Abolishing Parole Boards

Which is more severe: 5 days in jail or two years on probation? Six months house arrest or 15 days in jail? Capital punishment or life in prison without the possibility of parole? A primary challenge facing sentencing bodies is to determine what sentence is appropriate for each crime. The ultimate goal for any sentence is to ensure justice; however, understanding whether a select sanction serves the purpose of justice in relation to the crime is not always easy. Sentencing bodies generally have an idea of what sanctions are more severe than others, although what may seem tough for one offender may be less punitive for others. The following article – “Serving Life, with No Chance of Redemption” (Liptak) – highlights the difficulties associated with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. To some offenders, death is preferable to being imprisoned for the remainder of their life. Why prison without the possibility of parole? To begin, inmates serving life sentences are “less important” to prisoner advocacy groups and attorneys than those sentenced to death, so they receive little attention and support. Appellate courts more closely scrutinize capital cases than the more routine life sentences, and those on death row are granted attorneys at no cost to work on their cases in federal court long after their convictions have been affirmed. It may truly be in the best interests of innocent individuals convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison to request capital punishment because their case will draw greater attention. Consider the mental anguish associated with a life sentence without the possibility for parole. You realize you are never going to leave once you enter the prison. You will die inside that building. Those receiving a 25-year sentence will someday get out. You? You’re here for life. While there are certainly psychological and other difficulties associated with life sentences, many in society are not sympathetic. Why? Perhaps the best answer is that such sentences are reserved for those convicted of the more heinous offense. For some, the psychological challenges associated with a life sentence are the most troublesome aspect of the punishment. Others fit right behind the prison walls, thus a life sentence poses few problems; the structure and resources provided by prison life are preferable to life outside of prison. To these inmates, prison is life and anything else (i.e., life on the outside) provides a struggle. Sentencing bodies use life sentences as a sanction for the most serious crimes; life sentences serve the primary purposes of incapacitation, retribution, and deterrence. While appropriate in certain circumstances, life sentences entail long term concerns for prisons, such as increased heath care costs associated with imprisonment as inmates age. Security issues are also a concern. It is argued that releasing elderly inmates serving life sentences who no longer pose a threat to society would save precious criminal justice resources and give lifers hope that they too may someday be released. In turn, lifers may behave better in prison. Read the following: “Serving Life, With No Chance of Redemption” by Adam Liptak, The New York Times, October 5, 2006. (internet) “Parole Boards Are Worth Saving”. Hughes, Gail. Corrections Today; Lanhan Vol. 69, Its. 4 (Aug 2007). (school library) Life Without Parole by Beth Schwartzzapfel. The Marshall Project, July 10, 2015. (internet) Answer the following questions – each as a separate essay using at least one outside – scholarly – source for each. 1. Why would some offenders choose to receive a sentence of capital punishment in lieu of life in prison without the possibility of parole? 2. Aside from never being permitted to leave prison, what are some of the difficulties associated with a life sentence (examine difficulties not necessarily noted in the readings.)? 3. Discuss why we should or should not impose life sentences without the possibility for parole.