Sunday, October 02, 2005
People unclear on the concept: Well, duh.
To More Inmates, Life Term Means Dying Behind Bars
I'm sorry, but I thought that was the whole point. And I suspect that the jurors who suggested the prison term also thought that was the whole point.
Just a few decades ago, a life sentence was often a misnomer, a way to suggest harsh punishment but deliver only 10 to 20 years.
Well, that's the fault of the legal profession which likes to pat itself on the back for its wisdom -- and cleverness. And frankly, that's why so many "lifers" are staying behind bars.
Do you want to know why the legal profession has been steadily losing the respect it once had? Well, this is it. People read about some murderer who was released from a "life" sentence after having served 20 or 25 years and say to themselves: "I thought he had a life sentence, the only way he should be leaving prison is in a pine box."
I don't know if the murderer featured in the article, Jackie Lee Thompson, should still be in prison or not, but this is a problem the legal community created on its own. Maybe sentencing him to 20 years and then adding one year to his sentence for every infraction that he committed while incarcerated would be better -- but such a system would violate the Constitution's guarantee of a jury trial. (Maybe that could be voluntarily waived?)
You can get in trouble with headlines because you're trying to simplify a sometimes complicated topic, but that doesn't excuse a stupid one. You'd think that the Times could do a little better.