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We're Just As Safe with LWOP. Honest.

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One of the rallying cries of abolitionism is that life without parole will keep us just as safe as the death penalty.

There are so many things wrong with this assurance it's difficult to know where to start.  For one thing, today's life without parole can become tomorrow's parole board hearing; if the death penalty can be changed, so can its promised successor.  In addition, the whole rationale of abolitionism tells you that the stout promise of LWOP isn't really sincere.  A polestar of abolitionism is that even the worst people can change, and that the death penalty forecloses all hope of redemption and a return to civil society.  But of course so does LWOP. 

But even that is not the main driving force.  At the core of abolitionist thinking is a moral irresolution that will never abide life without parole.  No sooner will the the ink be dry on the statute ending the death penalty than the push will be on to banish LWOP as simply the death penalty in slow motion, and thus even more cruel and backward. 

Of course the main thing wrong with the promise that LWOP will keep us as safe as the death penalty is simply that it's false.

3 Comments

"At the core of abolitionist thinking is a moral irresolution that will never abide life without parole."

Yup. And you can see it in the commentary to Barbour's ill-advised pardons. A murderer gets only 10 years for a brutal killing of a woman, and only Neanderthals oppose clemency.

"No sooner will the the ink be dry on the statute ending the death penalty than the push will be on to banish LWOP as simply the death penalty in slow motion, and thus even more cruel and backward."

In fact, we have already seen that with the 17-year-old murderers. The very same people who squawked for decades that "death is different" are now seeking abolish sentences "to die in prison" for these "children," regardless of how horrible the crime.

Yes, and there looks to be a strong possibility that SCOTUS is going to swallow it--at least with respect to certain felony murders.

What would be absolutely appalling about that result is that if SCOTUS makes a distinction between classes of murders for LWOP, the state will not have any means of distinguishing the classes for convictions that are now settled.

Thus, many of these juvie murderers who would not be eligible for parole will be because of the lack of proof at trial that their murder was deserving of LWOP under the new standards. And if the Court decides to decree that sob stories are relevant, we're going to see a whole lot more IAC cases, with predictable results. And the attendant costs.

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