Campaign to End Life Imprisonment

Now I have to tell you, I just have to see how many people agree with me on this one. Because if even one person does, I’ll be amazed. I’m serious.

Some people, believe it or not, don’t just want to end the death penalty, but life imprisonment too. You heard that right.

Here is their website, in case you think I’m exaggerating or making it up. But are they correct? Yes, I did put it in GD, because I want to start a lively debate. But I am not saying that there is a right answer to the question either.

Me, I tend to think, Yes. Because everyone deserves a second chance and every life is redeemable. On the other hand, some people probably can’t be helped, and need to be put away, HUMANELY, to protect society.

I think Germany is going the humane way, from what I understand. If anyone wants, I’ll try to find a cite.

But I just have to hear what other people feel about this. Please don’t deny me this chance :slight_smile: .

Basic question: can people sentenced to life terms in the US be released on parole/on licence? And, if so, does this routinely happen?

The best approach, IMHO, would be the Norwegian one: Nobody gets more than an initial fixed sentence of 20 years in prison at first, but if, at the end of it, the inmate still exhibits signs of being a menace to society, then authorities can extend his sentence a few years at a time in increments as need be, indefinitely.

And yes, I agree, with rare exception, nobody deserves to be put away for their entire lives, or even most of their lives. And by that I mean even the worst murderers or other such crooks, yes. The only exception is if they show themselves to be the same menace to society that they were before.

Yes, yes they can.

I do not have any statistics on how common that is nor do I have the time at the moment to look it up.

A prisoner’s sentence can always be reviewed and altered. There are also various options like commuting a sentence, which would come from a state governor or president of the US.

How do you tell? The way someone behaves in a very controlled environment like prison is often not reflective of how they’ll act once out in the world. Especially when there is a big incentive to follow the rules in order to get released.

But it can only be altered downwards, not upwards, right?

Would you care to elucidate?

Not sure where you’re going with this, but if someone commits crimes while in prison they can be charged and convicted and additional time added to their sentence or an additional sentence imposed.

And yes, a sentence can be reduced.

So it can go either way.

I don’t care how a person acts after 20 years in a controlled environment. There are certain deliberate acts that the punishment warrants losing ones right to be free forever.

If an 18 year old and an 80 year old receive the same life sentence, are they being punished equally?

Yes. They are spending the rest of their lives incarcerated. When during their lifetime they receive that sentence is only dependent on their own actions.

So if a 18 year old spends 70 years in prison, that would be equal to an 80 year old spending 8 years in prison for the same crime.

And if an 80-year-old and an 18-year-old both receive the same five-year sentence, are they being punished equally? Because for the 80-year-old, that’s likely to be a life sentence.

To the OP, I think that the ideal which we should strive for should always be rehabilitation, to turn the convict into a safe, productive, and free member of society. But that ideal, sadly, isn’t always possible. If nothing else, you’re going to get cases where rehabilitation would take, say, a few years, but where the inmate dies of a fluke heart attack six months into their term.

Don’t care.

Working in a prison as I have for the last 19.3 years (nearly 18 of them in a maximum security institution), I’ve seen many many folks who face life sentences who are no real threat to society at all. It’s a waste of resources to keep them incarcerated.

I have also met a few individuals who should NEVER EVER be let out again. Some folks can’t change their behavior and will always constitute a serious threat to others.

Let’s first build a prison system that actually has rehabilitation as its main objective, then I will consider whether it’s viable to eliminate life sentences for the worst offenders.

IMHO the long sentences should be reserved for violent offenders. Nobody should be serving a life sentence for being busted for selling marijuana three different times and ending up in a three strikes situation. That person shouldn’t even be prison, IMHO. On the other hand, whenever I read about a violent crime in my city, most of the time it turns out to be someone with a long rap sheet that reads something like this. “Suspect is a 30 year old man who has served five years for aggravated assault and was out on parole, with other prior offenses including resisting arrest, assault with a deadly weapon, and armed robbery.” Violent people need to be locked away for the safety of society.

Yes. Leslie Van Houten was sentenced in California to die for her participation in the Manson Family murders but it was commuted to life with parole. Every few years you hear about the parole board denying her early release. I’m thinking the infamy of the Manson murders doesn’t help Van Houten’s case for early release.

If they receive the same twenty year sentence, are they being punished equally? Once is likely to get out and continue his life while the other is almost certain to die in prison.

Generally speaking I can agree with that. But then Bernie Madhoff was sentenced to 150 years and I think he warranted a lot sentence for his crimes. There are non-violent crimes where longer sentences are perfectly justified but your example of selling pot doesn’t fit that bill.

In Canada, life sentences automatically allow the possibility of parole after 25. Someone was given 6 consecutive life sentences, but this is now under appeal. One thing for sure is that a 70 year old is less likely to repeat. But it would be more productive to concentrate on rehab instead of punishment as the motive for prison.

I think the answer basically lies in an algorithm. Factor in the probability of recidivism and the expected damage it does to society (X) versus the cost to society of continued incarceration (Y). If Y is greater than X, there is no logical reason to extend the prison sentence.