pardner. I actually try cases, meet victims and talk with jurors.

    Vince—I think you should have room on Ricochet to talk about these things more directly and informally than you would in a courtroom or a law journal or whatever.

    • #26
  27. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    MarciN:My knowledge of prisons is not good, I guess. I thought that prisons and prisoners were fairly well sorted out. Martha Stewart went to Camp Cupcake while the murderers went somewhere else.

    I also thought the states shipped some of their violent offenders to other states better equipped to handle them.

    It strikes me that we could do better with sorting out the prison population if we took a regional approach.

    And maybe the real waste of money is sending a non-violent offender like Martha to Camp Anything?

    Not that I’m a fan, just that she seems like the textbook case of someone who should not be housed and fed at taxpayer expense. An expanded system of intensive probation (big, fat, clunky orange GPS devices worn visibly and yes, humiliatingly on the wrist, not discretely on the ankle) with jail or prison as the back-up seems like a better way to punish non-violent crime?

    • #27
  28. Vince Inactive
    Vince
    @user_659173

    Kate Braestrup:

    We could make life more unpleasant for them. But what we can’t do (thank God) is take a blow torch to the blow-torch guy, blow the legs off the Boston Marathon bomber, or brutally rape Patrick Kennedy. We can’t turn Patrick Kennedy into an eight year old girl and then brutally rape him either. In other words…we can’t have revenge. We want it, and we can’t have it. Trying to have it makes us into something we don’t want to be.

    This is the heart of retribution, not revenge. Assuming death is off the table– there is a significant difference between removing the joys of life, or at a minimum not going out of our way to make life pleasant for them, and the intentional infliction of pain. Retribution is not a mindless proportional response (i.e. blow torch to blow torch guy would be proportional, but clearly immoral or at least unconstitutional). My overall point is that right now, how prisons actually are, there is no consideration whatsoever of what the defendant did that deserves punishment. If someone murders but does so in a way that is designed to minimize pain, then I do not think that person should suffer a quick but painful death. That is the person that should suffer (assuming Murder 1) a quick and painless death, to the extent that is possible. Prison should at least try to tailor the punishment to the crime beyond mere duration. That can be done without malice, or offending the dignity of the victim.

    I thought of him when I read Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking. She suggests that “life without the possibility of parole” is a reasonable alternative to the death penalty. I tend to agree—but I don’t think we should kid ourselves that it is necessarily more humane. Keeping a guy in a cage with neither privacy nor company (other than his jailers) for fifty years is, basically, torture. Whether or not we care whether this bad person is tortured, we do care whether good people must take on the role of torturer.

    Again, I am not advocating torture, but rather retribution. There is no such thing as isolation in any meaningful sense. The goal would be to always connect the defendant to his crime. Instead of pornography on his cell walls, pictures of the victim (assuming he’s not a sex offender). Instead of weekly music session with his prison band, talking with a counselor about what he did. I’ll leave it to more creative people to think of ways to connect the defendant emotionally to his actions, but almost anything would be better than what we are paying for now.

    • #28
  29. Vince Inactive
    Vince
    @user_659173

    MarciN:My knowledge of prisons is not good, I guess. I thought that prisons and prisoners were fairly well sorted out. Martha Stewart went to Camp Cupcake while the murderers went somewhere else.

    I also thought the states shipped some of their violent offenders to other states better equipped to handle them.

    It strikes me that we could do better with sorting out the prison population if we took a regional approach.

    Unfortunately the focus in sorting prisoners is laser-like: you are sorted by how easily managed you are. There may be an initial sorting process because of your crime, but that goes away after 6 months to two years in most states. After that initial period it just depends on whether or not you are causing problems. If you are in prison for Aggravated DUI (multiple DUIs), but are loud, combative and won’t comply with the rules, you end up in maximum security. If you tortured and murdered someone, and got within 1 vote of receiving the death penalty (read: Jodi Arias) but follow the rules, you end up in medium security tending your garden and playing in the prison leagues while you earn your college education. The trick is when a murderer serving life who is also your cellmate decides to act out. THEN he’s punished, but not good for you.

    • #29
  30. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Kate Braestrup:

     

    More to the point, however, I am very sorry about your daughter’s friend. That is a terrible loss for everyone who loved her. The effects of a murder are so profoundly different and more complex than any of the deaths I have (so far) had to endure, and it always amazes and humbles me to meet the relatives and friends of murder victims and find them still upright, still able to engage thoughtfully and generously with life. and love. Whenever I am tempted to lament my troubles, I think about people like you.

    Karen’s grandparents lived next door to my dad, and every time we visited, Karen’s mom would bring her over to play from age 3. We moved to Sacramento when my daughter was 14. Karen spent a lot of time at our house. When they were 17, her mother had stopped by to pick up Kaylett, to go to the Mall, but Karen had another friend with her, so my daughter declined to go with them. You never forget, you never get over the grief, beautiful young lives snuffed out for no reason.

    Some years later, my daughter made another friend with a young son, and she loved that little boy, Jeremy Stoner. He was 6 years old when Shawn Quincy Melton kidnapped, raped him, left his nude body to be found. She is still friends with Jeremy’s mother today.

    I don’t think killing the killers is an act of revenge so much as simply blotting them off the planet to prevent them from killing again.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.