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The Tom Clements Murder, or Why LWOP Will Never Keep Us as Safe as the Death Penalty

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One of the principal claims made in the argument to replace the death penalty with LWOP is that the latter will keep us just as safe as the former.

There a number of flaws in the argument, but the main one is that it's an outright lie.

An executed murderer cannot do it again.  A murderer sentenced to prison can, and this blog is replete with stories of its having happened.  My "favorite" is the Clarence Ray Allen case, but that's far from the only instance.

The basic (but not the only) reason LWOP can never displace the death penalty as the only sure way to de-commission killers is easy:  Prisons are fallible.

The most telling example (this week) of this fact is the disclosure, by ABC News among other outlets, that the violent inmate who killed Colorado Corrections Commissioner Tom Clements "was released from prison four years early because of a clerical error."

The severe risk of danger to innocent life is acceptable  --  indeed it is necessarily acceptable  --  to those pushing LWOP as the alternative to the death penalty.  I just wish they'd be honest enough to say so out loud.

2 Comments

I'll say it.

I admire your candor, but I have a question.

One of the principal arguments against the death penalty is that it poses a risk to innocent life -- i.e, if we execute the wrong guy, we have irreversibly sacrificed an innocent man.

But if, as you say, you are willing to take the "severe risk of danger to innocent life" that necessarily, and historically, comes from using imprisonment instead of execution -- thus effectively permitting the killer to do it again -- why are you not also willing to take the far smaller risk to innocent life that comes with the death penalty?

Shouldn't social and legal policy seek to minimize the danger to innocent life? Indeed, isn't that the MAIN THING policy should strive to do?

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