30 Years to Life — or Cancer, Whichever Comes First

Apparently we have entered the age of  “compassion” for the guilty.

The first case that struck me was that of the “Great Train Robber”, Ronnie Biggs. Ronnie was convicted in the early 60’s of a huge haul from a mail train. During the heist, a man was knocked unconscious but not killed. Ronnie was sentenced to 30 years in the slammer. Ronnie escaped and spent about the entire time of his sentence on the run, much of it in Brazil. In 2001, Ronnie, his health on the decline, suddenly decided he’d be better off in a British prison and surrendered himself to the authorities. Now by my reckoning, that means old Ronnie should not have been released from prison until 2031. But you see, old Ronnie got pneumonia and the Brits felt sorry for him and commuted his sentence. As it turns out, he was too ill to actually leave the prison hospital and as far as I know, he is there to this day.

When I first heard the story I said to myself “what gives”? He’s sick. So what? He was sentenced and the sentence should be served. Little did I know that just a couple of weeks later a new case would make the Biggs story look like Romper Room.

On August 20, Scotland released Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi who had been serving a life sentence for involvement in the explosion of Flight 103 over Lockerbie. Was his case overturned on appeal? No. He was released on “compassionate” grounds because he has termnal prostate cancer. The only form of death penalty that I favor is the spiritual death that results from a lifetime in prison. There are people who show such reckless disregard for life that they should not be allowed to live among civilized people.  Megrahi was one such person.

I watched a relative of one of the victims of Flight 103 comment this morning. She said that she found it so ironic that this man was boarding a plane that would safely take him home to Libya, when his actions 21 years earlier made Flight 103 the last flight any of its victims would ever take.

This post does not need to be a long one. The time for compassion is at sentencing. If there are mitigating circumstances that dictate that a man should not go to jail for life, then you don’t sentence him to life. If you do sentence him to life, it means until he dies and it doesn’t matter what he dies of … stabbed and beaten by other inmates, or prostate cancer. It does not matter. A life sentence is a life sentence.


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