Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Three Strikes and You're OUT

Well, we're back to the New York Times editorial board again today. There was an editorial in today's paper titled "Crime and Punishment in Connecticut." 

The governor and the Republicans in the Connecticut legislature have proposed a "three strikes" law, which would require a life sentence for any criminal three times convicted of violent crimes. The New York Times is opposed to a "three strikes" law, saying that it would do more harm than good. According to them, "The proposed law, which would mandate life in prison for anyone convicted of three violent felonies, is a bumper sticker solution that would create injustices by barring judges' discretion in sentencing. It would also not deter the many crimes committed by people who have not committed three violent felonies." This statement was directly preceded in the article with, "Last July two recently paroled men broke into a home in Cheshire and tortured and murdered three people. Last month a man who served more than eight years for assaulting a 5 year old - and had been out on probation for less than a month - broke into a New Britain home. He accosted two women, wounding one and killing the other."

Perhaps I'm simply a person lacking compassion. I don't know. Maybe I'm just a short sighted person who needs some enlightenment... but when judges are so moronic that they refuse to give heavy sentences to repeat violent offenders, maybe it's time that a law is passed requiring it to be so. If two men were released from prison and immediately went out, broke into somebody's home and tortured and murdered three people -- this is a problem. I want to know why those men were released on society to begin with!

As is typical, though, the New York Times is too busy blaming society for the crimes of the men rather than holding them responsible for their own behavior. "Connecticut's system for sharing crime information, which could keep some of the most dangerous offenders off the streets, is antiquated. It has neither inpatient treatment for sex offenders nor housing for them once they are released. Hundreds of former inmates are on a waiting list for inpatient drug treatment. The suspect arrested in the New Britain case had been staying in a homeless shelter at night but roaming freely during the day while waiting to begin outpatient sex offender treatment."

Clearly, a person capable of going into a home and sexually assaulting two women, seriously injuring one and killing the other, is in need of treatment of some kind. I am not suggesting that there should be no treatment provided. But I am suggesting that there is no reason why the state cannot provide such treatment within a prison setting. Why are these violent people being released and sent to treatment - whether in-patient or out? People who commit acts such as these don't belong in a snug treatment center. They belong in prison, as do serial killers, rapists, burglars, etc... 

But the New York Times is not wanting to see any mandatory sentencing such as the three strikes law. Rather, they would like to see "other urgent reforms, including more re-entry programs and jobs training and better monitoring after prisoners are released on probation and parole." Ah, I see!! These men who went out and assaulted and murdered were doing so because they had not been adequately trained by the state for any other job!! Silly... Re-entry programs are essential. People who have spent years behind bars get used to that kind of life and living outside them is frightening. But a re-entry program wouldn't have stopped what those men did. And "better monitoring?" How much monitoring would have prevented these despicable acts? Only prison bars or death. 

Of course, I realize I sound like I really lack compassion right about now. Prison bars or death?? Puh-leeze. But who is going to show compassion for the innocents who are maimed and killed so that we can all feel compassionate towards the criminal? Where is the compassion for the victims of these senseless crimes? For the families of the victims left behind to deal with their grief and anger? How about the communities who struggle through life knowing such a violent act was perpetrated in their midst - wondering if and when it will occur again? Where is the compassion for them? Frankly, I get concerned when people get all wrapped up in compassion for the perpetrator of a crime and forget to have compassion for the victim. Seems kind of backward to me. 

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