Cruel and Unusual…

Cleveland is back on front page news.   In an horrific story, three women and one of their daughters were discovered prisoners in a house, the women for 10 years.  When the full story is known, the world will most likely read again about depravity and the counter intuitive behavior of long term prisoners.

For the perpetrator, the question will be “what is the most suitable punishment?

The criminal justice system will grapple with this question.  In due course, a verdict will be rendered and a punishment assigned.  Will it be 30 years, life, or even possibly the death penalty?

Many pundits are already calling for the death penalty.  Apparently they do not need the insight a trial would provide.  What has been charged so far is good enough for them.  Regardless it does beg the question of what purpose any punishment will serve.

Is society interested in “revenge”, eye for eye – tooth for tooth?  Or, is society’s interest in a deterrent?   Or, after careful guilt determination, is society’s goal a separation of the guilty person from everyone else?  (sort of like a time out).

The death penalty can be seen as both revenge and separation (the ultimate kind), so depending upon ones views on the death penalty, one should be clear why the death penalty should be used or not used.

Separation is also achieved by prison time.  The judge will have to decide how much separation is appropriate but the perpetrator can spend a long time, maybe his natural life time, away from normal society.  But does that satisfy also the “get even” urge the victims might have?

Many have argued that the death penalty violates the Constitution because death is “cruel and unusual punishment” (to be distinguished from water boarding).  For this perpetrator, however, someone who needed three women to satisfy his sexual needs, a long term prison sentence might feel to him “cruel and unusual”.

In any case, it is not for us (the observers) to decide either guild or punishment.  That responsibility rests with the established court system.  I just hope the prosecuting attorney and the judge are not an elected officials.  The trial outcome does not need the bias of public opinion.

 

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