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Should prison ever be 'For life'?

**helen****helen** Mod malarkistPosts: 9,235 Listening Ear
Have been following this story a bit, and just wondered if you guys have any thoughts on it?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/wholelife-jail-terms-with-no-review-breach-human-rights-european-court-rules-8697317.html

And just generally - where do you stand on the 'prison for life' concept?
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Comments

  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    There are some people who should never be freed, in the interests of public safety. Yes it is a harsh sentence, but their crimes are despicable and they stand as a danger to society.

    I think everyone should be entitled to a review of their life term, as I'm sure there are many people who spends years in prison and "change their ways" so to speak, but there are definitely some people who deserve a whole life term.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    What BA said.

    There is also criteria (which I will find if anyone's interested) for judges to follow when deciding whether life should be life.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    To an extent it depends on what you think the purpose of prison is or how you think the purposes of prison should be weighted. If prison is purely punitive then it stands to reason the worse the crime the longer the sentence and I can see that being extended to sentence lengths in excess of a person's life expectancy. If you think there should be a rehabilitative effort made, and accept that it may not be possible to rehabilitate within a lifetime, then life sentences are also justifiable. Maybe there's a distinction to be drawn between sentences which turn out to be for life and those which are life sentences.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    To an extent it depends on what you think the purpose of prison is or how you think the purposes of prison should be weighted. If prison is purely punitive then it stands to reason the worse the crime the longer the sentence and I can see that being extended to sentence lengths in excess of a person's life expectancy. If you think there should be a rehabilitative effort made, and accept that it may not be possible to rehabilitate within a lifetime, then life sentences are also justifiable. Maybe there's a distinction to be drawn between sentences which turn out to be for life and those which are life sentences.

    I totally agree that in most cases prison should be for rehabilitation, directing people away from crime, giving them the skills they need to get a proper job etc etc. but there are some people who will never be freed and never should be. For example, Ian Brady. Yes he is in a maximum security hospital, but he is still a prisoner, he committed crimes to put him there. He will never be rehabilitated, and I doubt anyone made much of an effort to try, he will never be set free- even now he is an elderly man.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    CCH makes a good point.

    I guess there are two questions - should sentences have the option of turning into whole life sentences; and should there be the option of whole life sentences from the outset.

    I'm pretty decided on the first one - there should definitely be the option to have full life sentences for serious crimes where further down the line there is no evidence of rehabilitation.

    On the latter question I'm slightly torn. There are some people, e.g. Ian Brady or Levi Bellfield, whom I really struggle to see how could ever be rehabilitated - and thus making the clear decision up front seems to make sense. Is that right however? I'm not so sure.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    On the latter question I'm slightly torn. There are some people, e.g. Ian Brady or Levi Bellfield, whom I really struggle to see how could ever be rehabilitated - and thus making the clear decision up front seems to make sense. Is that right however? I'm not so sure.

    From a psychological point of view there are some (not many, but a few) people with extreme personality disorders, or psychopathic tendencies who are not safe to live in normal society. The general public would not be safe, but also the person themselves would not be safe. For example if Ian Brady was ever released I think there would be more danger for him than there would be for the public. He would undoubtedly not be welcomed back into society, and would definitely come to harm. I think this is also a consideration that should come into play when giving a life sentence, what is the safest place for the criminal long term?
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I guess there's also the unpopular question of if it's determined that it should be a full life sentence for someone - is putting them in jail the right thing to do, or should they be put down.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    For me the most important purpose of prison is to protect the public. To take the example of Ian Brady - a man who ritualised the torture and murder of children, recently brushing it off as "an existential exercise" - you have a man who clearly should not be released on grounds of safety alone.

    I've always been suspicious of the efficacy of prison as a deterrent, but am happy to follow the evidence on that one.

    Where it does get murky for me is how much should be punitive and how much should be restorative. Foremost in my mind are the victims of crime. I see part of the sentencing of a criminal (certainly in cases where there are direct victims) as society showing the victim that it understands they were wronged.

    The restorative element seems to me to be both pragmatic and humane. We want to minimise reoffending as a society and maximise wellbeing among criminals who have paid their debt.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It's nice to see that there is balance and reason in here, elsewhere I have seen others who have literally been frothing at the mouth over this. The decision in Europe does not say that these sentences are wrong, all it says is that they are wrong because there is no review process in place. There used to be a review at 25 years, but I think it was David Blunket who removed it. This doesn't mean that the people are more likely to get out, but does mean there will be a periodical review.
  • Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Warming up? Posts: 16,688
    G-Raffe wrote: »
    There used to be a review at 25 years, but I think it was David Blunket who removed it. This doesn't mean that the people are more likely to get out, but does mean there will be a periodical review.
    Technically, it does mean they're more likely to get out, as it would be impossible without a review and therefore anything is more likely.
    [/pedant]
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I've always been suspicious of the efficacy of prison as a deterrent, but am happy to follow the evidence on that one.

    It would be interesting to see stats (if any do exist) on how many people commit a crime once leaving prison.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It's fairly high, you are less likely to reoffend when given a community sentence but obviously that's not applicable in these cases.

    I think people can change, and if it was a life sentence for manslaughter (which I believe is possible, but correct me if I'm wrong), then I think 25 years is plenty enough punishment and I think they would have been able to be rehabilitated, but that what parole boards are there for - deciding if that's the case of not.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Some types of criminal, with the right amount of support can be rehabilitated. Mainly those involved with low level acquisitive crime.
    Some people, with the right attitude and help can turn their lives around, they are genuinely remorseful and willing to put back what they have taken from society.

    Some people, in the words of Alfred from The Dark Knight "Want to see the world burn". A large number of people, are quite simply scumbags who should never see the light of day, where prison shouldn't be a deterrent, it is simply a holding pen that is there to keep those scumbags away from the rest of us.
    Think murderers, rapists, the "Mr Bigs" in the organised crime world e.t.c.
  • Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Warming up? Posts: 16,688
    Maybe there should be two kinds of prisons, instead of putting everyone together. I don't think that's a good thing for the "better" group.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Maybe there should be two kinds of prisons, instead of putting everyone together. I don't think that's a good thing for the "better" group.

    There are category A, B and C prisons. And category D which is an open prison. Where you go depends on your crime, the severity of it and how dangerous you are.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner_security_categories_in_the_United_Kingdom
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Category A prisons are essentially used to keep people away from the public, maximum security for serious offenders. Category D prisons are used to help prisoners gain the trust of the community by giving them jobs, and help them become rehabilitated so they can cope once they are out of prison.

    Obviously rehabilitation attempts are made in higher security prisons, and the most trusted prisoners are given jobs inside (for example in the kitchen, or doing laundry). But there are definitely different prisons for different offences depending on the severity and the chance the criminal has to go back and be successful living crime free in the community, and if you are a prolific offender you will end up in a Category A prison, where the main aim is quite often to keep the public safe.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    But then that raises the question, what about the victims of the crime? If someone is sexually assaulted that stays with them for the rest of their lives, they don't get to leave it behind. They themselves are serving a life sentence and don't get time off for 'good behaviour'. I believe that some crimes deserve life. But obviously that would depend on the severity of the individual crime.

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  • SkiveSkive No discipline. No morality. No respect. New ForestPosts: 15,169 Skive's The Limit
    I think life blanket life sentences (that actually mean life no chance of parole) are wrong. A sentence is more than just a punishment and consideration needs to be given to a number of different things.

    Retribution is something that the victim or victims family is going to feel very strongly about. Obviously when people suffer through somebody's criminal act they want to see that the criminal suffers in return, but this should have limitations. For instance I don't believe the death penalty is a morally acceptable punishment for a rapist imo, though I'm sure many victims of rape would sentence their rapists to death if it were in the power.
    If you were a victim of some horrible crime no punishment would seem reasonable. That's why we have courts and judges to makes decisions on convictions, so they can give out fair and proper judgements that arn't clouded by personal grief, and that is how it should be.

    Sentences should also be about making sure we can dissuade any would be criminal from committing a crime if we can. The best way to do this is to set a precedent and an example. Make members of society know that if they commit a crime, your are both unlikely to get away with it, and also likely to be punished appropriately for it. However the effectiveness of this is debatable - the death penalty hasn't stop murders in the US. Making examples of people isn't going to stop all crime eg so called 'crimes of passion' or those crimes committed by the mentally ill.

    Thirdly sentences should be about rehabilitating the criminal which ties in with public safety. This is important and very tricky. What is the point in locking somebody up if they're going to come out as bad if not worse? At the same time what is the point in locking people away without any hope or effort in them ever becoming a valuable member of society. I believe people can change, but not that everybody can change. Some people can be helped and some can't, but surely we have to try. Rather than no chance of parole I'd rather see people evaluated by experts far better at making these judgements than you or I.
    Yesterday is history
    Tomorrow is a mystery
    But today is a gift
    That’s why it’s call the present
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Skive wrote: »
    Some people can be helped and some can't, but surely we have to try. Rather than no chance of parole I'd rather see people evaluated by experts far better at making these judgements than you or I.

    For what it's worth, every experience I've ever had has shown to me that the judges and the "experts" are completely hopeless. How many times does a serial burglar need to be released from prison before we admit defeat and lock them up indefinitely?
    How many times do we need to see a passionless judge lock up a violent rapist for 6 years because that is what the sentencing guidelines say, when it is clear to everyone else they need a much more severe punishment.

    I'm going to go out on a limb, but sometimes I find myself in total agreement with how people in the middle east do things. Letting the victim, who is the person whos opinion should count most, decide on a punishment is often, imo the best way of doing things.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I believe life should mean life for premeditated murder e.g. Bamber
  • SkiveSkive No discipline. No morality. No respect. New ForestPosts: 15,169 Skive's The Limit
    Whowhere wrote: »
    For what it's worth, every experience I've ever had has shown to me that the judges and the "experts" are completely hopeless. How many times does a serial burglar need to be released from prison before we admit defeat and lock them up indefinitely?

    You think serial burglars should be locked up indefinitely?
    Whowhere wrote: »
    I'm going to go out on a limb, but sometimes I find myself in total agreement with how people in the middle east do things. Letting the victim, who is the person whos opinion should count most, decide on a punishment is often, imo the best way of doing things.

    No the best way of doing thing is giving out sentances that are proportionate to the crime commited. If we have people like yourself handing out sentances, we'd have a system more akin to the US, where locking people away is a business. Life for burglary? Fuck that.
    Yesterday is history
    Tomorrow is a mystery
    But today is a gift
    That’s why it’s call the present
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I believe life should mean life for premeditated murder e.g. Bamber

    This is generally the case and there are other factors that have to be considered when deciding whether life should mean life.

    What do we do with people who can't be helped? We can't let them roam the streets. His name escapes me for now; but there was someone over here years ago killed someone, was released, killed another person and his sentence is life.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Everyone should have the opportunity to apply for parole, to prove they have reformed. Anything else is cruel and inhumane and, to be bluntly honest, you may as well have the death penalty in that case.

    I can't believe we even need to have this conversation.

    Despite the mutterings of the Tory Filth, this doesn't mean Ian Brady will be out next week. It means he should have the chance to prove himself worthy of being released.

    As for jailing burglars for life, I'd much rather start by jailing any copper who's ever accepted a bribe, impregnated women whilst pretending to be James Bond, or murdered a newspaper seller. Don't see that happening soon. All coppers are bastards.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    How do you reform someone that takes the premeditated DECISION to murder someone else? That sort of drive to murder is completely alien to most of us, and we all know beforehand what any judicial consequence of such an action might be.

    No. In those circumstances, life must mean life.

    I agree that life for burglary without the option for parole is wrong.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It depends on the circumstances and the relevant parole boards- the experts- should be the ones to make the decision.

    Mary Bell, for instance, has led a reasonably straight life since being released from prison in 1980.

    The decision from the European Court of Human Rights doesn't give anyone the right to be released, it merely gives them the right to be assessed for release. That is entirely right and proper. Indeed, the law provided for this review up until 2003, when David Blunkett removed it for political capital. The ECHR have recommended a review after 25 years; by pure coincidence, this was the period in place before Blunkett changed the law to distract attention from his philandering.

    Ironically the man who brought the case- Bamber- won't ever be released because he's adamant he did not commit the crime.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Whowhere wrote: »
    For what it's worth, every experience I've ever had has shown to me that the judges and the "experts" are completely hopeless. How many times does a serial burglar need to be released from prison before we admit defeat and lock them up indefinitely?

    Funny you say this.

    In a study in Tasmania, more than half the jurors involved in criminal law trials recommended a sentence which was more lenient than that provided by the trial judge. For property cases, 68% of jurors recommended a more lenient sentence.

    http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/401-420/tandi407.html
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I guess prison should be for life in the case of certain crimes. Murder....that's a tricky one. It can mean anything from an 'Ian Huntly' to an elderly bloke putting up with years of nagging from his wife and bashing her once over the head to 'shut her up' but ending up killing her. Both are murder, neither are excusable, but one carries a great deal more seriousness behind it when you look at them in terms of intent.

    Sex crimes are another - with theft, murder, fraud etc there is at least a possibility that human nature can change, to learn the error of their ways. But sexual urges are natural (at least to the individual) and carnal. If someone is attracted to children enough to act on their sexual urge then I cannot see how that could be suppressed therefore I would be against any sentence being reduced.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Everyone should have the opportunity to apply for parole, to prove they have reformed. Anything else is cruel and inhumane and, to be bluntly honest, you may as well have the death penalty in that case..

    I agree completely with this view.

    I struggle to see any rational counter argument beyond punitive retribution.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-23372604

    It just doesn't sit well with me that this man can ever get released.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Are you in favour of capital punishment?
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