For capital crimes there can be 3 sentences, Death, life without parole (still a death sentence) or life. The last 2 can also be given to convicted criminals for the heinous and violent crimes and "career criminals".
Most lifers committed their crimes when they were young. Many were Vietnam Veterans who were subjected to the horrors of that war and coming home to become classified by many as murderers and many were subjected to discrimination that veterans of other wars did not find when they came home. Many had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from their experiences in the war.
The thing to realize is that after 20 to 30 years these inmate are different people then they were when they came to prison. All of the lifers I have been in contact should be let out. I do not mean let them go now but give them training programs and work release programs to prepare them for the outside world.
One of my new friends is an example. He would be very valuable outside the walls helping young people realize that the life of crime is not the way to go. The following is a summary of what he told me about an excellent program that was scraped in Maryland. He was in the program and was close to parole.
154 "lifers" were placed in pre-release facilities throughout the state. They were not surrounded by fences or walls and had no guard towers. 54 gained work release status and had full time jobs. They paid an average $100 a week in rent, taxes and were able to help their wives and children. They also earned monthly leave where the would have a weekend at home.
There were 2 incidents that stopped it. The first was an inmate who did not come back from his weekend leave when he was supposed to but he was returned without incident later. The other a man did not report for work and murdered his estranged girl friend and then killed himself.
The program was discontinued. Guards and state troopers woke the prisoners up shortly after midnight and put them in shackles and took them to various prisons where they were locked down for 36 hours with no explanation. All of their property was left behind, many were not even fully dressed.
The governor told the parole board not to even look at applications for parole for the lifers who were eligible for parole. From then on life meant life even if the inmate was eligible for parole.
Yes you do have people on parole committing crimes and returning to prison. Prisoners are released to society without preparation for the outside world. If we rehabilitated all of the prisoners before their release I am willing to bet that few would return. In the case of the lifer's they are not the same people who went in and most would make it on parole as long as they were in a program like the above.
My friend is 51 years old and has been in prison for 31 years. Yes he did commit a crime and he does not complain about being sent to prison. His complaint is that enough is enough. He has been punished and he will be able to become a contributing member of society. Now that the States are short of money why not let those go who are no longer a threat to society.
© Copyright 2002 Lee W. Gaylord
The Book to Be