A few days ago, there was an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about a young woman whose dead body had been found. I know—we’re all used to seeing such news reports, but we should still be appalled each and every time.
The article went on to discuss the background of the perpetrator. He had been convicted of the rape-murder of a teenage girl, as I recall, back in the early 90’s. He had been convicted of several other crimes along the way, including at least one instance of parole violation. It listed the terms of all his convictions, and if you added up the years of the separate sentences, he should have been in prison until maybe 2025 or so.
Our criminal justice system has become a joke—a horribly sick joke, but a joke nonetheless. We assess a criminal a sentence, and then we let him or her out after serving only a fraction of the time assessed. If he or she is found guilty of two or more crimes at the same time and assessed sentences on each, more often than not they are applied concurrently, resulting in the second crime’s being a freebie—no punishment at all.
If the man who killed this young woman (I don’t remember whether or not he raped her first, but I think he did) had been made to serve the time assessed to him, he would not have been available to commit this crime. Her family would be enjoying her life instead of mourning her death.
This story is far too familiar. We all hear all the time about crimes committed by people who would have been incarcerated but were let out before their full sentences were up. How long are we going to tolerate this?
When I was growing up back in the 1950’s, murder and rape almost automatically carried either life in prison or death as their consequences. How have we gotten so far away from this? Nowadays, it’s not unusual to hear of a five-year sentence for murder. Really? Is that all a life is worth?
When’s the last time you heard about someone actually serving the full sentence assessed for a crime? Why do we sentence criminals if we don’t mean the sentences? Are we just kidding? Isn’t it time to get serious about criminals? We need to go back to the choice between life and death for rape and murder. We need to remove the term parole from our justice system.
If a criminal knew he or she was going to be put to death or incarcerated for the rest of his or her life, our murder and rape rates might go down. If a criminal knew ten years meant ten full years and twenty meant twenty, all sorts of crime might decrease in frequency. Criminals thumb their noses at our whole system, and it’s time for this to stop. Let’s take all this leeway out of the hands of judges and pass criminal laws with teeth in them.
What do you think of a system that lets criminals out long before their terms are up, allowing them to return to their lives of crime? What do you think of sentences of four or five years for murder?
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