Life Means Life


Life imprisonmentLife imprisonment. Most people take this term to mean that the prisoner will spend the rest of his/her days behind bars, but not so. After a minimum term has been served the prisoner is eligible for parole. A “whole life” sentence however is a different matter. In this case the prisoner will never be released from prison! It’s this “whole life” sentence I will concentrate on here.

Ever since the death penalty was abolished in the UK there’s been controversy about “life” sentences. Recently the ECHR ruled that it was a breach of human rights, inhumane, to lock someone up for life, with no chance of ever being released. However, the Court of Appeal here in the UK overruled that decision (for once standing up to the EU) and said that British courts could sentence people to whole life terms, in the most severe cases.

That now begs the question “why lock someone up for ever?”

What happens when someone is locked up with the knowledge that they will eventually die in prison? To begin with, the victims family may feel a sense of justice, knowing that the criminal is serving a similar sentence to them, and that this person will never be free to walk the streets and commit other heinous crimes. But what about the prisoner? He/she knows that whatever they do in prison they can’t be punished more (leaving aside for now prison rules/discipline). Someone with nothing to lose makes for a very dangerous person! Dangerous to other prisoners and to prison staff. This situation makes an already dangerous work environment even worse. Also, there’s the cost. Keeping someone in prison, often for many many years, is very expensive; a cost that has to be borne by the British public.

So what’s the alternative?

Reintroduce the death penalty for such prisoners! This would take away the long-term dangers, save a small fortune, provide the justice many victims seek – “an eye for an eye” – and it would give the prisoner a closure point. Indeed many life prisoners do commit suicide (either because they can’t face the years ahead or because they feel deserving of such a punishment), and many others require special, long-term, attention to prevent such actions, which is itself a drain on prison resources.

This, I realise, is a very emotive subject, and there will be people out there with many reasons to disagree with me. However, as is my right, I am putting forward a point of view shared by vast numbers of the British public. So far politicians have shied away when it comes to this debate, but with large swathes of the world still having, & using, the death penalty how long can British MPs keep their heads in the sand?


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