Monday, October 24, 2011

Alternative to the Death Penalty Under Attack

The rallying cry for those opposed to the death penalty has been that life without parole is an equally severe punishment that adequately protects the public.  For instance the Catholic Church suggests that the death penalty should be abolished, "Because we have other ways to protect society that are more respectful of human life."

The death penalty is still around and the attacks on life without parole have already begun. According to the USAToday, from 1984 to 2008, the number of offenders serving life terms quadrupled, from 34,000 to roughly 140,000, according to the most recent count by The Sentencing Project, which advocates alternatives to incarceration.

One of the fastest-growing subgroups are inmates serving life without the possibility of parole. Those numbers have jumped from 12,453 in 1992 to 41,095 in 2008 and represent the most costly inmates to house as the aging inmates require increased medical care.

"The challenge for us is to distinguish between the offenders we are afraid of — those who deserve to be locked up for life — and those who we are just mad at and who can be handled outside of prison," Texas state Senator John Whitmire told the USAToday.

Life without parole will be the next death penalty.  Those opposed to today's death penalty will be the abolitionist for tomorrow's life sentence.  The cost saving associated with the abolition of the death penalty will be quickly usurped by challenges to life without parole.  Soon enough those "other ways to protect society" relied on by the Catholic Church will begin to disappear.

Will the efforts to thwart the death penalty and life without parole have an impact on violent crime? 

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