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The meaning of life

I've often said that one of the reasons I support the death penalty is that we need a punishment beyond "life without parole," otherwise those inmates serving that sentence would literally have nothing to fear from acting however they wish. I cited it in the case of Joseph Druce of Massachusetts, who murdered a pedophile priest while both were in prison. In a stunning display of wasted time, money, and resources, the Commonwealth put Mr. Druce on trial for murder. If he was convicted, he would be automatically sentenced to life without parole. If acquitted, he would be returned to prison to resume his previous sentence of life without parole.

Here in New Hampshire, we almost had a repeat of the Druce case. Currently in the state prison, two men are serving life without parole for murder. Coincidentally, both men are from Nashua and both men killed women in domestic-violence scenarios -- Stephen Mann, who killed his wife, stabbed and wounded William Sullivan, who killed his girlfriend's mother for disapproving of their relationship.

Sullivan survived, but New Hampshire prison officials freely admit what Massachusetts officials wouldn't acknowledge -- that there is literally nothing they can do about it, short of keeping the men separated and imposing some internal discipline on Mann (isolation, loss of privileges, and the like). They will conduct the required investigation and give the results to prosecutors, and there very well may be a trial.

I hope there isn't. It, like the Druce case, would be a complete and utter waste. Regardless of the results, Mann's fate will not be altered one whit. Instead, he will be granted a reward of sorts, as he is taken to and from the prison for his trial, tying up much-needed resources on an ultimately pointless exercise that borders on judicial masturbation. Let the prison impose its own sanctions, which will be far more meaningful than a couple of months tacked on to his life without parole sentence.

But there is one crucial element in which New Hampshire differs from Massachusetts: we still have a death penalty on the books. True, it hasn't been used in 66 years, but it's there nonetheless. If Mr. Mann is bored of life without parole (he's 33, and been in prison barely a year so far), he'll just have to try harder to kill another prisoner. In the meantime, let him get good and acquainted with four walls -- and nothing else -- for a good, long time. If he can't play nice with others, then he can't play at all.

Personally, I think that any inmate serving life without parole can request to be executed after a while -- say, five years. I think I'd rather die than spend the rest of my life locked up. But that's not how the law works.


Comments (4)

Considering the appeals pro... (Below threshold)

Considering the appeals process is very long, I think your timeframe for volenteer death (I'll call it Suicide by Warden) should be somewhere around 25 or 30 years.

Remember, some things are worse than death. If the con hates prison that much, then perhaps he should be left there. But, how much money could the state save by just granting their last wish (pun intended)?

It goes on and on.

Somehow I am flashing to We... (Below threshold)
epador:

Somehow I am flashing to Westley's challenge to Prince Humperdink in the Princess Bride: a fight to the PAIN [not death]...

http://72.224.21.212/epub/pbride/sounds/thepain.wav

but I find that unpalatable, the least reason being it would be embraced by Muslim radicals.

For the life of me, I can't remember which SciFi author or book had the Martian hospice where folks could be totally severed from sensory input but cared for (not as in lavish surroundings as they might have been led to believe) through a natural life - kind of a "to the pain" without the ears. Again, neither practical or consistent with our morals.

Solitary confinement that's really solitary. That's about all you can add to life without parole that doesn't include physical punishment. But I'm sure someone somewhere considers that cruel and unusual.

The problem with "life with... (Below threshold)

The problem with "life without parole" is that it sometimes turns into "oh, well, 25 years is enough."

On the other hand, there's too much wrong with our entire court system for me to like the death penalty, since I'd rather a guilty man go free than kill an innocent one - which happens with embarrassing regularity, according to a number of prosecutors.

On the other hand, a real "life without parole," in a high-security prison, with segregated cells and little contact between inmates and each other (or the rest of the world, for that matter) is something I'd prefer for the worst of the worst. Locking a Really Bad Guy in a little cell for the rest of his life, with nothing to look forward to but bland meals and a little TV to watch is much, much more appropriate than letting them go out in what they see as a blaze of glory.

A regular publication featuring Old Guys Who Died in Prison would also be worthwhile.

Jay Tea,I agree th... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea,

I agree that life without parole would be worse than a death sentence.

Why grant a murderer the dignity of having the choice of evading this fate?

Part of the punishment a prisoner endures is having all freedom of choice removed from him. All the more important then to remove such an important life decision from them as well.




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