I don’t believe I missed this story last week.
Massachusetts, like many states, doesn’t have a death penalty. (We do in New Hampshire, but it hasn’t been used since the 1930’s.) The strictest punishment is life without possibility of parole.
To the opponents of capital punishment, they say this is a far better deterrant than death. The thought of having to spend the rest of one’s natural life a prisoner of the state, forever locked up with no hope of freedom, just the same four walls day after day, month after month, year after year, until you finally die, is to many people a far more terrifying thought than the relatively quick, painless lethal injection. It’s a compelling argument.
Except, of course, when it’s complete and utter bullshit.
According to the Boston Herald, 171 convicted murderers, sentenced to life without parole, have been given that impossible parole over the last three years. That’s one murderer a week getting freedom, with an additional five per year as a little bonus.
The chair of the Massachusetts Parole Board is quoted.
“It’s easy to say ‘Lock them up and throw away the key,’ but that system just does not work,” said Maureen Walsh, chairwoman of the seven-member Massachusetts Parole Board. “It’s incumbent upon us to make a decision on whether a person has been rehabilitated. There is not one simple solution.
“It’s not about being tough on crime or soft on crime. It’s about being rational,” Walsh added. “It’s an awesome responsibility. You are always going to be making a decision that disappoints.”
Massachusetts apparently has a slight problem with the English language. When a judge says “without possibility of parole,” that jurist is actually saying “without possibility for parole within 15 years.”
Say what you want about the death penalty, at least it’s honest. There’s no “you’re going to be executed, but some time down the road you can petition for resurrection and release.”
And for the families of the victims, they don’t have to worry about some idiots on a parole board “re-interpreting” the sentence some time down the road.