Sunday, August 4, 2013

Taking Matters Into His Own Hands

A death row inmate in Ohio has jumped the gun on prison officials by hanging himself ahead of his execution date.

Billy Slagle stabbed a neighbor to death in 1987.  No word on exactly why, but he did it.  And it's not like he used an illegal firearm or a dangerously long knife to do it, he used a plain old pair of scissors.  So when the alarmists call for more regulation on weapons and certification before ownership, ask yourself just how much regulation and certification is necessary before everyone is 100% safe all the time.  You won't ever get there.

That Slagle killed the lady is undeniable.  He was sentenced to death, also history.  But now he's had 26 years of life on the taxpayer's dime, all that time spent on appeals, challenges, etc.  Finally he ran out of appeals and the governor of Ohio decided not to grant clemency.

So what happens next?  Slagle hanged himself in his cell three days ahead of his execution date.

One quick question: how much did it cost, per year, to keep Slagle alive and safe, solely for the purpose of ending his life at a time and place of the state's choosing?  I can't find facts for Ohio but a quick search points up that an inmate on Death Row in California costs about $90,000 more per year to keep alive than a prisoner sentenced to life without parole.

More.  Per year.  If we assume Ohio's rates are comparable, that means keeping Slagle alive for those 26 years cost an extra $2.3M than it would for someone just on life w/o parole.  And ultimately that money is gone because when his time comes, Slagle is dead.

This is where I hate the death penalty.  Not just for the burden it lays on the spirits of those who must carry it out, but for the burden it lays on us, the law-abiding citizens who support it.  Yes, we want these people gone, never to mix with decent society again.  But does it have to break the bank?

After 26 years with only a short time remaining, Slagle killed himself.  Instead of Death Row,it might have been more appropriate to put him in Life Row, where the sun never shines on a free man, and a convenient length of stout rope always hangs from the ceiling, ready and waiting.  A condemned man can leave prison at any time...but not on his own feet.

You might consider it cruel and unfeeling, these suggestions I'm making.  Well, how cruel was it for Slagle to stab a woman 17 times?  The first three or four times could have been in anger, what about the last dozen or so?  Why should a society that holds justice and freedom so dear have to support a person like that?

If the prisoner wants to eat, let him work a field.  If he wants clothes, let him earn the money to purchase them.  And if a condemned man wants out of prison, he can leave.  He can leave by the one freedom still left to him.

The chief failing, in my opinion, of prison is that it punishes endlessly.  In prison criminals are thrust together into a poorly ordered, barely contained powderkeg where what mostly happens is that the strongest, most violent offenders continue to be strong and violent, subjugating other offenders to their will.  It would cost more up front, but I think it would be better to keep offenders separated at all times so they cannot teach each other criminal skills, compare tactics and whatnot.  They can work for their food just like free people do, they can earn their privileges, what few they should have in prison.  Perhaps, after spending their entire prison sentence at a job, they will have developed some work habits that are more positive and socially acceptable than robbing, stealing and assaulting.  If I don't work, I don't eat.  Why should a prisoner have it easier than that?

It's harsh.  But I think it's fair.  When this society is working hard to legalize such things as assisted euthanasia for the terminally ill, I think the terminally incarcerated should have the same option.  And even so, it's still more mercy than the prisoner ever showed for his victim.

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