Life without parole and Elderly Prisoners

The population in prisons are aging due to longer sentences, mandatory minimum sentences, three strikes rules, truth in sentencing laws, and get tough on crime reforms of 1980s and 1990s. When I read articles like the “Life without Parole” about the two teenagers that brutally murdered a stranger, I think that they will probably be in jail for the rest of their lives. They will enter prison under twenty years old and they might never leave. They will live inside prison walls throughout their entire adult life and they will progress into their old age in prison. They will be arthritic and incontinent, greying and crippled and they will have never gone to college, had a job, or traveled. After 60 years of imprisonment, after a lifetime spent in jail, is it assured that a criminal will not harm another person?

I don’t believe that people are inherently evil, but instead what people do is a product of their past. So it really depends if a person can be assuredly rehabilitated. Likewise, our opinions are based upon our experiences. A person whose family was brutally murdered might feel that the murderer should be locked up forever, no matter how long it is and no matter how old and crippled the prisoner becomes. I can identify with this logic. A crime as random, objective, and illogical as the crime of these teenagers makes no sense, therefore there is no guarantee that this person at 80 years old wouldn’t do the same again. There was no reason, aside from greed, that the teenagers murdered this woman, so there is no reason why they wouldn’t do it again.

The image of elderly prisoners is striking. It does not seem like the elderly would commit crimes, due to both lack of malice and lack of ability to brutally murder someone, but this does not change the fact that a murder was commited. I cannot imagine a little old lady murdering someone, but I also have difficulty seeing a 17 year old murdering someone. These teenagers took away someones life unfairly and completely unjustly, why should they be given second chances? This is assuming that the murderers are 100% guilty, ofcourse the issue is much more comlicated when thinking about imprisoning people wrongly.

On the other hand, these teenagers are only teenagers. I have vastly changed from the time that I was 15 to now when I am 20 years old. People do change and people do realize their wrongs. It is extremely difficult and complicated to discern what is the right answer when it comes to perole and elderly prisoners.


2 Responses

  1. In addition to the moral implications of releasing elderly prisoners, I think it’s interesting to consider the research on the topic. For instance, age is the most accurate predictor of recidivism. There is a point (about 35 years old) where offenders begin to stop committing the crimes that originally marked them as offenders. Also, the cost of housing elderly prisoners is significantly higher than the cost of housing young prisoners. I am not saying that money should be the basis of our decisions, but to the state, “money talks.” I’m not sure there’s a clear answer to this debate, but there are definitely many questions.

  2. Nicely put, I agree. A few of my friends have, in their early twenties done some right silly things that they have either got away with, or were treated leniently by the courts(drink driving,drugs,fighting, the usual things that poeple regret in later life) .

    Some of those same people now have mortgages and families and have grown up. In the US some of these people would still be in jail, bankrolling the prison industry whilst contributing nothing .

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