Monday, December 12, 2005

A bigger list...

I've been thinking about The Lonely Abolitionist tonight. I looked back to see what kind of posts I've made in the last few months. I've done very few, and only 2 obits since Michael Ross. That means that my blog has missed one of its main stays, the obit, for several individuals. I went and looked at the list of executions for 2005 and the list is longer than I ever imagined. I still mark them on my calendar, and I still pay attention, but I just never realized how long the list is. So, here is one giant obit for the time from Michael Ross to Tookie Williams:

Vernon Brown - Missouri - May 17, 2005 - 51 years old
Bryan Wolfe - Texas - May 18, 2005 - 44 years old
Richard Cartwright - Texas - May 19, 2005 - 31 years old
Gregory Scott Johnson - Indiana - May 25, 2005 - 40 years old
Jerry Paul Henderson - Alabama - June 2, 2005 - 58 years old
Alexander Martinez - Texas - June 7, 2005 - 28 years old*
Robert Dale Conklin - Georgia - July 12, 2005 - 44 years old
Michael L. Pennington - Oklahoma - July 19, 2005 - 37 years old
Kevin Connor - Indiana - July 27, 2005 - 38 years old
David Martinez - Texas - July 28, 2005 - 29 years old
George Sibly - Alabama - August 4, 2005 - 62 years old
Gary Sterling - Texas - August 10, 2005 - 38 years old
Kenneth Eugene Turrentine - Oklahoma - August 11, 2005 - 52 years old
Robert Alan Shields - Texas - August 23, 2005 - 30 years old
Timothy Johnston - Missouri - August 31, 2005 - 44 years old
John W. Peoples Jr. - Alabama - September 22, 2005 - 48 years old
Herman Dale Ashworth - Ohio - September 27, 2005 - 32 years old
Alan Matheney - Indiana - September 28, 2005 - 54 years old
Luis Ramirez - Texas - October 20, 2005 - 42 years old
William Williams, Jr. - Ohio - October 25, 2005 - 48 years old
Marlin Gray - Missouri - October 26, 2005 - 38 years old
Melvin White - Texas - November 3, 2005 - 55 years old
Brian Steckel - Deleware - November 4, 2005 - 36 years old
Arthur Hastings Wise - South Carolina - November 4, 2005 - 51 years old
Charles Thacker - Texas - November 9, 2005 - 38 years old
Steven Van McHone - North Carolina - November 11, 2005 - 35 years old
Robert Rowell - Texas - November 15, 2005 - 50 years old
Shannon Thomas - Texas - November 16, 2005 - 34 years old
Elias Hanna Syriani - North Carolina - November 18, 2005 - 67 years old
Eric Randall Nance - Arkansas - November 28, 2005 - 45 years old
John R. Hicks - Ohio - November 29, 2005 - 49 years old
Kenneth Lee Boyd - North Carolina - December 2, 2005 - 57 years old
Shawn Humphries - South Carolina - December 2, 2005 - 33 years old
Wesley E. Baker - Maryland - December 5, 2005 - 47 years old

*28 years old. He was only 28!! (Martinez "volunteered" for death...suicide by lethal injection).


CarrieJ said...

This list does not include Frances Newton and Ronald Ray Howard because I already wrote postings on them. So, if you are looking at this to see how many since May, please include those two.

mikeypod said...

I have felt really weird about the fact that i only talk about certain executions. Strange that so many happen witout even us abolitionists taking notice.

Patrick Townson said...

This will be sort of long, and it is my intention to say why I do not believe either very long prison sentences [such as, for example, a 'life' sentence, or 50 years or similar] is ever appropriate and why a 'death penalty' sentence is generally wrong without the explicit consent of the person being executed.'

First of all, if a person does not know what prison is about the first day he gets sent there, it is doubtful he will know about it twenty or thirty years later.

If a prison is going to serve any therapeutic purpose at all -- and that was the original meaning of the wordpenitentiary -- a place to hopefully practice and become penitent or sorry and ashamed of one's behavior, that cannot happen as they are run now.

Assuming that the anti-social behavior Vernon and other prisoners similarly situated are accused of is correct -- a big 'if' in many cases and assuming our overall intention is to rehabilitate if all all possible such persons then why are we tossing them in together in a penal setting? If we were sick for any reason, we would go to a doctor for treatment, a personal and private matter. We would not sit around in the doctor's waiting room spreading our illnesses around to others also waiting.

First. let's consider length of time in prison, and let's call our prisoner Mr. John Doe. This is just my personal opinion, but I believe most prisoners either will or will not be rehabilitated in a period of several months or perhaps one or two years, max. But John Doe should receive intensive therapy during that period and not be routinely in association with other prisoners. His therapists or teachers would provide him with a modicum of ways to survive in the world. For some (many? most?) prisoners things like teaching them to read and write (both skills woefully lacking in many prison populations) would be important. So many people in the outside world do not realize that often as not, crimes (at lesst crimes of violence -- about the only ones which call for prison punishment) are not committed by people who wake up one day and say "I am going to go out and rip off some old lady's purse for the hell of it" or "I am going to go out and buy drugs (rape/molest, etc) someone for the hell of it". If people came out of prison having learned from the experience and with a job waiting for them and a family and a home, chances are they will not go back to prison.

So it may be too much to expect of the Corrections Industry, which, after all, depends on its livelyhood by taking in as many prisoners as possible, but I would definitly try to set my aim at keeping folks out of repeat visits -- recidivism -- to prison. You make their necessary visits to same short, and sweeet and heavy on therapy. Prisoners do not need to associate with each other as a routine thing. Whatever got me here to prison is none of your concern, nor is whatever happened in your life any concern of mine. Mostly I would keep prisoners isolated in their cells for that reason. Our purpose here is to repair your life style, not have inmate social events like basketball games, movies, free time to chat with other inmates, etc. Of course that is assuming you are giving the inmates short, more bearable sentences. We are not planning to keep you here for ten or twenty years, we are talking about keeping you here for six months to a year. We want you to get out while memories of the world as you knew it are still fresh in your mind. I would rather have you back in the world for a fresh start while the technology and your work skills were still relevant if I am to have any hope at all that you will not re-offend.

Now I sort of approve of the 'three strikes and you are out' concept. Our fictional prisoner, John Doe came in prison the first time with a relativly clean sheet as those things go. Some minor offense ... but under my proposed system there would be no probation, no court supervision, etc; I would just say penitentiary for one and all. John Doe serves his three or six months in an intensive setting, hopefully never to return. A big task in his final month or two of incarceration would be to insist he have employment somewhere on his release, support from his family if he has one and housing. I dare say the authorities could issue him a debit card with several hundred dollars on it to 'tide him over' through getting a job and an apartment, etc.

I know the Illinois Department of Correction would never go along with this; they earn their living by having the same old repeat offenders back all the time, but at least some correctional officials are not as corrupt as the ones in Illinois.

Now our John Doe did not quite catch the routine the first time around and he gets sent back a second or a third time. On his second and third time around, the time of incarceration grows a little, and we continue his therapy where it left off the first time. Now he has been in prison three times, each time for sort of heinous crimes ... and he gets convicted a FOURTH time, for something simple and basically not too offensive, such as shoplifting.

I can hear your complaints now: a Four Time Offender! Some would propose executing him, but I suggest this: Any judge in any court would have the authority to suspend the 'three strikes' rule for a fourth time. As a therapist for John Doe while in prison, my inclination would be to congratulate him, "Good John! You have started to learn your lesson haven't you? Before your crimes were quite heinous, now this time around you are just into petty stuff again!" (For murders and other violent crimes I would not just give six months or one year sentences; maybe three or five year sentences to start with.)

After three times around (or a fourth time if any judge used his discretion to allow it; concievably even a fifth time if the crime was 'petty enough' and approved by a relatively high court) now here comes John Doe back again:

At this point we say to John in effect like this: "John, you have claimed your innocence a few times, and we have tried to work with you. Now, we have reached the point where we can do so no longer. Maybe it is our own shortcomings as a society, God help us, or maybe in fact you have been guilty even once or twice? of the various offenses charged to you. But in any event you can no longer be part of our society ever again. So within the next thirty days you have to reach a decision or we will reach one for you.

You can either decide to accept the remainder of your life in prison -- in a warehouse setting -- with others who have chosen the same thing, or you can be put to death, you will make the choice. You can choose to be hung, to be gassed, electrocuted, or lethal injection, as you wish. If you require us to make the choice, we will use 'lethal injection' because our experts have told us that is the least painful and vindictive, but we would prefer that you choose, a method of death or permanent incarceration in a warehouse like setting. You can even commit suicide at any time during this month if that is your choice. We are not trying to 'get even' John, it is just that in our own human limitations we see no way to work with you any further as a member of our society.

During this final month of your
'semi freedom' you will be locked up here, but you will have any books or other literature you wish brought to you at any reasonable hour. You will have a telephone at your disposal, and John, we strongly encourage you to seek counsel from your friends and family on what to do. You can be in contact with your attorney as you wish, or perhaps your pastor or other advisors. But John, we must order you to make absolutely no contact with the families of your victim(s) or otherwise abuse your telephone priviledges. That will cause you to lose the use of the telephone.

In the event we were somehow wrong or you wish to seek pardon for your crime(s), your attorney will know the procedure to use if you call him.

And John, your choice is due in thirty days. If, during that thirty days we find you dead in your cell,we will know you chose the way to end your dilemma. If we do not find you dead, then on day thirty we will ask for your answer, and lacking recieving same we will use lethal injection. If we receive an answer from you about your preference, you may assume it will be handled that way within a few days of that point.


Now I do not know about the other readers here, but given a choice of being executed (or committing suicide) or life in prison, I would be inclined to go with the former, since death -- as awful, I suppose as it would be -- still does not scare me nearly as much as a lifetime in prison.

Public responses welcome.

Patrick Townson

CarrieJ said...

This reminds me of the Marxist ideal...great in theory but in no way practical or good public policy. It would be horribly expensive to give prisoners intensive individualized therapy (not that I don't think they should get it in the current system!) and, as much faith as I have in the human condition, I know that therapy doesn't work for everyone. 3-5 years of intensive therapy for a murder does not take into consideration that if a prisoner has not rehabilitated, the moment he or she leaves the world around them is in danger of death (depending on the situation). A system like this also removes all possibility of a criminal system at least partially based on deterrence. Myself I vote for deterrence and rehabilitiation. I think punishment and restitution come with the package.

As for giving a prisoner the chance to choose death over life imprisonment with death the default, that's saying that a prisoner's life is not worth anything while he or she is incarcerated. The deterrence factor becomes more real, and rehabilitation has been dealt with before the 3rd-4th time around, but meanwhile, a capital murderer who does not respond to the therapy has raped and murdered 2-3 or more additional people after release from each 3-5 year sentence. That is NOT good public policy. I would rather see someone who has a tendency toward torrid and planned violent crimes spend the rest of his or her life trying to make someone of him or herself in a penetentiary than risk setting that person out on the street to kill again. Some people, like it or not, are sociopaths who will not respond to therapy of any kind (Ted Bundy might be a good example). We have to deal with the extremes in society, like it or not.

Now...I agree with the assessment that some crimes do not deserve jail time but rather intensive therapy...perhaps on strictly supervised release or with a short period of time in a locked down therapy center (small time drug dealers, petty theft without the use of a weapon, etc.). In those cases, however, the only reason I agree with such a system is because they are non-violent crimes. Add in physical violence or mental torture or anything like that and your danger to society skyrockets.

OK I'm done now. I didn't really think this out, but I think I'll post it anyway.