Michael Devlin, who would also be a murderer if the child hadn’t talked him out of it — who kidnapped a boy for four years — agreed to a plea deal which will, theoretically, send him to jail for the rest of his life.
The obvious question, as this is notionally a death sentence, is why the state wishes the execution to take decades instead of a much shorter amount of time. In other words, why not just kill him?
One explanation, supported by Senator John Kerry and others, is that we should torture people. That is, ending lives is too merciful and that the schadenfreude Twe get from imprisoning (subjecting to prison rape, etc.) Michael is reward enough. [Senator Kerry grants, though, that terrorists should have the mercy of death as quickly as possible. ]
Another is that we should be as merciful to Michael Devlin as we are to, say, a dog we really hated. So we shouldn’t allow him normal peer interaction, the ability to move about, etc., but we should not put him down, either.
I, opposed to punishment and torture, I reject both notions. Too much is influenced by both environment and genetics to believe that individuals are rational agents who think things out in any coherent manner. Or at least, such thinking is too far removed from action and observed physical evidence to allow men to know the hearts of others. Rather, our “justice” system should be based on discipline (teaching) and deterrence (making sure something doesn’t happen again), while minimizing suffering.
The questions should then be?
How can we teach Michael Devlin not to do this again?
Or, failing that, how can we guarantee that Michael Devlin will not do this again?
Whatever our approach, how may we do this without torturous punishment?
(Thanks for Mark of ZenPundit for an email which inspired this post.)