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If There’s A Hell Below, You’re Certainly Going To Go

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Ariel Castro unable to withstand even two months of captivity.

I wonder who Fred Hiatt is going to commission to write a piece about how what Castro did wasn’t really all that terrible. Personally I blame it on a culture coarsened by Miley Cyrus’s evil hips.

Speaking of awful WaPo rape apologias, I see that in his haste to to ensure that a child rapist was given as little jail time as possible, G. Todd Baugh failed to notice that the sentence he gave out was a year and 11 months short of the mandatory minimum. I wonder if he’s ever “forgotten” about the statutory minimum in a drug case?

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  • howard

    the number one reason i oppose the death penalty is that i think life imprisonment is a worse punishment.

    • Joe

      I don’t know if it is the “number one” reason, but I agree that would be a big reason. If the concern, as it often is, is to punish the person, life imprisonment will do the trick better. There was a short story about that — some guy made a bet that he could survive being locked up and just couldn’t last the full time. Anyone know the title?

      • Hogan

        The Cask of Amontillado.

        • Joe

          No. It was a bet.

          • Hogan

            Just messin with ya. Sorry.

            • Joe

              Whatever amuses you. That was a good story too.

        • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.

          For the love of God, Montresor! Yes, for the love of God!

      • Anonymous

        Maybe “The Bet” by Chekhov?

        • Joe

          Yes. Thanks.

      • Mike Schilling

        Arrested Development.

        (White Power Dave!)

    • InnerPartisan

      Being the pinko eurotrash commie that I am, I sincerely believe that having punishment as the main goal of your judicial system is a terrible fucking idea.
      Hence why I not only oppose the death penalty, but also “Life without Parole” (at least as a blanket sentence).

      • Edmund

        …having punishment as the main goal of your judicial system is a terrible fucking idea.

        It’s called “Justice”.

        You must be some *special* kind of moron.

        • sharculese

          Centuries of philosophers and scholars have struggled with the concept and definition of justice, but it turns out the solution is to bang your fist on the table like a screechy toddler and demand that your poorly thought-out, barely coherent conception of the term is the only legitimate one.

          Who would have guessed that you’re totally intellectually incurious in addition to being illiterate and a coward.

          • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.

            Was that JenBob or Dagchester or a third species of moronic troll who simply doesn’t want to understand how a modern civilization works?

            • sharculese

              This is third species of moronic troll who is absolutely incensed that we won’t reduce complex concepts to soundbites of the sort he’s capable of digesting.

              I continue to suspect that he is a teenager, and that he wears a bow tie to school.

              • DocAmazing

                Archie, is that you?

              • Given how unspeakably depressing it is to think he’s a teenager, I will continue to picture him as C. Montgomery Burns, but without the money or intelligence.

                • James O’Keefes’ve gotta start somewhere.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              somebody who thinks he’ll always be on the “right” side of justice, just because

            • The ghost of Solon

              who simply doesn’t want to understand how a modern civilization works?

              ftfy

        • InnerPartisan

          And you’re a *special* kind of gentleman, evidently.

        • DrDick

          Talking to yourself again, Dagney? Certainly we all know that you are a very special kind of amoral sociopathic moron.

        • witless chum

          It’s called that, but it ain’t that.

          The so-called justice system does a poor job of delivering on its stated intentions, given how heavily things like class status and race can influence the punishments received for similar or identical acts.

          The concept of “justice” is nebulous and, I think, bullshit. There’s no justice in this world for Castro’s victims, because justice would be for them to never have gone through such an awful ordeal. We can offer them things like safety from him, because we’re incarcerating him until he’s not a threat anymore, but we can’t offer them justice. The system has to focus on harm-reduction, I believe, and that includes taking into account the harm of putting so damn many people in prison.

      • Vance Maverick

        One marvel of democracy is that we can agree on a policy without agreeing on the reasons for it. Some say punishment, some say revenge, some say public safety, some (at least used to) say rehabilitation, but we can all agree on imprisonment.

        • InnerPartisan

          Well, of course. But.

          Let me stress that I’m merely an outside observer (i.e., not an American); and so my perception on the matter is perhaps disproportionately skewed by popular culture even more so than that of your average US citizen. But it seems to me that by far the greatest threat to civil liberties in the US is what’s commonly called the “Prison-Industrial complex”, with all its’ outgrowths like the so-called “War on Drugs” and racist profiling (I know, chicken and eggs, but still).

          It’s also pretty clear to me that both the – frankly – barbaric conditions in so many American prisons (overcrowding, the popular indifference to prison rape, etc.) and the often absolutely outlandish sentencing guidelines (the first time I heard about 3-strikes-laws I simply couldn’t believe that) are a direct result of the American public’s enormous propensity for violence compared to other industrialized nations*.
          Which, in the judicial system, manifests itself as an overwhelming urge to punish the offender, rather than “reform” them. That, in itself, only perpuates the violence of course – just compare recidivism statistics from Scandinavian countries with those in the US.

          *: Please note that I mean statistical averages in today’s societies. I’m certainly not trying to whitewash historical atrocities by any nation.

          • Karen

            We think the victims deserve more consideration than the perps. The fact that Anders Brevik can murder 72 people and expect to walk free when he’s 50 is, in my opinion, pissing in the graves of those kids he killed. Yeah, it’s probably not philosophical, but I there is merit in listening to our feelings sometimes, and the only feeling appropriate toward a violent criminal is loathing.

            • InnerPartisan

              See my answer to efgoldman.

              Also, I agree, of course, that the victims deserve more consideration. But… well, it might be my catholic upbringing, but even leaving societal considerations aside, I do believe in repentance. Even the worst criminal deserves another chance, provided he’s no longer a threat to society.

              • cpinva

                “But… well, it might be my catholic upbringing, but even leaving societal considerations aside, I do believe in repentance.”

                your catholic upbringing must have been far different than the one I experienced. in mine, one can be very, sincerely repentant, and still be expected to be punished for one’s transgression.

                “render unto god what is god’s, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” nowhere in the new testament does jesus suggest that the civil laws should not be obeyed. nor, does he suggest that, because god has forgiven you your sins, that civil punishment should be forsworn. not even the Jesuits think that.

                • InnerPartisan

                  your catholic upbringing must have been far different than the one I experienced.

                  Probably. I was lucky enough to grow up in a very liberal parish, with semi-hippie parents. I was taught (in school, mind you) that if you truly repent – and go to confession, of course – there’s nothing that God won’t forgive.

                  Oh well. I long since abandoned the Church for a life of sin, debauchery and eating meat on fridays.

              • I disagree with that.

                • InnerPartisan

                  I know it’s not a popular opinion, but my point is: People can change. Sure, this Anders Breivik, the man he is today, I’d like to see locked up for the rest of his life. But who’s to say what man he will be in 30 or 40 years time?

                • Karen

                  This is my reply to InnerPartisan: I don’t care what kind of person he’ll be in 30 years. He can’t unmurder people, so let the bastard rot in jail. Nothing he can ever do can make up for what he did on Earth. God can forgive him so the rest of us don’t have to.

              • Strong Thermos

                Sure, people can change. A young kid from the ghetto who accidentally kills a guy during the robbery? Maybe he’ll reform himself in prison, and deserves another chance.

                But life without parole is not in the least bit barbaric or unfair to someone who killed a dozen people. Sorry, but there is such a thing as going too far.

            • Djur

              Why is that the only appropriate feeling?

            • Karate Bearfighter

              Anders Breivik theoretically could walk free after 21 years, but Norwegian law, unlike American law, permits indefinite extensions of sentences if an offender is still considered dangerous. In practical terms, Breivik probably has the same chance of walking out of prison as Ariel Castro did.

              • NewishLawyer

                How many people in Norway get a max sentence and then given indefinite extensions after that?

                This is not meant as an attack. I agree that Breivik will probably stay imprisoned for life. I’m just curious about what cases receive it that are not as obvious.

                • djw

                  How many people in Norway get a max sentence and then given indefinite extensions after that?

                  According to wikipedia, there are currently 20 people serving such a sentence. On a per capita basis, that would be the equivalent of just about 1250 people in the US.

                • djw

                  It’s also worth noting that that law has only been on the books since 2002, so we have no sense of how the indefinite post-21 year portion of the sentences are going to play out.

                • Karate Bearfighter

                  That’s a good question — I don’t know. That does bring us back to the question though: how much time do those non-obvious cases deserve?

                • InnerPartisan

                  Totally OT, but: Holy shit, I just realized that Anders Breivik and I share a birthday. He’s exactly two years older than me.

                  Thanks for creeping me out, thread o_O

              • rea

                Actuyally, in my state and many others, there is indeterminate sentencing, under which the prisoner is eleligble for release on parole after serving a minimum, and can nevertheless be held much longer.

                • Anonymous

                  That’s not what Bearfighter is talking about. Norway (and for that matter Canada) have the possibility of sentences that can last forever, including after their sentence ends. In your state, people can be held until the end of their sentence. In places with indefinite sentencing, they can be held forever, regardless of what their original sentence is.

              • Tristan

                Yeah, all the fluster about Breivik walking out of there before he even qualifies for whatever the Norwegian version of old age security is reminds me a lot of the people who fly into a panic over the insanity plea, because THEORETICALLY you can be declared cured and get out of a mental hospital at any time. Theoretically David Berkowitz could be paroled next May, but it ain’t gonna happen.

          • Joshua

            These things are starting to be rolled back. But it’s happening slowly. The California Three Strikes law was revised last year and Rockefeller drug laws are getting rolled back. Even Congress addressed the crack/cocaine disparity recently.

            In 50 years I feel like we may end up looking at the 1975-2005 time period (or thereabouts) as a sort of anomaly where we went jail-crazy and locked up just about anyone we can for insanely unjust prison sentences.

            • sparks

              Those wrongly accused, railroaded, convicted and their lives ruined during imprisonment and the legal and societal stigma attached to them if/when released in our era will be oh ever so grateful with the “eh, maybe we overdid it” nonpology. They can’t be made whole. Many of the victims of this shark frenzy of course will be dead which is kind of the point. The dead are demonized and then forgotten.

              I think that’s the sort of justice that might satisfy “Edmund”.

              • brewmn

                You’re right. Since people have been unfairly hurt by our current policy, we should avoid hurting them further by repealing it in favor of something better.

              • Hogan

                Hell, they must have done something.

              • witless chum

                That wouldn’t satisfy him, given that he appears to just want to hurt people and isn’t even particularly worried about who.

                Wyatt Earp: What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?
                Doc Holliday: A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.
                Wyatt Earp: What does he need?
                Doc Holliday: Revenge.
                Wyatt Earp: For what?
                Doc Holliday: Bein’ born.

              • Strong Thermos

                You’re directing your ire at the wrong person. But hey, if sanctimony makes you feel better, so be it.

            • Tristan

              They’re mostly being rolled back because they’re fucking expensive.

          • Vance Maverick

            I too dislike it. But what’s your point? You began by saying that having punishment as the goal was a bad idea — suggesting we ought to change the goal. Now you’re saying the fault is in ourselves — suggesting we should elect another people?

            • InnerPartisan

              No. I’m saying that punishment is a form of violence (and please note that I never said there should be no punishment); and that America, as a whole, is a more violent country than other industrialized nations.

              I have no idea why that is (well, I have some ideas, but they’re merely speculation) or how to “fix” it. So, no need for snarky Brecht quotes ;-)

              • Vance Maverick

                What, no love for snarky Marianne Moore quotes?

              • cpinva

                “I’m saying that punishment is a form of violence (and please note that I never said there should be no punishment); and that America, as a whole, is a more violent country than other industrialized nations.”

                the more of your posts I read, the closer I come to the conclusion that you don’t what the hell you mean. blathering, just to see your words on a computer monitor, is no way to go through life son.

                • cpinva

                  “don’t know”

                • InnerPartisan

                  Well, English is obviously not my native language – so I think I have a pretty reasonable excuse for sounding obtuse.

                  What’s yours?

                • cpinva

                  “Well, English is obviously not my native language – so I think I have a pretty reasonable excuse for sounding obtuse.

                  What’s yours?”

                  geez, what are you, 12? do your parents know you’re spending all this time on the internet?

                • InnerPartisan

                  geez, what are you, 12?

                  Yes, I’m 12. And in the language of 12-year-olds: I just pwnded you, bitch.

          • NewishLawyer

            I wonder how much of our desire to be more punitive comes from our partially Puritan and partially Scots-Irish origins as a nation. This is the Albion’s Seed thesis as argued by David Hackett Fisher partially.

            Even on the American left, there is argument about criminal justice and the very delicate balance between justice and rehabilitation for the defendant and/or convicted and the victims of crime. I went to a very liberal law school in a very liberal city and there was a strong divide between those who wanted to be Public Defenders and those who wanted to be District Attorneys. And the DAs were not exactly raging conservatives. A lot of them truly felt that being a DA meant protecting the weakest members of society.

            I agree with the person below that it is slowly getting to be seen that mass incarceration is not a great way of handling crime and crime reduction and it takes up too many resources.

            • Karen

              I wanted to be a DA exactly for that reason. Violent predators need to be punished and prevented from ever harming anyone again. I really don’t see why anyone thinks Castro should have ever breathed a free breath again.

              • NewishLawyer

                I don’t think anyone thinks of Ariel Castro as a tough case. Though I did get into some interesting arguments with libertarians who hate imprisonment but support the death penalty.

                That being said, I have admiration for the Public Defenders of the world. More than anyone else, they are fighting for due process and the right for all people to receive a fair trial.

                Due Process and Fair Trials need to be universal. We can’t have a system that says “Due Process and Fair Trials unless we consider you to be very icky.”

                Keep in mind that I have no desire to practice criminal prosecution or defense.

        • Djur

          We can’t all agree on imprisonment. There are many crimes which are currently punished with needless and harmful terms of imprisonment. Frankly, I don’t see the point of five, ten, fifteen-year sentences for felonies — what kind of life awaits you after you’re released?

          I don’t think it’s been proven that a ten-year sentence has any more of a deterrent effect than a one-year sentence. Short sentences for deterrence and rehabilitation, long indefinite sentences for rehabilitation and protection. Otherwise, we need to figure something else out.

          • Vance Maverick

            Fair point — if you want to think about how much imprisonment is appropriate, it’s hard to do without a theory of what it’s for.

          • Tristan

            It’s not really been proved that any sentence has a deterrent effect.

          • Strong Thermos

            Yes, let’s not underestimate protection. I think murder should carry a long, long, long sentence. Burglary? Not so much.

            • Tristan

              A burglar is far more likely to continue burgling than most murderers are to murder again, though.

      • Dave

        The trouble is, usefully rehabilitative imprisonment is both very expensive and, in broad strokes, not much more effective at reducing recidivism than just locking people up for longer. Which is also expensive.

        Unless you’re content to see your prison population used as cheap labor [which of course many Americans are, but not sufficiently systematically to actually lower the overall cost burden very much], you’re taking on a huge cost, which it may transpire that only a society at the very peak of its unsustainable resource-consumption imbalance both with the planet and the other people on it can hope to meet.

        As one comes down off that peak, the temptation to just say “Ah, fuck it” and start executing people in large numbers may be considerable. Even in Sweden.

        • DrDick

          More fundamentally, the problem is that “usefully rehabilitative imprisonment” is nonexistent in this country (or any other I know of). It is all punitive.

        • Hogan

          Or we can start seriously considering the possibility that (a) we’re locking up people we don’t need to lock up, and (b) many of the ones we lock up are locked up longer than necessary.

          • DrDick

            Most nonviolent offenders probably do not need to be locked up and would be better off being sentenced to some sort of rehab program (many have psychological/substance abuse issues) or public service.

            • Cody

              I agree completely with this. I don’t think non-violent crimes deserve prison time.

              Parole is very effective with tracking devices, and we can use technology to create a much cheaper alternative to prison. Someone on parole can still live their life, rehabilitate, and not cost the government a lot of money.

              • witless chum

                In principle this seems sound, but white collar criminals serving house arrest in their penthouses is not an attractive image.

                • Djur

                  White collar criminals frequently evade serious punishment in any case, and they’re a small portion of the total prison population. We shouldn’t maintain a penal system which is mostly used against the underclass just because we can occasionally enjoy using it against plutocrats.

                • Hogan

                  Send them up to the Bronx twice a week to meet with their POs and pee in a cup.

                • DrDick

                  Make them do their public service in impoverished neighborhoods. Maybe have them clean the halls and stairways in the projects.

      • efgoldman

        Hence why I not only oppose the death penalty, but also “Life without Parole” (at least as a blanket sentence).

        I am one-hundred percent opposed to the death penalty (on of several reasons that I’d never live in TX)but I do believe there are some crimes/criminals so evil that the perpetrators should never be allowed in to society again. Not everyone can or should be rehabilitated.
        And no, that doesn’t include stupid “three strikes” laws.
        For instance, that the mass murderer Anders Brevik can be out in 21 years under Norwegian law is unfathomable to me.

        • InnerPartisan

          I do believe there are some crimes/criminals so evil that the perpetrators should never be allowed in to society again.

          I agree. But note that I wrote “as a blanket sentence”. Charles Manson wasn’t sentenced to Life Without Parole, yet he’ll never see the light of day again (and he shouldn’t).
          Also, I’m under the impression that there are options to keep Breivik locked up in a closed psychiatric ward after the end of his sentence, but I might be wrong about that.

          • Emily

            Actually, Manson was sentenced to death and that was automatically commuted to life in prison. He comes up for parole, because California didn’t have life without parole when the Supreme Court struck down the Ca death penalty temporarily.

            • InnerPartisan

              OK, thanks for the correction. My point still stand though, doesn’t it?

              • Emily

                Oh, I think we agree. I just think it’s an interesting tidbit.

                • Thank you for not misusing “factoid” there. I’m going to die on that hill someday.

        • Emily

          I was recently not selected for jury service because of my opposition to the death penalty. One thing that appalled me was that if found guilty, the defendants would have two possible sentences: death or life without parole. The crime these two were accused of (and convicted of and sentenced to death for) was terrible. But I think both of those sentences are too harsh and leave no discretion in terms of punishment, when they are the only options.

          I’m comfortable with a parole board being able to deny it every time it comes around for those particularly abhorrent criminals. I trust the board to keep Charles Manson locked up, and I trust they would keep Brevik locked up, too. I think burdening the parole board with a few cases where the periodic review is a perfunctory “No!” is not too much hassle to preserve some discretion in all those other cases, which are the majority.

          • DrDick

            Heh. I am bullet proof on capital cases. I have had three friends murdered and oppose the death penalty. Neither lawyer wants me on the jury.

            • Emily

              I was not sorry to be excused. Of the five in my pool not asked to come back for actual selection, there were two “Give ’em the chair!” types, two death penalty objectors, and one who had read the newspaper reports of the case so thoroughly he didn’t think he could sustain reasonable doubt.

          • InnerPartisan

            I’m comfortable with a parole board being able to deny it every time it comes around for those particularly abhorrent criminals.

            Since I’ve been accused of not knowing what the hell I mean: This is what I mean.
            A parole board – staffed by actual experts – determining whether it’s safe to release the perp after an appropriate sentence has been served (let’s say 15-30 years for murder) is, in my opinion, the most sensible approach.

            • djw

              Right. The very existence of a “life without parole” option is either a) retributivism run amok, or b) an expression of a lack of faith in one’s institutions. If we’re going to use parole as an central institution in our criminal justice system, we’ve got to have a minimal amount of trust in the institution.

              I really don’t understand why people think we can know, or reliably predict, that the person who will in 25 years share a legal identity with today’s “ordinary” murderer is more likely to be fit to re-enter society than the person who in the same time frame will share a legal identity with today’s “extraordinary” murderer. We don’t have anywhere near enough information to figure that out. If we had reason to believe future parole boards won’t exist that would be one thing, but we don’t.

              • efgoldman

                Right. The very existence of a “life without parole” option is either a) retributivism run amok, or b) an expression of a lack of faith in one’s institutions.

                Bingo!
                This is where the “life without parole” concept originated. There were highly publicized cases in the 70s and 80s in which released convicts (some paroled, some on work release, some with commuted sentences, almost all with “life” sentences) committed awful crimes. Think Willie Horton. The “life without parole” was partly a defense by death penalty opponents, mostly Democrats, against the common GOBP trope of the day that Dems were “soft on crime.” Like three strikes laws, the no-parole laws were used by politicians of both parties to cover their asses.

              • Strong Thermos

                This is all true. Most criminals (even murderers) aren’t Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. Personally, I don’t think a Ted Bundy should ever be eligible for parole, no matter how much they change. But then, that’s like the ticking time bomb scenario to justify torture-it’s sneaking it in through an extreme.

                • Strong Thermos

                  But then again, my point is kind of silly because someone like a serial killer with multiple victims will receive a sentence that no natural person could serve, so the point is moot.

        • mpowell

          This is actually a really blinkered perspective. Under Norwegian law he can continue to be detained indefinitely as long as the system (I think there is a review board of some sort) decides to do so. The whole point of this process is that it does not make sense to try to tie the hands of people making the decisions 20 years from now. There is really no reason, other than the desire to show your disgust for the criminal, to decide that only today’s judge/jury should get to reach a decision on the length of his sentence. It’s really hard to construct a counter argument that makes any sense.

          • Karen

            Try this on: his victims can’t be unmurdered. No matter how much he changes he can’t change the horror that he committed. Not in 5 years; not in 5,000. The families of his victims will spend holidays and birthdays visiting graveyards. I don’t care if he cures all cancers with lollipops, that won’t make up for killing people. So yeah, for murder, and probably rape and child molestation and kidnapping, today’s juries can and should decide that rotting in prison for close to forever is the absolute minimum the scumbag should suffer.

            • Emily

              Are you arguing that every murderer should get life without parole? I certainly don’t think that.

              It seems clear that Brevik is unlikely ever to set foot out of prison. That will happen even though his sentence technically calls for him to be released in 21 years.

              Juries actually might not get a choice between life with and without parole in many of these cases. If my experience is representative, the 19 year old who goes along on a robbery that ends in a shooting death will get charged with 1st degree murder with a host of aggravating factors and the sentencing options are death or life without parole.

              But then, it sounds like you’re quite content with that.

              • Karen

                Yes. There are millions of poor, mistreated, marginalized and wretched people who manage to avoid becoming murderers or armed robbers or rapists every day. I’m not going to waste my sympathy on the very small number of exceptions.

                Also, there are people who are not sociopaths but have violent tendencies or are just followers who can be discouraged from becoming criminals by fear of harsh punishments. I think we owe those people the incentive to pick their friends better.

                • Karen

                  Let me be clear. I do NOT favor prison for theft or even first-offense burglary if the building was empty. I do favor dropping cinder blocks on anyone who commits murder, rape, kidnapping, drunk driving, or most armed robberies. I would like to see marijuana decriminalized and a complete retooling of the way we treat other drug offenses. But for those few violent crimes, I support only sever punishments.

                • InnerPartisan

                  There are millions of poor, mistreated, marginalized and wretched people who manage to avoid becoming murderers or armed robbers or rapists every day.

                  Sure. The criminal justice system, however, doesn’t deal with those people. It deals with the people who do become murderers.
                  Do you sincerely believe that every murder is the same? Anders Breivik has been brought up in this thread a lot as an example; and he’s most certainly an extreme – but what about the other extreme?
                  What about the battered wive who, after decades of abuse, decides to kill her husband? She’s a murderer. Does she deserve to be locked up for the rest of her life?

                  Or what about you? Seriously. Are you absolutely sure that there’s no situation, no circumstance that could turn you into a murderer?
                  Because I most certainly am not. But that might just be my imagination.

          • efgoldman

            Under Norwegian law he can continue to be detained indefinitely

            This is not something an ignorant American like me is likely to know.
            I understand the concept

            it does not make sense to try to tie the hands of people making the decisions 20 years from now.

            but I think Karen is right: He can’t unmurder all those people. There is a point at which actions must have consequences well beyond a decade or two. Brevik’s victims’ families will continue to suffer.

            • Tristan

              I’d say you’re over-focusing on Breivik here. Breivik doesn’t need to be eligible for review for his sake, he needs to be eligible for review for the sake of all the people who are not Breivik (as with any part of due process). You can of course still argue that the Norwegian preventive detention system is flawed or unsatisfactory or whatever, but you have to avoid falling into the trap of arguing only that it is such specifically or uniquely with regard to Breivik.

      • Josh G.

        Being the pinko eurotrash commie that I am, I sincerely believe that having punishment as the main goal of your judicial system is a terrible fucking idea.
        Hence why I not only oppose the death penalty, but also “Life without Parole” (at least as a blanket sentence).

        I agree that the U.S. has an obsessive focus on punishment and that our average prison sentences are far too long. But I do think there is a small subset of offenders who need to be kept locked up permanently for the safety of society. Castro was one such individual. But such sociopaths are very rare; handing out 20-year sentences to the average armed robber (much less the average dope dealer) is absurd.

        • Ronan

          how do you legislate for these extreme cases though. And how do you maintain a system built on a more ‘humane’ approach when you leave exceptions, and undermine it conceptually

          • Djur

            It’s not an “exception” nor does it undermine the concept to distinguish prisoners who are a danger to society and treat them differently. I don’t think it takes a particularly fine sieve to catch “murdered dozens of people at a youth camp” and “kept underage sex slaves in house for years” and leave out “drove getaway for a robbery”.

            • Ronan

              Of course it does, but not at the extreme youve phrased it. If youre saying you should reclassify less serious crimes then fine, but when you get into the more serious crimes it does get complicated.
              What do you do with the violent criminals, not getaway drivers

              • Karate Bearfighter

                Rehabilitation as a goal is consistent with indefinite detention. In my understanding that’s how most penal systems that focus on rehabilitation address this issue. To a certain extent you see this in the American juvenile justice system, where indeterminate sentencing often results in extremely lenient minimum sentences, but a “social services provider” (i.e., jailer) is given the ability to control release dates by determining whether the juvenile is rehabilitated.

              • Another Holocene Human

                There’s a term in many state lawbooks called “aggravation”, of course this is applied to robberies as well to justify giving a man more time for being involved in a bank stickup than for raping a woman, beating her, and leaving her for dead. Both persons may have an anti-social attitude yet it’s odd (or maybe not) that a threat to a bank is a greater threat to society than a threat to a person.

              • Ronan

                Interesting pts both, thanks

                • Ronan

                  as in, to both of you (wasnt replying to myself!)

              • Tristan

                There’s more post-sentencing flexibility than you might think. Bearfighter already made the point about indefinite detention, but I’d like to add that parole isn’t all or nothing either, though we tend to think of it as such because of entertainment media (same reason we tend to think insanity pleas are ‘getting off easy’). There’s a lot of room between a few hours a week of supervised day parole with strict additional conditions and full parole with only standard conditions.

        • Strong Thermos

          But a guy like Castro would never be eligible for parole. Once you add up all the crimes, his sentence is probably a couple of centuries, so the question of parole is moot.

          • Strong Thermos

            Depending on how a state calculates when in a sentence someone is eligible for parole. In a case like this though I’m pretty confident it’s a moot point.

      • Ronan

        I agree Innerpartisan. You unfortuately have to extend the norm to the hard cases as well

        • Another Holocene Human

          The problem is that we tried this before but back in the 1950s our understanding of anti-social behavior was shitty and a lot of people with highly antisocial attitudes got roughed up in juvie or prison and sent right back into society, young, strong, and very, very angry.

          Although we never would have gone as prison happy as we did without the moral panic over drugs and a racially divided justice system.

          • Ronan

            I meant it in the reverse, you cant have system that comes down like a ton of bricks sometimes but is humane at others..the bad will infect the good, so Id go for the softer approach as a whole (even if that means leaving the ‘hard cases’ be treated (relatively) leniently)
            (Im generally talking a bit of nonsense here – in terms of poorly formed opinions rather than trolling – so take it with a pinch of salt)

            • Ronan

              actually, I dont think youre disagreeing with me so much as clarrifying the history (?)

            • Karen

              Why not? If there are reasons for being lenient, then state those reasons, such as the defendant’s diminished capacity due to brain damage or mental retardation. If there are no reasons, and there weren’t for Castro or Brevik, then drop the bricks on their worthless heads. The key is not to be arbitrary and only use leniency when it’s demonstrated to be warranted.

              • Ronan

                I dont see why these cases specifically. Is it all cases of murder/mass murder or just this specific horrific one? Is it all cases of kidnapping and imprisonment or just this one? Wheres the line?
                I dont see why we (as a society) have to lust after revenge. We arent the victims, the victims are. Its our place to remain detached, somewhat

                And I dont trust the courts to make the choice of who to treat humanely or not. The system has to be weighted towards it

                • Ronan

                  First part is unclear, its saying basically ‘these are extreme cases, whats the position on less extreme but very serious violent crimes’.

                • efgoldman

                  Wheres the line?

                  The law makes a distinction between manslaughter and murder, and even between gradations of murder.The way the system really works, in most US jurisdictions, is that the sentence depends on the charge chosen by the prosecutor.
                  Then there is the other problem: the plea bargain. A defendant will often plead to a lesser charge (and a lesser sentence) so the state can afford the time and expense of a trial.

                • Tristan

                  efgoldman:

                  I’m just gonna drop this in a reply to you, because you sort of touched on it, and it’s one of my favourite pieces of criminal law trivia:

                  The reason the USA and Canada make a distinction between 1st and 2nd degree murder is because we were both slower to stop practicing the death penalty than the UK (where they retain the common law distinction between manslaughter and murder only). It was seen as sort of a compromise move, keeping the death penalty but narrowing its application by having a charge of ‘murder’ and a second, harder to prove, charge of ‘really bad murder’. One of the effects of this is that North American manslaughter has a much narrower range of sentences than UK manslaughter, since the latter encompasses a lot of what we would call 2nd degree murder.

          • mpowell

            There was also the enormous increase in crime (probably caused by lead exposure). It was a real thing and probably had a lot to do with people’s views on locking people up.

            • djw

              The fact that we can now trace the increase in crime to an environmental factor should, in a better world, give the “throw away the key” chorus some pause, but I’m betting on it.

            • efgoldman

              …so the state can afford avoid, dammit. avoid. the time and expense of a trial.

      • Mike Schilling

        Certainly death and LWP are overused, but if there was ever a case that called for one or the other, this is it.

        • Karen

          Thank you. I have never understood the woozy snuffle headed sympathy some leftists have for violent criminals. They are people who enjoy inflicting pain on those weaker than they are. I thought we were opposed to bullies, and all violent criminals start out as bullies.

          • Tristan

            all violent criminals start out as bullies.

            I’m sorry, but that’s a pretty ridiculous assertion.

      • Tristan

        Opposition to both the death penalty and ‘life without possibility of parole’ is actually quite consistent with a strict retributist justice system (or at least it can be constructed to be), as either one can be seen as compromising proportionality of punishment, which is central to any modern retribution model of punishment. Once you have any sort of irreversible ‘ultimate’ punishment, even if it’s reserved for an extremely narrow range of offenses, you lose some of your ability to tailor punishment to reflect the severity of the offense.

      • Strong Thermos

        Weird dichotomy you set up there. The French prison system is geared toward punishment, so it’s certainly not a uniquely American thing Mr. Euro Elitist

    • I’m always creeped out by people who go, sure, I oppose capital punishment, but not because I’m some sorta pussy–locking people up forever is way more sadistic! If I really believed that, I’d be a republican.

      • brewmn

        Yeah, I’m for LWP because if the state, you know, made a mistake, they can correct it after the fact. Just another of the myriad differences between me and the Scalitos of the world.

  • Ariel Castro unable to withstand even two months of captivity.

    Honestly, I’m not surprised. He seemed like a guy with issues.

    • NBarnes

      ‘seemed’?

    • Tristan

      That is literally the greatest understatement I’ve ever heard or read.

  • L2P

    Oh, c’mon. We all know mandatory minimums aren’t for middle-class white guys; they’re for “those people.” I think that’s actually in the Constitution somewhere.

    • JMP

      Especially when it’s a middle-class white guy whose victim was one of “those people”; why should he have to go to jail then?

      • No, no, no, no, no! The white guy was the victim!

  • Anonymous

    Ariel Castro unable to withstand even two months of captivity.

    I think you’re making a mistake by assuming that was the reason.

    The incarcerated have a special attitude toward child molesters like Castro. My guess is the reality of a lifetime of abuse from other prisoners made death look pretty good.

    • That might’ve been a factor. I think mostly he just knew he was discovered to be a monster. Some people can live with being secret monsters, but not with being found out.

      • timb

        News reports indicate he penned a long suicide note back in 2004. For a guy already experiencing suicidal self-loathing (appropriately so), the transition to prison, where most inmates go through a depressive state (an Adjustment Disorder), put him over the top.

        Too bad I say sarcastically.

    • NewishLawyer

      He was in special custody already. He did not interact with the rest of the prison population.

      • Which means that his suicide makes you wonder about the prison administration.

        • NewishLawyer

          I don’t think it was murder. Occam’s Razor says that since most prisons are understaffed. They simply did not have the time or resources to check his cell with frequency.

          Perhaps at best, you can say that the guards made a conscious or semi-unconscious effort not to check because of the notorious level of his crimes.

    • I never really believed that story about how prisons serve out some kind of special, rough justice, to child molesters. First of all, I don’t think that is a healthy attitude for society to take that there needs to be some extra special punishment for some crimes. Second of all, violence meted out to some prisoners, in the context of an overall world of tolerated violence inside prisons, is just as brutal and sickening as violence meted out to “innocent” prisoners. It is a degradation of everyone and everything that, if it happens at all, merely serves to reinforce a criminal hierarchy, not to vindicate the victims. Perhaps, if it happens, it enables the mere rapist murder to imagine himself more moral than someone. But that’s not the case and Castro’s case is doubly that since the girls he stole were no younger than the girls who are prostituted daily by the pimps and criminals who are (if they are) behind bars with Castro. They don’t consider themselves pedophiles so why would they have considered him a pedophile?

      • Rkac

        It’s not justice, for the all the reasons you say, but it does happen. Violence is a controlled activity, and here’s a chance to engage in some violence without reprisal. If you want to hurt someone – and lots of people in prison want to hurt someone – you don’t need a reason, but you do need an opportunity.

  • NBarnes

    Do we have reason to believe that this is an actual suicide, as opposed to ‘Forty-five stab wounds to the back, worst case of suicide they ever saw’?

    • For one, it was a hanging. Could’ve been D’Angelo’ed, I suppose.

      • timb

        I wondered the same thing and also, who else gets that reference.

    • David Hunt

      The reports that I’ve heard are apparent death by hanging in his cell. I don’t know if he had a cellmate, but the list of suspects for a homicide would initially be that theoretical cellmate and the guards. I’m sure the death will be investigated.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        news story on the radio this AM said Castro had no cellmate but there were half hour checks made by the guards, and investigation would take place

        • David Hunt

          Jim, this is totally off-topic but are you the same guy who used to post on Peter David’s page as IowaJim?

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            no, that wasn’t me

      • sharculese

        He was in protective isolation and on suicide watch with 30 minute checks.

        • “We’ll be back in just not enough time, Ariel!”

        • He wasn’t on suicide watch. I believe he was at one time, however.

          • sharculese

            Ah, looks like I misunderstood what I read, thanks.

  • I thought the air seemed fresher today.

    p.s. I hope you have extra mops on hand. There’s going to be a lot of syrup spread around in here.

    • Given what gets the troll in question excited, I’m hoping it’s syrup.

  • cpinva

    I hope someone follows him to hell, takes video, returns and posts it on youtube.

  • sharculese

    I wonder who Fred Hiatt is going to commission to write a piece about how what Castro did wasn’t really all that terrible.

    Your next sentence really answers your question. I’d be shocked to find out Cohen didn’t volunteer for the honor.

  • Todd

    I wonder if he’s ever “forgotten” about the statutory minimum in a drug case?

    Baugh would like to answer with a conditional “no”, but he reserves the right to change his mind once he gets a look at the defendant in question.

    • BigHank53

      Don’t be silly! Statutory minimums are for those people. You know who. The bad ones.

      • Todd

        But one or two might be a GOOD bad one. I refer you to a recent Florida case. Remember, he was half-bad.

        We don’t wanna be throwing out the Zimmermans with the bathwater.

  • Joe

    That’s two months in captivity after sentencing and outside of suicide watch.

  • Josh G.

    It’s not surprising that Castro hanged himself in his cell. He’s a sociopath, and he likes to be in control of everything – and he was sent to prison where other people decide what and when he can eat, when he can sleep, and what he can do. The only way he can win back a bit of control is to take his own life.

    John Douglas, in his books on profiling, indicated that this sort of thing is very common. He says that serial killers should usually be kept on suicide watch for some time after their capture, because they will often attempt to kill themselves. (One serial murderer who did this is the repulsive Leonard Lake.) Castro wasn’t an actual serial killer, but his crimes show a very similar mentality.

      • NewishLawyer

        This guy was freaky. I think he has been considered one of the most meticulous serial killers in history based upon his MO. Slate ran a few articles about him in the past week or so and how is suicide is basically a big taunt.

        • And yet he got caught by using a victim’s debit card. Strange.

          • Rader (BTK) would have died and left law enforcement scratching their heads if he had resisted the urge to start taunting them again (and remembered that security cameras are everywhere).

            I don’t buy into the idea criminals want to get caught; I do think their arrogance leads them to believe they can’t get caught.

            • I think they crave some acknowledgment of their secret power over others. It must be like owning a wonderful car or a piece of jewelry but never being able to gloat over it or show it off. They don’t want to be stopped anymore than the guy who takes his car out for a spin wants to be stopped–he wants to be seen.

            • Karen

              My husband is a civil lawyer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, aka the prison system. I get to read some of the publications he does. Criminologists agree with you about the most violent guys, like serial killers and gang leaders. They like to show off and think they’re smarter than everyone else. Killing appeals to their inflated opinion of themselves. They aren’t self-loathing victims lashing out; they’re bastards who just like inflicting pain, and they never, ever get cured.

              • djw

                Just to be clear, it appears you just claimed that “most violent guys” (I assume by which you mean most people who commit any violent crime) are in a meaningful way represented by serial killers and leaders of criminal organizations, who together make up a vanishingly small fraction of violent criminals. That doesn’t seem particularly plausible.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  No, it doesn’t appear (to me) that she said that. She said “the most violent guys”, which is very different from “most violent guys”: if, to be sillily quantitative just for the purposes of illustration, there were a “guy violence scale” running from 0 to 10 with, say, a normal distribution, then it would be reasonable to call guys with scores 6 through 10 “violent”, and guys with score 10 “the most violent”. In that case, in ordinary usage the phrase “most violent guys” would mean something like “a majority (or supermajority) of the guys with scores 6 through 10”, while the phrase “the most violent guys” would continue to mean “all the guys with score 10”.

    • He was on suicide watch until June.

  • Since no one else has approvingly noted the Curtis Mayfield reference, I will.

    • witless chum

      Salon once published a piece arguing that song should be the national anthem. It makes up for several years of Pagliaing and Horowitzery.

  • Njorl

    He’s still got 1000 years to go on his sentence. I’d hate to be his cell mate for the early part of that stretch.

    • Thlayli

      I was wondering what the plan was for that part. Are they going to re-animate him and have the zombie serve the 1000 years…?

  • I wouldn’t mind, provided a selection of wines was available.

  • A creaking door hangs longest.

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