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March 25, 2012

"When lifers kill in prison, is it a waste to prosecute them?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this interesting piece appearing in the Denver Post.  Here are excerpts:

When Dominic Stewart was found guilty this month of killing a fellow prisoner at the Supermax prison in Florence, he was already serving a life term for another murder.  At sentencing, Stewart is likely to have another life term added on, raising questions about whether it was worth the government's time to pursue the case.

Prosecuting homicides is expensive and uses up government resources at a time when the economy is down, according to critics. Darren Cantor, a Denver defense lawyer who represents high-profile murder suspects, said it can cost about $500,000 to go to trial on a murder case, depending on a variety of factors.  The expense can be much less, but it can also go up, costing millions if the death penalty is pursued, he said....

But prosecutors counter that you can't put a price on justice for victims, and punishing people for their crimes sends a message to other inmates that violence won't be tolerated in prison.  "Sometimes justice is not an accounting exercise," said 13th Judicial District Attorney Robert Watson.  "Justice isn't always measured in dollars and cents. There are still family members of victims who want to see the process run through."

Watson, whose district encompasses a prison in Sterling where four murders occurred in two years, said even smaller crimes, such as a lifer found possessing drugs in his cell, need to be punished.  "We are sending the message to the guy in the cell next to him who is only doing five years," Watson said.

Mark Collins, spokesman for the Supermax prison in Colorado, agreed. "It is necessary to maintain the security and order of our institutions or a level of normalcy to the best of our ability," he said.  Collins said there are a variety of methods that corrections employees can use to keep order among lifers who may think they have nothing to lose.  "They could lose their visiting privileges, phone privileges, access to the prison commissary," he said.

In Colorado state prisons, 16 inmates were murdered by another prisoner from 2002 through 2010. In Colorado federal prisons, five homicides have been reported in the past seven years....

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer, who prosecuted Stewart, said victims — even if they were inmates with violent records of their own — deserve justice.  "If you don't prosecute a murder — especially if you have a pattern of not prosecuting a murder because someone is serving a life sentence — it can be an encouragement to that dangerous segment of society to commit murder with impunity because they feel they are not going to be prosecuted," he said.  "You have anarchy if you do not prosecute these crimes."

Murderers serving life sentences also have seen their convictions overturned on technicalities, and another violent conviction in prison can help ensure they will never get out.  "A life sentence isn't always forever.  There is no limitation on how much further down the road they can attack the conviction," Watson said.

When a murderer kills again behind bars, prosecutors will usually seek the death penalty, depending on the evidence, Troyer said.  Federal prosecutors are already pursuing death sentences in the cases of Richard Santiago and Gary Watland....

If prosecutors don't seek convictions, inmates might believe that the U.S. attorney doesn't care, Troyer said. "That is a hall pass to kill anyone you want," he said.

The substance of this article provides an easy answer to the question as phrased in the title of this post taken from the article's headline: no.  The much harder question is "What are the most effective and just ways to punish likers who kill?"  As we have debated on this blog before, this refined question is much more challenging, especially for anyone categorically opposed to the death penalty.

A few related prior posts:

March 25, 2012 at 07:44 PM | Permalink

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LWOP is an absolute license to kill, better than that of James Bond. The families of the murder victims, even those in prison, have full justification to kneecap the parties that handed down that verdict instead of the death penalty, including prosecutor, defense lawyers, judges, appellate judges, and jurors. This justification is self-evident at the intellectual, ethical, and policy levels. There may be justification of violence against the parents of the murderer, who allowed a cold hearted killer to survive. They may instead have a duty of throttling him in infancy, when everyone sees the character of the murderer.

The prison has full control of the bodies of the murderer and of the victim. If it follows standards of prison due care, murder rates have decreased 90% compared to rates of prior decades. Therefore, not only is violence fully justified in retaliation, but tort claims for wrongful death. When real damage has taken place, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, is merely denial of access to the courthouse. Judges blocking litigation for wrongful death, they need kneecapping. That Act was designed to limit litigation over cold hot dogs, not over a murder under the control of the prison staff.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 25, 2012 8:07:24 PM

""They could lose their visiting privileges, phone privileges, access to the prison commissary," he said."

Would be funny if not so tragic. Thank the lawyer for protecting the prison killer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 25, 2012 8:15:58 PM

This sort of thing is why I have some invective for the federal judiciary. There is little doubt that (a) a mandatory death sentence in cases like these would have broad support and (b) it is unquestionably constitutional. And yet SCOTUS has banned it. Yeah, it's probably not that big of a deal (after all what's a few prisoners or guards, when there's a constitution to expound). But goddamit. It's just wrong.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 25, 2012 8:30:58 PM

"... you can't put a price on justice for victims, and punishing people for their crimes sends a message to other inmates that violence won't be tolerated in prison."

"We are sending the message to the guy in the cell next to him who is only doing five years," Watson said."

That's ridiculous, how many lives does one have? Dominic Stewart has nothing to lose. Its all apples and oranges when comparing it to someone in for 5 years - someone in for 5 years can get out and undoubtedly wants to - Dominic Stewart could give a rats rump.

Where are the T-Baggers on this one? Can't hear 'em boohooing over wasted tax dollars in this instance.

Posted by: Huh? | Mar 25, 2012 9:36:48 PM

It takes a special turn of mind to believe the law should ignore murder.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 25, 2012 10:32:58 PM

Bill Otis: "It takes a special turn of mind to believe the law should ignore murder."

No one said to ignore murder, but prosecuting someone who will never get out of prison, out of empathy for the victim or the victims family, is a waste of money. The whole purpose of the "justice" system anymore is to punish people. If he is already being punished, what is a few more life sentences going to do to a guy like that?

Feel-good prosecutions are just as ridiculous as feel-good laws.

Posted by: Huh? | Mar 25, 2012 11:08:05 PM

"No one said to ignore murder..."

Then a response is in order. What do you propose?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 25, 2012 11:45:48 PM

The real security feature of Supermax is the staffing ratio. It may have some restrictive gimmicks, but it is the human supervision that differentiates it, and makes it safer. That means transfer rewards the rent seeker, left wing worthless government worker. If an inmate gets so dangerous and intractable, they should have repeated tumbles down slippery metal staircases, or do the German thing. They do not have capital punishment. They just have high rates of prison suicides. For some mysterious reason, the Bader Meinhoff gang was dispatched that way. From Wikipedia:

"Half an hour later, German radio broadcast the news of the rescue, to which the Stammheim inmates listened on their radios. In the course of the night, Baader was found dead with a gunshot wound in the back of his head and Ensslin was found hanged in her cell; Raspe died in the hospital the next day from a gunshot wound to the head. Irmgard Möller, who had several stab wounds in the chest, survived and was released from prison in 1994.

The official inquiry concluded that this was a collective suicide,..."

That last line is something else.

The murderer has the full immunity and protection of the lawyer traitor on the bench and in the legislature. Self-help is the sole remedy available.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 26, 2012 6:31:25 AM

I would say that I am one of those people who are categorically opposed to the death penalty. I think that it's a violation of human rights under any circumstance. Murder is wrong, and it doesn't much matter to me whether it's a gang banger pulling the trigger or the state. In doing work for the innocence project, I've also had my faith shaken considerably in the reliability of the process that sends men and women to prison, even in capital cases.

I will say, however, that the only kinds of cases that give me pause in my conclusions on the death penalty are cases like these. These individuals have shown that they care not one iota about being forgiven for their crimes or in making amends. Also, they have shown that they are still quite dangerous. Though my conclusion is the same, there is certainly a part of me that feels it could support DP in these cases.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 26, 2012 8:51:35 AM

The real issues to address are:
1) to what extent does the prison management and environment contribute to the occurrence of violence in prisons?
2) are life prisoners gainfully employed?
3) are their life needs sufficiently provided stimulus, opportunity and motivation?
4) are their mental health needs monitored and treated?
The mindset that believes life prisoners, or any prisoners for that matter, need to be subjected to continuous punishment within prison, beyond that of loss of liberty, requires serious education.
Reference:
http://law.wustl.edu/Journal/22/p125Specter.pdf
Making Prisons Safe:
Strategies for Reducing Violence - Donald Specter
This article is based on testimony to the Commission on Safety and Abuse in
America’s Prisons, April 2005. Donald Specter, J.D. is the Director of the Prison Law Office, a
nonprofit public interest law firm located near San Francisco, California.

Posted by: peter | Mar 26, 2012 9:08:58 AM

Guy::
"there is certainly a part of me that feels it could support DP in these cases."

Guy, that part of you is the law written on your heart, the same reason why the Aucas, Quichua, &tc. in Ecuador believed that murder was wrong but the execution of murderers was just, prior to any hint of civilization.
{cf. Rom 2:14-15}

Does it not occur to anyone that this could not have happened in the day of swift punishment with the death penalty?

The """"innocence"""" project/FTI--whose attorney enabled Stewart of NC to evade the DP with an *Ambien defence*, and the like-minded--
are responsible for the cost and delay of the process,

not "law-and-order-blood-thirsty-retributionist-conservative-judeo/christian-traditional" Americans.

[As well as the death of those at the hands of a condemned murderer.]

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 26, 2012 9:16:26 AM

peter --

It's unfortunate that three other needs did not make your list: The need to deter other lifers who are thinking of doing the same thing, the need to make human beings (including and especially violent inmates) responsible for their behavior, and the need to do justice.

I am in favor of the DP in some cases and against it in others. You, however, have a one-size-fits-all "solution": When the inmate kills, what we need to do is be nicer to him.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2012 10:22:29 AM

Peter stated: "1) to what extent does the prison management and environment contribute to the occurrence of violence in prisons?
2) are life prisoners gainfully employed?
3) are their life needs sufficiently provided stimulus, opportunity and motivation?
4) are their mental health needs monitored and treated?"

Nice job, Peter.

Whatever you do, be sure to blame "society" rather than an inmate who makes the choice to take a piece of bedframe and make a shiv to stick into his bunky's neck.

Oh, also be sure to support suing the manufacturer of the bedframe as well. We cannot leave anyone (except the actual killer) out on their share of the blame and give up an opportunity for lawyers to make some money.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 26, 2012 10:40:55 AM

Bill, Tar
I am not aware of any statute or constitutional clause that gives license to prisons to conduct treatments that are other than entirely humane and within the bounds of decency, or for any purpose other than loss of liberty, always with a significant objective of safety and rehabilitation (even if that may be within prison walls for the remainder of life). The executive makes attempts from time to time to rein in excesses of, for example, overcrowding or lack of adequate health care, but rarely is seen to look too closely inside the walls at regimes and performance (yes, I know, there are bodies that tick boxes and award certificates of prison competence .... but as has been admitted in a thread some months ago on the subject, these do not make a serious attempt to uphold a state or national standard). Instead of knee jerk reactions to events such as that described here, there is merit in considering and examining the issue of consequentiality, as I have very briefly alluded to. Ultimately, it can reasonably be said that where a person commits a crime within a prison environment, the prison itself has failed by some measure. That is not necessarily a failure of control, but may also, and in the case of many US prisons is certainly likely to be, a failure of management and systems, again as indicated by my original post. Progressive prison systems cannot be achieved either in warehouses or institutions with a warehouse mentality. Very often it IS the abuses or neglect inside that leads ultimately to prisoner violence.

Posted by: peter | Mar 26, 2012 11:48:50 AM

Adamakis:

You are more that welcome to return to...more traditional times, which you clearly idealize and idolize. I would prefer to think of human civilization as a thing which takes an upwards arc, and not a departure from more innocent times.

The Innocence Project is also responsible for hundreds of post-conviction exonerations -- sometimes of individuals who would of otherwise been executed at the hands of the state. It may be that these conniving lawyers will mean that the "law-and-order-blood-thirsty-retributionist-conservative-judeo/christian-traditional," as you call them, will have to wait slightly longer for their pound of flesh, but justice is in the process, not in the result.

Cheers.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 26, 2012 11:55:48 AM

TarlsQtr --

The one thing you have to give peter is that he is unshakeable. No matter what you say, and no matter what the facts, society gets the primary blame, every single time.

Yikes.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2012 12:12:11 PM

Guy --

There are hundreds of cases in which no sensate person could question guilt, and the murder was so horrible, sadistic and cruel it would make a grown man cry. In such cases, the killer has already walked through the door that separates civilized life from hell. All we are doing with the DP is closing the door behind him.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2012 12:16:44 PM

Bill:

I do not doubt that there are such cases. I've even been unlucky enough to see a few myself in my short time out of law school. Even with those cases where the only real question that I find myself asking is not whether our client is guilty, but whether I have the stomach to work in criminal defense, I still would not be able to support the imposition of the death penalty.

I know that people are capable of terrible things, for sure. I'm far from a saint myself. I don't couch my position on the death penalty in terms of moral superiority over those who disagree. I've been wrong about a great many things, and I'm willing to admit that I may well be wrong about this, as well.

But to take someone's life, be it a result of a drunken rage, a cold calculation, political zeitgeist or due process of law, is simply wrong. That we've dressed it up under the auspices of justice doesn't make it much different. Questions of who deserves what done to them and for how long are temporal in nature, and change with the political fortunes of the day. It was not long ago that being an African-American in the South was a capital offense, much to the approval and glee of your average white southerner (and, fwiw, I am from the south). Decisions about who gets to live and who gets to die ought not be made where it can be avoided.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a pacifist. I've been the victim of violent crime, and have had a gun held to my head and believed I was about to die. I didn't, of course, and much to the dismay of Soronel. I understand that sometimes violence is necessary, and sometimes killing, too. I suppose that is the thing that gives me pause in these cases, where it is done in sort of a defensive measure, and not as a punitive one.

But even then, I can't say that it is the right thing -- only that it is justified. The funny thing about justification is that it only really comes into play when you're doing something that is, at heart, wrong. You never have to justify, for example, giving to charity or feeding the homeless.

But that's just my opinion, of course, and I'm a young man of questionable morals, myself. So you can take that for what it's worth.

Cheers.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 26, 2012 1:12:21 PM

'Oh, also be sure to support suing the manufacturer of the bedframe as well. We cannot leave anyone (except the actual killer) out on their share of the blame and give up an opportunity for lawyers to make some money.'

a truly asshole statement in the same vein as some I've seen posted by that other one named otis

Posted by: Tom Danson | Mar 26, 2012 1:38:55 PM

Tom, I'm hurt to be left out.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 26, 2012 1:44:54 PM

Peter stated: "I am not aware of any statute or constitutional clause that gives license to prisons to conduct treatments that are other than entirely humane and within the bounds of decency, or for any purpose other than loss of liberty, always with a significant objective of safety and rehabilitation (even if that may be within prison walls for the remainder of life)."

The problem here is that people like you deem anything less than Ritz-Carlton type accomodations to be "inhumane." I hate to break the news to you, but an overwhelming majority of prison inmates see a huge IMPROVEMENT in their living conditions when they are sent to prison. It is often the first time in their lives they have received three hots, a dentist, eye doctor, medical doctor, counseling, and the equivalent of a free gym membership. You are working on the false premise that prisons are "inhumane."

You stated: "The executive makes attempts from time to time to rein in excesses of, for example, overcrowding or lack of adequate health care, but rarely is seen to look too closely inside the walls at regimes and performance (yes, I know, there are bodies that tick boxes and award certificates of prison competence .... but as has been admitted in a thread some months ago on the subject, these do not make a serious attempt to uphold a state or national standard)."

I would love to see where this is anything but your warped opinion. Opinion stated as fact is still an opinion.

An overwhelming majority of inmates are housed in conditions equal to or better than your average college dorm. Although there are obvious abuses, prisons are not like "Oz" or "Shawshank Redemption" with sadistic COs and wardens creating monsters out of otherwise normal human beings. Please stop watching TV and get a dose of reality. Prison personnel are usually incredibly honest and fair people, especially in light of the enmormously negative atmosphere they work in.

You stated: "Instead of knee jerk reactions to events such as that described here, there is merit in considering and examining the issue of consequentiality, as I have very briefly alluded to."

Your specious argument can be shot down easily with this simple fact. People who kill in prison are already in prison for guess what? Violent acts. Their antisocial behavior is evident long before a prison can "cause" them to kill. And where the prison setting does contribute is in the reality that you are putting really bad people in a setting with a thousand other really bad people. Violence is inevitable. If you have an answer for that problem, let me know.

You stated: "Ultimately, it can reasonably be said that where a person commits a crime within a prison environment, the prison itself has failed by some measure. That is not necessarily a failure of control, but may also, and in the case of many US prisons is certainly likely to be, a failure of management and systems, again as indicated by my original post."

Again, these people killed (or at least committed serious crimes) BEFORE they were ever subject to a "failure of management and systems." Again, it shows what a pathetic worldview you have. It is always a failure of some "system" (eg. prison, criminal justice, education) and NEVER just a sick and sadistic thug carrying out his desires on a population that just wants to go to work and then home to their families at the end of the day.

You stated: "Progressive prison systems cannot be achieved either in warehouses or institutions with a warehouse mentality."

You obviously have no idea about the multitude of programs available in most prison systems and how often inmates have to practically be dragged out of their cells to go to school, counseling, vocational training, etc.

Also, you want to make a bet that prison violence was far less back in the days when Auburn and Sing Sing were first constructed and conditions were harsher by multiples?

You stated: "Very often it IS the abuses or neglect inside that leads ultimately to prisoner violence."

Citation? How often? 70% percent of the time? 20%? 2%? .2%?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 26, 2012 2:33:55 PM

Federalist,

Just an oversight on Tom's part. Do not take it personally. ;-)

I am an "a$$hole" to Tom because I am right. I can hear the pitter patter of his little feet chasing the meatwagon with the hope of running into the victim's family. Most prisoners have no money, so it makes much more sense to sue the state for what Peter calls "failure of management and systems" or the bedframe manufacturer where the killer got the shank than the killer himself, who is almost definitely destitute.

Getting paid by the actual killer in gubmint cheese and peanut butter does not do much for Tom Danson's bank account.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 26, 2012 2:41:06 PM

Stewart is the poster person for the death penalty.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Mar 26, 2012 2:55:57 PM

federalist --

Don't worry, you won't be left out for long.

Steve Prof --

Nailed it.

Guy --

If something is justified and necessary, as you acknowledge killing sometimes is, then it can't simultaneously be wrong.

TarlsQtr --

You might not be the opening of a rectum (yet), but fear not, you're still a Nazi.

Danson --

So pleased to make your acquaintance.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2012 3:58:20 PM

Bill:

I disagree. Sometimes something can, in my opinion, be both necessary and wrong. Hence, the phrase, necessary evil. Just because something is necessary does not make it less evil.

Cheers.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 26, 2012 4:40:11 PM

Guy --

That can't be right. If you do that which is necessary, you cannot possibly be pegged with blame.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2012 6:50:39 PM

'Federalist'
'Tom, I'm hurt to be left out.'

Sorry, don't want you to feel neglected or left out either, yeah your one too, enjoy


'TarlsQtr'
'I am an "a$$hole" to Tom because I am right.'

No your not an asshole because your right or wrong, it feels like it just fits you so naturally to begin with, enjoy and happy April Fools Day too

Posted by: Tom Danson | Mar 26, 2012 7:06:31 PM

TarlsQtr and federalist --

You gotta love the quality of liberal "analysis" going on today. But fear not, in no time at all, they'll be demanding more civility from conservatives.

What a hoot!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2012 7:37:42 PM

'gotta love the quality of liberal "analysis'

sure but it's still not quite as spellbinding and dumbfounded as the 'puckered up' conservative analysis that's taking place these days, a happy April Fools day to you also

Posted by: Tom Danson | Mar 26, 2012 8:22:21 PM

I thought in America everyone is innocent until proven guilty. California prisons has/had some kind of rule that let prisoners snitch on others. Problem is/was some prisoners made false reports and the prisoners who were reported on were punished--guilty or not.

We need to find ways of reducing violence in our gulags. If members of different gangs would stop fighting each other and start fighting together for prison reforms, our whole society would become better.


Posted by: Pray4Peace | Mar 26, 2012 10:36:19 PM

Otis: "Then a response is in order. What do you propose?"


You said ignore, I didn't.

So, to be precise, to ignore is to refuse to acknowledge, yes? Not what I suggested. Acknowledge the death, but giving the guy another life sentence, or dragging the process out for 15-20 years while he appeals his death sentence, is a complete waste of taxpayer money, and the courts time.

That being said, this is a SUPERMAX - super-maximum security. I know for a fact that they don't house low level offenders in a supermax. They are built to house inmates who are considered to the highest security risk. Could the FBOP guarantee your safety while you were locked up at USP Florence?

If inmates are shanking each other in FBOP supermax prisons, then it has an obligation to accept responsibility for their inability to keep the highest security risks in its care from killing each other.

Besides, you are not the type of person who would believe the testimony of lifers you locked up, and prison hack provokers, in any trial you are so hell bent on having, are you?

Posted by: Huh? | Mar 26, 2012 11:17:04 PM

LOL better watch out with these types of statments bill!

"Guy --

That can't be right. If you do that which is necessary, you cannot possibly be pegged with blame.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 26, 2012 6:50:39 PM"


SOMEONE might decide it's NECESSARY that to save the american people and way of life some way needs to be found to KILL OFF the entire govt from the highest office to the flunky at the local court house!

IF so and they managed to do it does that mean they are blameless?

sorry i hadda do it!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 27, 2012 2:41:59 AM

Bill:

True. You don't get the blame, but that's not because there is none to be had. The action is still wrong, but by virtue of the circumstances, you're excused from accepting said blame that is inherent to the act of taking another person's life, even if that person means you harm, and even if that person has done terrible things.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 27, 2012 8:54:15 AM

Huh? stated: "I know for a fact that they don't house low level offenders in a supermax. They are built to house inmates who are considered to the highest security risk."

Again, claiming something is "fact" does not make it so. "Low level offenders" can be and ARE placed in supermax facilities if their PRISON CONDUCT warrants it. The 'security risk" is not derived from the nature of an inmate's outside crimes only. Prison disciplinary procedures may also place these inmates in such a setting.

Huh? stated: "If inmates are shanking each other in FBOP supermax prisons, then it has an obligation to accept responsibility for their inability to keep the highest security risks in its care from killing each other."

You are expecting the impossible. The prison's responsibility is to provide as secure an environment as possible in adherence to the law. It is not obligated (nor is it possible) to provide a completely risk free environment.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 27, 2012 9:09:50 AM

Tom Danson stated: "No your not an asshole because your right or wrong, it feels like it just fits you so naturally to begin with, enjoy and happy April Fools Day too"

Tom, if you plan on getting through life using your wit, you are halfway there.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 27, 2012 9:15:25 AM

Guy --

To give the most obvious recent example, let's take the SEAL killing of Osama. Almost the entire country views that as a good thing. It's not a question of the SEALS avoiding blame, because only a very few on the extreme thought that blame was deserved.

Instead, the country heaped them with affirmative praise for ridding the world of a dangerous and evil man.

You are incorrect in simply assuming -- which is what you're doing -- that the taking of a human life is ALWAYS wrong. Whether the taking of a life is wrong depends on what you get in exchange. There is a famous illustration of this in "The Speluncian Explorers," which is part of my teaching materials at Georgetown Law.

And I'll give you another example: ordinary traffic laws. If we reduced the speed limit to 35 nationwide, we would save thousands of lives each year. Since we know this in advance, are we as a county (or the people who set speed limits) either morally wrong or blameworthy because they allow much higher speeds?

No normal person would think so, and I doubt you think so either. We are willing to sacrifice those lives simply for the massive convenience and efficiency of driving faster.

Again, whether the taking of a life is wrong or blameworthy depends on what you get in return. In the McVeigh case, what we got in return was justice. And justice is far higher up the scale than efficiency and convenience.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 27, 2012 9:24:52 AM

Pray4Peace stated: "We need to find ways of reducing violence in our gulags. If members of different gangs would stop fighting each other and start fighting together for prison reforms, our whole society would become better."

Gulags? Seriously? Read a book about the gulags and perhaps you will understand what a ridiculous statement you made. I recommend Anne Applebaum's "Gulag: A History" or Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago." Either one will convince you to stay away from such ridiculous hyperbole.

Our society would be "better" if our gangbangers became productive members of society instead of running around feral and requiring that we chase them down and put them in steel cages. The prisons are not the problem; the people in them are.

Pray4Freedom and peace will follow.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 27, 2012 9:27:11 AM

Huh? --

To avoid the semantic dance, I'll just ask straight up: What do you think the penalty should be for a lifer, already serving his time for a prior firsr degree murder, who then murders again in prison?

If you think he should recieve no penalty at all (because others are, in your view, more blameworthy, or for any other reason) just say so.

If, on the other hand, you think he should receive a penalty, what should it be?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 27, 2012 9:39:55 AM

TarlsQtr --

While someone was out "praying for peace," the SEALS were doing the work and taking the mortal risks that actually make peace possible in a world full of dangerous and malevolent thugs.

I have full-throated, unqualified praise for the SEALS. Too bad others on this board -- people who never took any such risks -- are full of doubt.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 27, 2012 10:00:20 AM

Bill Otis stated: "If, on the other hand, you think he should receive a penalty, what should it be?"

The fact that he is a murderer is our (society's) fault. We deserve the punishment, not him. At least that is the honest answer in Huh?'s worldview.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 27, 2012 10:01:18 AM

TarlsQtr --

I have asked the same question at death penalty debates I have had at law schools around the country, and have yet to get an answer.

Maybe Huh? will be more creative.

Huh? is in some ways peter's nastier little brother: peter will say it's all society's fault, so we need to change our thinking, while Huh? will say it's all society's fault, so go screw yourself.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 27, 2012 10:07:44 AM


I, for one, appreciate Guy's willingness to at least try to submit his core beliefs to introspection and testing and -- I think -- to grant that those who have reached a different conclusion on this issue (what to do about lifers who kill in prison) didn't necessarily do so because of insufficient enlightenment/moral blindness or obtuseness.

Peter, unfortunately, is another matter. As others have noted, his views are practically a caricature. I'd venture to guess that even most ardent (but non-radical) liberals would balk at having views like Peter's attributed to them on the basis that they're a silly strawman that fails to account for the full range of their thoughts.

As others have noted, Peter does appear to accept (somewhat) the notion of blame and culpability, but only when applied to the state and its officers. That's why, in his view, you blame only the state and its officials for providing the prisoners insufficient "stimulus, opportunity and motivation" or otherwise being insufficiently attentive to their needs. As for killers who kill in prison not because they're particularly bored, or because they're seriously mentally ill, but because others' lives simply don't mean much to them and there's little or no effective penalty for snuffing one out, well, according to Peter, assuming that any such prisoners exist that's by definition society's fault as well since if society at large were only as enlightened as he is, people would naturally have no need or desire to hurt others. (Or he'd just blame the state for having prison conditions that are simultaneously too harsh but insufficient to the task of protecting other prisoners and guards from violent prisoners.) In other words, there's no "it's obviously the murderer's fault, even if one can accept that other causes acted as an accelerant," it's "the only people who can be considered blameworthy are the state's actors, as opposed to the poor souls whom the state has decided to imprison for reasons having little or nothing to do with circumstances under their control."

Posted by: guest | Mar 27, 2012 2:36:50 PM

guest --

As I think I've said before, you should post here way more frequently.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 27, 2012 3:50:14 PM

i have to agree with bill here guest!

great post!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 27, 2012 9:26:50 PM

TarlsQtr: "The 'security risk" is not derived from the nature of an inmate's outside crimes only. Prison disciplinary procedures may also place these inmates in such a setting."

Ya, you're right. They send people from a low to a supermax for insolence, or "contraband."

TarlsQtr: "You are expecting the impossible. The prison's responsibility is to provide as secure an environment as possible in adherence to the law. It is not obligated (nor is it possible) to provide a completely risk free environment."

Exactly.

Nancy Grace: "To avoid the semantic dance, I'll just ask straight up: What do you think the penalty should be for a lifer, already serving his time for a prior firsr degree murder, who then murders again in prison?"

Send him to bed without any dinner. Its not worth the time or money when the guy will never get out of prison anyway. He only has one life, you can't make him serve 2 or 3 more life sentences.

Nancy Grace: "If you think he should receive no penalty at all (because others are, in your view, more blameworthy, or for any other reason) just say so."

Statements like this are just one reason why you remind me of crazy Nancy Grace. Please point out where it was I was putting blame on others.

Beside some kind of sick satisfaction, what would you get out of this guy getting another life sentence? Do you think you are teaching him a lesson?

Furthermore, my initial comment was over what Watson said, "We are sending the message to the guy in the cell next to him who is only doing five years." The guy in the cell next to him most likely wants to get back outside at some point - he is what people in the hoosegow call "short." Wasting my tax dollars to send a message to that guy is ridiculous. You want to send him a message? Slide a note under his cell door.

TarlsQtr: "The fact that he is a murderer is our (society's) fault. We deserve the punishment, not him. At least that is the honest answer in Huh?'s worldview."

Nancy Grace: "Huh? is in some ways peter's nastier little brother: peter will say it's all society's fault, so we need to change our thinking, while Huh? will say it's all society's fault, so go screw yourself."

This is the reason I use the moniker, Huh?.


You T-Baggers can't have your cake and eat it to. Worried about the debt/deficit? Stop wasting taxpayer dollars sending messages to the guy in the cell next to Stewart - give the rich another tax break.

Posted by: Huh? | Mar 27, 2012 11:29:11 PM

Let the record reflect that Huh? states that the punishment for a murderer who kills again in prison is to send him to bed without dinner. Here's exactly what he says:

"Send him to bed without any dinner. Its not worth the time or money when the guy will never get out of prison anyway. He only has one life, you can't make him serve 2 or 3 more life sentences."

And, Mr. Huh? the real reason you use that moniker is that you want to avoid accountability for your snide, snarky and reckless language and behavior -- isn't that about it, Rob?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 28, 2012 9:26:15 AM

Huh? stated: "Ya, you're right. They send people from a low to a supermax for insolence, or "contraband.""

You know I am right, so you engage in a logical fallacy. Not everyone in a supermax is a murderer and most that are not murderers deserve to be there. Someone who incites a riot, for example, deserves supermax status even if he is in for one of your almost mythical "victimless" drug crimes. The real problem here is that you probably have no knowledge of what REALLY goes on in prison other than what people tell you or you see on MSNBC's "Lockup." I will state it clearly, you are ignorant of the facts and your entire diatribe is based on a foundation built out of this ignorance.

Huh? stated: "Send him to bed without any dinner. Its not worth the time or money when the guy will never get out of prison anyway. He only has one life, you can't make him serve 2 or 3 more life sentences."

Agreed, which is why I would not give him another life sentence. Instead, I would shorten his life.

Huh? stated: "Statements like this are just one reason why you remind me of crazy Nancy Grace. Please point out where it was I was putting blame on others."

Easily done. You stated: "If inmates are shanking each other in FBOP supermax prisons, then it has an obligation to accept responsibility for their inability to keep the highest security risks in its care from killing each other."

No, the FBOP does not have an "obligation to accept responsibility". Some people kill and no constitutional level of security other than death can change this fact. It is the killer who should be held responsible, not the FBOP.

You stated: "You T-Baggers can't have your cake and eat it to. Worried about the debt/deficit? Stop wasting taxpayer dollars sending messages to the guy in the cell next to Stewart - give the rich another tax break."

A red herring and false choice logical fallacy. The "T-Baggers" (these comments are why I laugh whenever you libs try to give lessons in manners)are not against spending for legitimate government functions. I have not found even one solid libertarian that takes issue with government providing law enforcement. It is a pretty obvious function. Telling people that they have to buy health insurance and it has to cover A, B, and C? Not so much.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 28, 2012 9:48:06 AM

Would any of the usually more liberal or pro-defense commenters like to join Huh? in his view that the punishment for a murderer who kills again in prison should be to go to bed without dinner?

I'm all ears.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 28, 2012 9:57:31 AM

Bill,

The irony is that A) prison officials cannot deny an inmate a meal, and B) if they did, Huh? and his ilk would be racing to the courthouse in order to be first to file the lawsuit on the inmate's behalf.

He literally wants no punishment.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 28, 2012 12:04:00 PM

TarlsQtr --

"He literally wants no punishment."

Ain't it amazin'? That's why I asked the other pro-defense types if they wanted to chime in. Thus far the number of them supporting the no-punishment-for-a-second-murder is zero.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 28, 2012 2:54:40 PM

sorry, last snarky comment...


Bill Otis

'Too bad others on this board -- people who never took any such risks -- are full of doubt.'


being a 'washington warrior' must provide great combat insight and few doubts I assume.

TarlsQtr

'(these comments are why I laugh whenever you libs try to give lessons in manners)'

nice quip, standing in front of a mirror and repeating it to yourself might provide a much more immediate and self gratifying experience though.

Posted by: Tom Danson | Mar 28, 2012 6:18:53 PM

Mr. Danson --

Now that you've made your last snarky comment, could you address the substantive issue?

What punishment do you propose for a previously convicted murderer serving a life sentence who murders again in prison?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 28, 2012 7:32:40 PM

Isn't it amazing that someone posting in virtual anonymity from hundreds or thousands of miles away has the gall to comment about "Washington Warriors?" I suppose that makes Tom a "Keyboard Ninja?"

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 29, 2012 8:56:00 AM

TarlsQtr --

I'd be happy to let him Ninja away if he'd just answer a substantive question.

Oh well.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 29, 2012 5:02:19 PM

Most prisons have a disciplinary system in place that are outside of the judiciary. This prison disciplinary system will expedite justice for any infraction that happens while incarcerated. Convictions through the prison disciplinary system result punishments a prisoner might actually feel - lengthy segregation, loss of privileges and perhaps extra work duty; so real punishments that can be imposed on the offender serving a life sentence are imposed whether the person is prosecuted or not.

Those convictions inside the prison system are easier to get as well, since the burden of proof is much less than in legal courts. All that is required is that they meet a reasonable standard of due process. Someone serving a life sentence with no hope of release would be more concerned about the punishments these disciplinary boards met out rather than any abstract sentence the courts might give.

Posted by: nabiy | Mar 30, 2012 1:37:03 AM

nabiy --

Do you really think segregation, loss of privileges and extra work duty are proportionate punishment for murder? Murder is more than just, as you put it, an "infraction."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 30, 2012 10:10:00 AM

There is no limitation on how much further down the road they can attack the conviction,

Posted by: Heat Snapback Hats | Jul 6, 2012 8:11:30 AM

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