Help me understand the life sentence

Status
Not open for further replies.
#1
Hello, GAF. Conversation came up today among friends regarding the death penalty, for and against, what have you. Generally, my stance has always been "for", because the only alternative to a death sentence tends to be life imprisonment, which I've never understood. Keep in mind that I live in the USA. Problem is, as a nation we've always stated "rehabilitation" is the purpose of our criminal justice system, where it's applicable. Those who are put to death are, for some reason or another, deemed resistant to rehabilitation, right? So what of the lifers? Why do we keep them around? What ends are we serving by locking people up for the rest of their lives, feeding them, clothing them, etc. when we've essentially admitted they're a lost cause?

I don't mean to present this as a thread discussing the death penalty - it's not. My question is this: in a system devoted to the rehabilitation of some and the grave punishment of those who cannot be rehabilitated, what purpose does the life sentence serve? Or any absurdly long sentence, for that matter? Is it somehow more humane to deprive someone of their life by locking them in a cage until death than out-right killing them? What are your thoughts?
 
#5
If we killed every person who would get a life sentence we'd be a pretty barbaric society. I guess there needs to be a middle ground.
Maybe. I guess it depends on one's definition of barbarism. I've always found life sentencing barbaric by its very pointlessness. Question is, does the life sentence serve a definable purpose in our justice system, or is it a means of pacifying our consciences?

What is the point of death sentence, apart from saving money as you imply in your post?
Money doesn't concern me. Society has apparently given up on rehabilitating them, so what's to do?
 
#7
I'm for the death penalty in cases where there is no doubt they are guilty of murder. I don't consider the methods they use today to be so much barbaric as they use injections rather than the electric chair.
 
#10
If we killed every person who would get a life sentence we'd be a pretty barbaric society. I guess there needs to be a middle ground.
Yeah it seems to be a gesture towards the kind of society we want to have.

It's weird though; if they give life to a guy who killed a dozen people but he didn't resist the police. If he did a petty crime, and resisted arrest that could've cost him his life.
 

The Technomancer

card-carrying scientician
#12
As I understand it, "life" and "life without the possibility of parole" are two different things.
This is a large part of it. Also, I believe that the primary purpose of the criminal justice system should be rehabilitation, and that life sentences should be used only for those who are repeatedly evaluated (probably while in prison) to be "un-rehabilitatable". While this is similar to the death penalty in that, in both cases, the sentencee basically loses the rest of their life, the difference is that the life sentence can be reversed if a miscarriage of justice is discovered.
 

DiscoJer

Junior Member
#13
For one, a depressingly large number of people convicted are actually innocent. Killing them kind of makes it hard to correct this when it's finally discovered.

Personally I think the death penalty should be applied only in cases when it's an obvious serial killer, like finding a house full of corpses.
 
#16
For one, a depressingly large number of people convicted are actually innocent. Killing them kind of makes it hard to correct this when it's finally discovered.

Personally I think the death penalty should be applied only in cases when it's an obvious serial killer, like finding a house full of corpses.
I hope they never find my house.
 
#17
I think the only reason we have life sentencing is because someone powerful is making alot of money from the prison economy and drawn out appeals system.
 

The Technomancer

card-carrying scientician
#20
Better questions.
Why not?
You'd prefer a cage until death?
Because the system is not perfect and there are a significant number of cases where innocence is discovered either years into a sentence or after execution. That's if I even agree that there are crimes that deserve the death penalty (there is an extremely narrow band of them, and even then I'm not sure if I trust any institution to evaluate them)
 
#26
Since when is the US penal system about rehabilitation? It's about punishment.
The US penal system is not devoted to rehabilitation.
Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Edit: beaten.
Then kill them all, yes? There are better ways of punishing people than feeding them, housing them, providing them with education, vocational enrichment, etc, correct?

Our system overwhelmingly favors rehabilitation. Whether it works or not is another discussion entirely.
 

The Technomancer

card-carrying scientician
#27
Since when is the US penal system about rehabilitation? It's about punishment.
Right, yeah, I really disagree with that. Rehabilitation is more useful to society. Punishment is often about emotional satisfaction. Its possible to rehabilitate through punishment, but I don't think its skillfully handled currently.
 
#28
Hello, GAF. Conversation came up today among friends regarding the death penalty, for and against, what have you. Generally, my stance has always been "for", because the only alternative to a death sentence tends to be life imprisonment, which I've never understood. Keep in mind that I live in the USA. Problem is, as a nation we've always stated "rehabilitation" is the purpose of our criminal justice system, where it's applicable. Those who are put to death are, for some reason or another, deemed resistant to rehabilitation, right? So what of the lifers? Why do we keep them around? What ends are we serving by locking people up for the rest of their lives, feeding them, clothing them, etc. when we've essentially admitted they're a lost cause??
We certainly haven't always been focused on rehabilitation as a goal for the penal system. Put briefly, the penal system is designed to accomplish multiple other goals, including: deterring people from committing crimes, isolating people deemed a threat to society, and, perhaps obviously, punishing those who have transgressed against society's laws. Thus, it might help if you thought of "lifers" as less beyond any redemption and more of a risk we're not willing to take, though admittedly those may be two sides of the same coin.
 
#32
We certainly haven't always been focused on rehabilitation as a goal for the penal system. Put briefly, the penal system is designed to accomplish multiple other goals, including: deterring people from committing crimes, isolating people deemed a threat to society, and, perhaps obviously, punishing those who have transgressed against society's laws. Thus, it might help if you thought of "lifers" as less beyond any redemption and more of a risk we're not willing to take, though admittedly those may be two sides of the same coin.
I agree that rehabilitation isn't, shouldn't be the sole purpose of the penal system. It should play a large part, perhaps the majority part, but as a society we crave some form of "justice". Whatever that is is up to debate.

That said, the death sentence accomplishes all the secondary purposes of the penal system far more effectively than sentencing them to life does, wouldn't you agree? The life sentence makes no sense regardless of which philosophy you subscribe to, punishment vs. rehabilitation.

The state will always define the terms in which it citizens live, holding the power of death over the citizen is something else entirely.
States wield the unspoken power of death over their citizens by their very (coercive) nature. This is a non-issue.
 

whitehawk

leeches are the best bait when attempting to land bass
#33
There was a conservative MP in Canada who suggested we give in-mates who are in jail for life, access to a rope. If they want to hang themselves, they can go for it.

I think you would like this idea.
 
#34
This is a large part of it. Also, I believe that the primary purpose of the criminal justice system should be rehabilitation, and that life sentences should be used only for those who are repeatedly evaluated (probably while in prison) to be "un-rehabilitatable". While this is similar to the death penalty in that, in both cases, the sentencee basically loses the rest of their life, the difference is that the life sentence can be reversed if a miscarriage of justice is discovered.
I agree with you.

However, strictly speaking there are life sentences that are determinate and others that are indeterminate. That is to say, you can be issued a life sentence and be eligible for (and receive) parole. Or you can receive a life sentence that comes without the possibility of parole.
 

The Technomancer

card-carrying scientician
#36
I agree with you.

However, strictly speaking there are life sentences that are determinate and others that are indeterminate. That is to say, you can be issued a life sentence and be eligible for (and receive) parole. Or you can receive a life sentence that comes without the possibility of parole.
I agree. Life sentences with possibility of parole work for the vast majority of life sentences I think. Without possibility of parole should apply to a very narrow band of people.
 
#38
I don't know about the U.S., but in Canada, a "life sentence" does not mean "life in prison". The convict can be paroled, but then will remain on parole for the rest of his/her life.
 
#39
Due to our appeals system, life imprisonment is actually cheaper in the long run than putting a person to death, as it should be, considering that even one single instance of an innocent person given the death sentence is an irreversible tragedy and an uncorrectable mistake. This, combined with my general high value of human life, is why I personally oppose the death penalty, though I do not fault people who support it in any way. I actually understand them; if someone I love had been murdered in cold blood it would be difficult for me to maintain this stance, I imagine, but thankfully I have never been in such a situation.
 
#40
There was a conservative MP in Canada who suggested we give in-mates who are in jail for life, access to a rope. If they want to hang themselves, they can go for it.

I think you would like this idea.
I would, yes. I think the guilty and convicted should be given the liberty of taking their own lives, if they so choose. That said, it would be difficult to expect people to make a decision like that objectively after they've just received a life sentence...but, then again, is our thinking ever really objective?
 
#41
Hello, GAF. Conversation came up today among friends regarding the death penalty, for and against, what have you. Generally, my stance has always been "for", because the only alternative to a death sentence tends to be life imprisonment, which I've never understood. Keep in mind that I live in the USA. Problem is, as a nation we've always stated "rehabilitation" is the purpose of our criminal justice system, where it's applicable. Those who are put to death are, for some reason or another, deemed resistant to rehabilitation, right? So what of the lifers? Why do we keep them around? What ends are we serving by locking people up for the rest of their lives, feeding them, clothing them, etc. when we've essentially admitted they're a lost cause?

I don't mean to present this as a thread discussing the death penalty - it's not. My question is this: in a system devoted to the rehabilitation of some and the grave punishment of those who cannot be rehabilitated, what purpose does the life sentence serve? Or any absurdly long sentence, for that matter? Is it somehow more humane to deprive someone of their life by locking them in a cage until death than out-right killing them? What are your thoughts?
lol 'rehabilitation'
"learn how to behave as a normal member of society by existing in this completely abnormal society full of violent sociopaths for x years, also we will watch you pee... and tell you how and when to pee... pee"
 
#42
As I understand it, "life" and "life without the possibility of parole" are two different things.
This.

On a more subjective level, life w/o possibility of parole is there I think to truly punish the worst of the worst, rather than rehabilitate them. Condemning someone to being in jail for the rest of their days on Earth can be, in my opinion, far worse than a simple death sentence, especially if the convicted is relatively young. (<50)
 
#43
States wield the unspoken power of death over their citizens by their very (coercive) nature. This is a non-issue.
States with the death penalty wield the spoken power of death over the citizens, states without it do not, hence the opposition to the policy.

Its a major issue for anyone interesting in preserving the enlightenment and combating totalitarianism.
 
#44
It's a myth that prison is for rehab. That may be a portion but it is primarily for punishment and protection of society.

Hence the purpose of life. Death penalty looks good on paper to me (someone who kills someone else deserves death too). However the justice system creates too much doubt even without evidence.
 

Kentpaul

When keepin it real goes wrong. Very, very wrong.
#45
There was a conservative MP in Canada who suggested we give in-mates who are in jail for life, access to a rope. If they want to hang themselves, they can go for it.

I think you would like this idea.
would suck for the guards having to see strung up dead men every day at work.
 
#46
People can be rehabilitated without needing to be released at the end of that process. There are plenty of stories where a lifer does good community outreach work, such as trying to keep kids from repeating their mistakes, teaching other inmates (who will get out) job skills, etc.

Wasn't there some study done that came to the conclusion that life in prison was cheaper than a death sentence anyway? It's the cheap, humane thing to do compared to killing them (not that I'm against the death penalty), so I don't see why it shouldn't exist as a punishment.
 
#49
An eye for an eye eh?
I mean by that logic the person who executed the murdered deserves to die, too.
Not an eye for an eye- a death for a death.

You're being too literal. The person doing the executing isn't guilty of murder.
Wasn't there some study done that came to the conclusion that life in prison was cheaper than a death sentence anyway? It's the cheap, humane thing to do compared to killing them (not that I'm against the death penalty), so I don't see why it shouldn't exist as a punishment.
It's only cheap because of all the options available to a person receiving the death penalty. You kill them same day, there would be very little cost.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.