Friday, February 01, 2008

On Mountain State Lifers

West Virginia doesn't have the death penalty. For crimes that are defined as "capital" - first-degree murder and kidnapping - once convicted, a jury has two options when it comes to sentence: life with or without mercy. "Mercy" means that the defendant will have a chance at parole 15 years down the line. No mercy = never getting out of prison.

Today's Daily Mail has an article about the increase in lifer in WV prisons. The numbers of both those serving straight life and life with mercy have increased in recent years. It contains an interesting observation:

He said there's a common misconception that lifers, considering their crimes, are more violent than the rest of the inmate population, or that people who have no chance of parole might cause more trouble in the system than others.

Rubenstein said that's not necessarily the case.

'Once they are received by (the division), the inmate generally wants to just try and settle into their new environment and get on with their life,' Rubenstein said. 'For the most part, inmates serving a life sentence are usually the easiest inmates to manage because they realize they are going to be in the system for the rest of their life and they don't want any trouble.'
I've always been against the death penalty. As a consequence, I was once in favor of straight life sentences. But after actually being in prisons and actually meeting men who are serving those types of sentences, I think it's equally unjust to deny them the possibility - however slim - that they will ever be released.


Buzzardbilly said...

Years ago, I read "Discipline and Punish" by Michele Foucault. It's a dense and strange philosophical read, but it goes into the history of Western Culture's attitudes toward punishment. One of the main arguments is about how society..everyday individuals...absolve themselves of the guilt of having had to mete out punishment by making punishment more humane and more distantly laid out.

Well, he was pretty famous for being a masochist too. ;)

jedijawa said...

Sounds like you're being soft on crime ... not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)