The Case For Parole

by TChris

The conservative argument against parole -- that it somehow cheats the public by permitting offenders to escape the full weight of a sentence -- underappreciates the leveling force that a parole authority exerts against disparate sentences. Conservative politicians say they value uniformity in sentencing, but they prefer to limit sentencing discretion by narrowing the range of sentences that judges may impose or by requiring minimum sentences. That philosophy has prevailed in Congress and in most state legislatures for a quarter century, but it has ratcheted up the time that offenders serve while doing little to eliminate disparate sentencing.

The sentencing philosophy of conservative politicians holds that rehabilitation is inachievable, that good conduct in prison deserves no reward, and that punishment and public protection are the only legitimate goals of incarceration. That policy leads to draconian sentences and increasingly fills prisons with elderly, nonthreating individuals who will die behind bars.

As today's must read article demonstrates, the elimination of parole for life sentences -- the proliferation of "life means life" laws -- has turned prisons into nursing homes and elder care centers.

[D]riven by tougher laws and political pressure on governors and parole boards, thousands of lifers are going into prisons each year, and in many states only a few are ever coming out, even in cases where judges and prosecutors did not intend to put them away forever.

Indeed, in just the last 30 years, the United States has created something never before seen in its history and unheard of around the globe: a booming population of prisoners whose only way out of prison is likely to be inside a coffin.

As a punishment, life without parole is preferable to death, which ends the opportunity to correct an erroneous conviction. But life sentences have too frequently been imposed under "three (or two) strikes" laws for conduct that doesn't warrant a permanent loss of liberty.

Fewer than two-thirds of the 70,000 people sentenced to life from 1988 to 2001 are in for murder, the Times analysis found. Other lifers - more than 25,000 of them - were convicted of crimes like rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, assault, extortion, burglary and arson. People convicted of drug trafficking account for 16 percent of all lifers.

Parole boards can keep the dangerous and incorrigible imprisoned while permitting those who pose no social threat, and those who have been punished enough, from wasting prison resources. Parole boards serve as a post-sentencing corrective that is desperately missed in sentencing systems (like the federal system) that have abolished parole.

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    Re: The Case For Parole (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:34 PM EST
    If someone is sentenced to 10 years, they should serve the entire 10 years. Not 9 years and 364 days. The prisoner himself held the keys to the jail. If they don't want to do the max time, the shouldn't do the crime.

    Re: The Case For Parole (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:34 PM EST
    tomd-you are such a good boy. If you get arrested you will not even need a lawyer. When you get out you will need a good doctor though.

    Re: The Case For Parole (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:34 PM EST
    Everything I've ever heard(and esp. read on this site) is that ex-cons(particularly blacks) can't get a 'fair shake' in society anyways-- maybe they're better off staying in jail where they get their free health care! Also: "Life without parole"= "Dead prison guards"... will your 'union brethren' accept this without a pay increase?

    Re: The Case For Parole (none / 0) (#5)
    by Johnny on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:34 PM EST
    Scott, are you serious? If you are thats scary. They do not get a fair shake because noone likes to hire an ex-con. Period. They cannot even vote. The prison sentence is only a minor part of the prisoners sentence... ALL convictions are a life sentence. Tom, I am LOL at you.

    Re: The Case For Parole (none / 0) (#8)
    by Sailor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:36 PM EST
    Lav, LWOP is exactly that. Et al, it's amazing how offten long sentences are commuted just when their health problems start costing the BOP money. BTW, muderers statistically have the LEAST recividism rate because they committed a one time crime in the heat of passion. Squeaky, "When you get out you will need a good doctor though." actually, he'll need 2 very good specialists, a uroligist and a proctologist, which he can't afford. (and maybe an AIDS and oncologist.)

    Re: The Case For Parole (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:37 PM EST
    People can be redeemed. Those that fail to see that fact deny one of the greatest aspects of the human spirit. Better to err on the side of compassion and redemption than on the side of cruelty.

    Re: The Case For Parole (none / 0) (#10)
    by Johnny on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:37 PM EST
    Word kdog. Too bad the wrong-wingers feel totally different... Unless you are a Bush daughter selling crack to inmates at a rehab house... Then compassion goes a long ways...

    Re: The Case For Parole (none / 0) (#11)
    by peacrevol on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:38 PM EST
    Rehabilitation for murder? Um, I don't think so.
    I disagree Case in point: Stanley Williams has grown while in prison and has published books and done work to keep youths out of gang activity. He arguably could be more valuable to society outside of prison than inside. When offenders can show that they have grown past their criminal days, they have been rehabilitated and if they can do us more good outside prison than inside, why not give them parole? You can allow possibility for parole and make parole harder to attain, but it should always be on a case by case basis.