I never in my first 30 years of life ever thought I would ponder questions like this, however, since I have begun my career in corrections, my mind wanders over subjects not previously considered. Some are pretty graphic and not for the kids.
An 8 year old girl is sexually assaulted by a 22 year old man. He spends 12 years in prison and goes home to his family. That girl will never be the same again. She never gets her life back. He claims he has changed. Is this fair? Can someone who does something that horrendous really change? Was 12 years enough?
A man in his early 20’s is persuaded by his church, people he trusts, to participate in a murder. They believe the murder is just as they believe that the man they murdered was oppressing their faith. This man receives a life sentence. It has now been nearly 40 years. In those 40 years, he has been an exemplary inmate. He has never been in trouble. He teaches his faith, that same one, in the prison chapel, encourages other inmates to change their lives around. His wife, who was young herself, has stood by him all these years. He has children who were infants when he received his life sentence. They now have children. He is eligible for a parole. Should he be paroled? He is also sick with cancer. Does that change your opinion? Does it matter that the murder was committed in another prison where he was at the time serving a drug related sentence? Does it matter that it was an officer he killed, not an inmate?
A 20 year old man sexually assaults his girlfriend, who is 17. He readily admits to being high and drunk at the time. He pleads guilty and receives a 10 year sentence. When he gets out of prison he will have to register as a sex offender for life. I agree with this, but is it right he should spend his life labeled a child rapist since his girlfriend was under age? The age difference is slight. Both he and the girl agree they had been dating. Should he be lumped in with that guy who assaulted the 8 year old?
An inmate walks up to a female officer and pulls his penis out and begins masturbating in front of her. Out on the street, this person would be hauled to jail for indecent exposure, at the very least. In prison, they lose their privileges for a time. They serve no additional time. Is this fair? Shouldn’t they be held to the same standards as anyone else?
A business man is growing a ton of marijuana at his cabin in a rural mountain area. Another man is killed in a dispute over some of this marijuana by a third man. During the investigation, it is learned that the business man is the pot grower and they try him along with the killer for the murder. He knew the men, he sold them drugs, and he grew the drugs. He did not kill the guy. He receives life in prison for the murder. It has now been 15 years. Do you think that maybe 15 years is sufficient for growing pot? He never killed the man. They convicted him for conspiracy to commit the murder. Is it fair he should spend his life in prison because a couple of pot heads got into it? Is he responsible because he grew and sold the pot?