LIFE IN PRISON

Our lives are full of what we call “oxymorons” – figures of speech in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side. Consider these for instance: “free speech”  “same-sex marriage”  “life in prison.”

Now think about that last one for a moment, “life in prison.” If a crime warrants “life” doesn’t it seem strange that it results in a unending prison sentence? Our nation spends billions of dollars annually to house criminals who will never again step foot in or contribute to society in any way, shape, or form. Many of these criminals continually insult, endanger, abuse, and injure prison guards, staff, and other inmates. Is this absolute insanity, or what?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to re-think the way criminals are sentenced and punished in our country. The last public hanging in the United States took place on August 14, 1936, as Rainey Bethea was placed in the gallows in Owensboro, Kentucky for robbing, raping and murdering Lischia Edwards, a 70 year old woman. Oh my! Yes, I can already see the aghast faces and hear the livid outcries. Hanging? Think this through, before you blow a gasket. Hanging is easy, cheap, and done in an instant, plus it doesn’t leave any mess behind either. And also, “life in prison” is not life. It is far more civil and more humane to give a person their quick, due punishment, even capital punishment, than it is to ban them from society and put them in a cage for the rest of their days on earth.

The theory behind punishment is to teach and correct proper behavior, while correcting and deterring improper behavior. Clearly, “prison” is doing very little to correct and deter improper behavior in our land these days. Our prisons are overflowing, and a great many who are housed in them are repeat offenders. Our current “correctional” system is ineffective, so maybe it is time to return to the basics again. Public execution (hangings) was an effective way to correct and deter bad behavior. “Life is prison” is not. “Life in prison” provides food, clothes, and shelter; entertainment, exercise, and education – and by the reports we hear in the news – a whole lot more. It is unfathomable and unconscionable to think that somehow, prisoners have regular access to illegal drugs, elicit sex, and smuggled in weapons. It is inexcusable to hear  about the amount of violence taking place inside prison walls. Why is such behavior tolerated? Aren’t prisoners locked up as our way to put an end to such behaviors? Prisons should not be violent places as prisoners should be in the process of reforming and preparing to return to society. Unruly and uncooperative prisoners should face the same consequences as those who receive “life sentences” – public execution by hanging, for if a criminal won’t behave in prison, they will never behave in society either.

When the general public (men, women, and children) is given the opportunity to see and experience (up close and personal) the formal and final consequences of specific unacceptable behaviors, such behaviors will soon diminish. Locking a person in a cage for life is far less humane than hanging – most people won’t even put their pets in cages today, and zoos don’t even do this very much anymore. And this has little to do with matters of forgiveness, compassion, or human rights. Any and all of us can fully forgive another who has wronged us or our loved ones, yet this has no bearings upon, nor excuses, the punishment which the crime requires – as it is the government’s right and duty to enforce the consequences it deems appropriate.

As far as compassion goes, should the main emphasis of our compassion be placed upon the few who take from and cause fear, pain, and destruction in our society, or to the many who daily attempt to contribute to and make this country a better place to live? Is it really compassionate to lock a person in a cage for the rest of his/her life? Or, is it more compassionate to give a person what his/her crime deserves and get it over with fairly and quickly? What should matter most is what is best to the whole of society, not to the harmers of society. As has been said over the years: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few;” and “the sacrifice of a few for the benefit of many.”

Finally, in regards to human rights. People who engage in any of the behaviors which result in “life sentences” should have their rights relinquished, as they have proved they are a danger to society. We humans have no greater rights than to obey what GOD expects from us in life:

But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,

what GOD is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,

be compassionate and loyal in your love,

and don’t take yourself too seriously – take GOD seriously.  

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

Public execution (hanging) is not unjust. A “life” sentence should result in a “life” punishment – that is justice. “Mercy” is not getting what we deserve. Should the most mercy be shown to society or to our criminals? Is it fair, just, and merciful for you and I to “house” people for “life” – which often equates to many decades and billions of tax-payer dollars? This sounds more like a punishment to us than a punishment to the criminals. And a great many of these “life in prison” criminals would engage in the same behaviors again and again if given the opportunity to do so. Is it fair, just, and merciful to have other criminals, who are in prison for lesser offenses, continually cause daily ruckus inside prison walls – creating fear, making threats, and causing injuries to guards, staff, and other inmates? Who benefits from such insanity as this?

Every person on planet earth has every opportunity “to get right with their Creator” at any moment. And one can experience his/her “come to Jesus moment” while rotting in a prison cell or right before he/she hangs from a rope. Physical death is not the worst thing that happens in our life; all of our bodies are deteriorating and in the process of dying. Living is a whole lot harder than dying is, but people are afraid of dying because they don’t know anything about it, since nobody has ever come back from death to explain it. Anyway, all people live forever spiritually – either in heaven with Jesus, or in hell with the satan. So, the sooner that saints get to heaven, the better it is for them; and the sooner that sinners get to hell, the better it is for us.

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