Monday, October 03, 2005

Life means life

The New York Times yesterday focused on an issue of contention for many abolitionists- the severity of life sentences. The article focuses on the case of Jackie Lee Thompson of Tioga County, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1970 for the death of Charlotte Goodwin. Both Charlotte and Jackie were 15 at the time.

The Times uses a case where there is some gray area, largely due to Jackie's age at the time of the crime, but it zeroes in on what is a difficulty for many opponents of the death penalty. As a separate criminal justice reform issue, some abolitionists also oppose life without parole.

While CPA-A appreciates the compassion of these folks and recognizes that Jackie's case is one where greater consideration is needed, one fact is clear. If we are to abolish the death penalty, we must offer life without parole as an alternative. Those who support the death penalty do so largely for two reasons- fear and a need for retribution. LWOP offers them a feeling of safety and severity in the punishment. If we get wishy-washy about LWOP, we will not reach our ultimate goal.

In fact, in their book Who owns death?, Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell argue that as the citizenry becomes convinced that life really does mean life, death sentences will decrease dramatically, leading us to a point where we may even have de facto abolition.

4 Comments:

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 9:23 AM, Blogger TheDevilIsInTheDetails said...

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