life and death sentences
You can count me among those who, in regards to the Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi situation, think a life sentence means just that– you spend the rest of your life in prison, and it doesn’t matter if you’re going to die of old age or of bowel cancer or whatever else. You’ve been condemned to live and die in prison.
It seems to me that one of the chief reasons that a life sentence is such a terrible punishment is not only that you must spend your life in prison, but that you must spend your death there, as well. In the moment that we would all like to take place with a modicum of dignity, and in what must be the most profoundly personal and rightfully lonely of one’s existence, to endure it with all the indignity, lack of control and worst of all, lack of privacy that prison ensures, is a punishment in and of itself, a sentence not of death but in death. It’s something I would never want to contemplate; it seems to me a truly terrible thing. But civil society must have terrible punishments for terrible crimes, and the horrific and intentional murder of dozens of innocents in the commission of terrorism most certainly fits the bill.
I believe in the ability of criminals to pay their debt, I believe in rehabilitation, and I believe in compassion. But I also believe that some crimes are horrible enough that a fair and impartial jury may say, “For your crimes, we have determined that you will never, ever again be free.”