You're A Judge: Do You Free A Terminally Ill Senior Citizen From Jail To Die At Home?

Whoever handles these things: ‘Your honor, I ask this Bulgarian court to show mercy. Shackled before you is a 57-year old married woman whose cancer has spread. Doctors have diagnosed her malignancy as terminal. Please afford her the right to a death with dignity in the small eastern village she always called home.’

Judge: ‘According to the files, she blugeoned her 29 year old son to death with a garden hoe. Are you sure this is a good idea?’

WHTT: ‘She’s already served 1/10 of her sentence, your honor. By American standards, she’d almost be out on good behavior anyway.’

Judge: <Slams Gavel> ‘So be it. Officer, unlock her shackles’ </Slams Gavel> … ‘Next Case’

Honey! I’m home.

No. Everybody dies. Some just get more advance notice of it than others. I don’t really see how that should play into anything. She was sentenced to a certain amount of time in prison, not promised that she would be free before she died. At best, she could get moved to some hospice setting under guard until she dies.

She still has one son to go. Let her go free, so she can get the hat trick.

Well, that’s what you get for letting criminals out of prison.

Seriously, though, it’s not unheard of, even in America. Famous union organizer Eugene Debs was released from federal prison early to die at home.

Well, you could consider the cost of keeping her in prison while recieving proper medical care for her condition. In prison, the public pays for that. At home, she or her family would. Or, depending on their finances, maybe the public still would but it still would cost less, I believe, than in prison.

Personally, I say let the prisoner go home if it can be shown that their condition is so bad that they are not able to leave their home. If they improve significantly, back to prison they go.

If she is still a threat to society, she stays in. If she is only 57 nd has only served 1/10 of her sentence, the original judge/jury likely expected her to die in jail.

Someone who bludgeons their son to death likely doesn’t deserve dignity. Sorry.

I once participated in the care of a fellow with a particularly aggressive cancer who was incarcerated for some non-violent crime. He was granted an early release during his hospitalization! The demeanor of the corrections staff we dealt with made it seem that they were happy to get rid of him so that his (expensive!) care wouldn’t end up on their tab. I have no idea as to how close he was to release in the first place. I believe that he went straight to hospice from the hospital. Not much dignity in his death, I expect. I have also seen cases in which the police waited to arrest someone until their discharge from the hospital, presumably also for financial reasons.

As an aside, his case involved The Most Inappropriate Case Of The Giggles Ever, when, after his leg and 1/2 his pelvis were amputated, the med students scrubbed in on the case were unable to get the specimen into the biohazard can to be transported to pathology. They’d get the foot in, but couldn’t bend the knee far enough to get the pelvis end in without the foot popping out again, and vice versa. After several minutes of this, the giggles set in. I eventually had to go over to them, flip the thing over, and drop it in knee first.

I don’t believe that’s the reason. He was in prison for protesting the draft during WWI. President Harding pardoned him, along with 23 other protestors in prison under the Sedition Act, soon after he became president.

Debs died five years later.

I guess this all goes back to the question of ‘what is prison for?’ Let’s assume it’s

  • to protect society
  • to rehabilitate, or
  • to punish
    (or all of the above - feel free to add to this unscientific list).

Let’s take imaginery light offender, Marge the occasional shoplifter, bedridden with terminal cancer. I can’t see how we’re protecting society from this poor gal as she’s bedridden, she’s about to pop her clogs anyway so it’s pointless rehabilitating, so that just leaves punishment. Are we so vindictive as a species that we would continue to punish this poor thing who’s, quite frankly, suffering enough, given the level of her crime.

Then let’s take imaginery serious offender, Bob the axe-weilding peedy, also bedridden with terminal cancer. He may not be capable of perpetrating any more crimes, he’s certainly not up for rehabilitation, but his crimes were so hideous and his victims lives so permanently scarred that, frankly, let’s not just throw away the key but make him sleep on the floor with barely an aspirin to keep him company.

I rest my case.

Well in the particular case you’re linked to, I hope I would have had better judgement than that Bulgarian judge since the terminally ill women went home and murdered her husband immediately.

If I was a judge, I’d try to use what knowledge I had of criminals, the law, the criminal justice system and etc to come to the fairest decision. If someone was in the final stages of life, and was more or less unable to move around or present themselves as any danger to others I’d probably allow them to be released with minimum supervision, part of said supervision would include a tracking device of some kind in case somehow, someway, the prisoners “bed ridden” status was either a ruse or able to change rapidly to something better.

If the prisoner was in a terminal stage of an illness, but still able to function mostly day-to-day I’d consider putting them in a minimum security facility with more amenable living conditions if 1) the prisoner had no record of any sort of violence or threatening behavior towards staff members at their current prison, 2) did not present a threat to anyone living on the outside and 3) if the correction’s staff at the prisoners particular prison affirmed that they think the move would be a good idea.

But, as long as the prisoner could still move around, talk, walk, do most of the normal day-to-day functions I would never release them from custody entirely, and in no circumstances would I release any patient, no matter how ill, without at least some sort of supervisory safeguards.

The former governor of Illinois, George Ryan, actually used his age and the complaint that he would probably die (of old age) in prison as an argument against his sentence for corruption. My immediate thought was, “It’s not our fault you were a criminal in your older years and that it took a while to dig up enough evidence to try you.” So I definitely don’t think it’s a terribly good reason if the prison sentence started recently.

Two (or Three) of Breda.

It was the same question as in the OP. What is more important; releasing two very old men, warcriminals from WW2, who have sentenced 40 years in prison, or the feelings of their last remaining victims ?

It has to be looked at case by case. Somebody being tried for a recent violent crime shouldn’t get off. Somebody being tried for $5,000 on embeselment of employer should maybe get off if they’ll be dead in a couple months. They weren’t violent, they’ll cost a fortune in prison, and you can make sure they won’t be embeseling while still alive.

I still wouldn’t use it in most cases of a non-violent crime.