Should the elderly get a break in sentencing?

From here.

Edwin Edwards was convicted of extorting riverboat liscence applicants while serving as Governor.

Friends and well-wishers are trying to have his sentence commuted, possibly to ‘house arrest’. They do not claim he is innocent. Only that he is old. he is 76.

His lawyer asks:

A friend of Edwards is quoted as saying a 10 year sentence to a 76 year old man equals a death sentence. I’ve heard this argument before, but I can’t rememer where exactly.

Do you agree or disagree? Let’s put aside for a moment that Edwards was an elected official when he committed his crimes and only concentrate on the issue of his age and the possibility that he may well die before he completes his sentence.

Personally, I disagree. Old age should not be considered in sentencing. I think if the crime is heinous enough to have a 10 year sentence, then an elderly person should do 10 years, or as much as he or she can. I can’t see how someone’s advacing age is an extenuating circumstance.

They already do…

A life sentence could, in reality, only be a couple of years.

/slinks away

Indeed, if you make the argument that a 10 year sentence to a 76 year-old is a “life sentence” and therefore should be commuted (or changed to house arrest), then the same argument could be made about a 50 year sentence to a 36-year old.

Zev Steinhardt

Remember the old definition of chutzpah? A man who murders his parents and then demands mercy on the grounds that he’s an orphan?

Edwin Edwards committed his crimes long ago, when he was NOT an elderly man, and he’s done everything possible to postpone his day of reckoning. Having stayed off accountability for years and years, he now points to his AGE as a reason for clemency?

Give him whatever sentence he deserves. The way I figure it, if ge gets a ten year sentence and only lives another 3 years, he’s STILL getting off easy.

Old Henny Youngman joke: a judge sentences a career criminal to 99 years in prison. The criminal says, “Come on now, Judge, you know there’s no way I’ll live long enough to serve 99 years!”

The judge said, “Well… do what you can.”

If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

“If you cant do the time, dont do the crime.”

Soooooo is we follow this sad sack logic, a murderer with a bad heart should also be sentenced lightly because any length of time in the slammer would be a life sentence to him? :dubious:

An elderly person who committed a crime many years earlier should consider themself lucky. I’d rather spend 10 years in jail at the end of my life than in the middle of it. He’s lucky to have avoided jail this long. (Although I suppose the best luck would be to avoid jail entirely…at least from the perspective of the person going to jail.)

No, we consider the murderer with a bad heart stupider than a healthy murderer. Because the unhealthy murderer committed the crime knowing that s/he will be sentenced and possibly die in prison of natural causes where the healthy murderer would not.

If anything, shouldn’t the older, supposedly wiser person know better by now?

Maybe the bad heart murderer is smart as he/she now gets guaranteed health care for free. :wink:

Good point. I will have to consider this if my health care gets cut.

Old man: But judge, I’m 75 years old! I can’t serve a 10 year sentence.

Judge: Do the best you can.

I don’t think it’s the same thing at all. If he were sentenced to life in prison for his crime if he were 36, that too would be excessive. Sentencing him to what is tantamount to a life sentence in his old age (so the argument goes) is excessive as well.

With advances in DNA detection, we in the UK have had a number of previously unsolved cases brought to trial and succesfully prosecuted.

The most recent one I can think of is here,

Now this particular brute committed his offence when young and is still at early middle age, but there have been others where the criminal was considerably older at the time of the offence, and with the intervening years are now approaching elderly.

We still chase down (rather halfheartedly) the occasional former Nazi etc nearly 60 years after their crimes.

The victims of many of these crimes, such as rape and murder, and the close family members of those victims may well endure a lifetime of torment.

I find it hard to show much compassion for elderly criminals based solely on age or the time related remoteness of their crimes.

The only possible consideration that might be given is the charactor of the criminal in the intervening years, but even that would have to be of secondary importance to victim impact.

Let’s look at this wonderful example of humanity.

This chap kept actual murders at arms length by plotting and getting others to carry out his directions.

The case set a precedent in Eire for many reasons, but one significant one was that it showed that those who commission such crimes can be brought to trial just as if they had done it themselves.
The idea is that if you are the proven leader of an organisation whose stated policy is to murder, then you are responsible in part for those crimes.

The man is 53 years old, it is widely known (there is evidence BTW) that he was responsible for the planning of the Omagh bombing in 1998.

Now he is serving a 20 year sentence, that is not far off an entire life sentence for a 53 year old , his case is a good one to look at in this context because it is so borderline, do you think that maybe he should have been awarded say 15 years because of his age ?

I should have clarified my position: If you can’t do the time without dying in prison, don’t do the crime. Or if dying in prison during a long sentence isn’t how you want to go, then don’t do the crime.

Old people get breaks on everything else. It would be consistent, at least.

It certainly seems to violate the spirit of “equality under the law” to sentence older folk more lightly. However, it does seem reasonable to take age into account when granting parole. Since there are two key reasons for incarceration: 1) punishment and 2) removal from society of a dangerous person, it would seem that a truly elderly person would be hard pressed to endanger the rest of society and therefore should be eligible for parole earlier than a younger person who may still be a threat. In as much it is not an exact science to determine when someone is rehabilitated enough that they are no longer a threat to society, the age of the inmate seems a reasonable factor (among others) to use during parole decisions.

Right. Men (only. Women can argue their own case) past their 80th birthday should get a free ride. Everything on the house and no criminal charges of any kind against them. After all, we’re the “greatest generation.” Didn’t you know that? :wink:

That would depend on how we define danger to a society.

An elderly person may have trouble physically intimidating someone or beating them up. But they could still molest children, fire weapons, commit fraud and graft, mastermind plots, etc… All of these, IMO, endager society.

The criminal in the OP was well into his 60’s, and an elected official, when he commited his crimes.

A serious criminal, even an elderly one, can provide a good example of what happens to those who offend against the law.

Letting them out is effectively letting them off, what sort of message is that sending ?

There is a smallish percentage of career criminals in jail at age 40+ and their existance within the jail system is a good example to those younger ones who think that crime pays.

It does work too, I see it with my own eyes every day.

Should we ever release Harold Shipman, estimated to have murdered over 200 people during his time as a practicing physician ? He is already elderly by jail standards, which in prison is genrerally taken to be over 50 years.

Some are forgetting that incarceration plays another role besides punishment, and isolation of dangerous individuals, it also provides a disincentive to commit crime by example.