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Every Little Helps

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

On desparate criminals


What do my readers think of desparate criminals? It's an argument against the death penalty, but I've also heard it used against life sentences (it's one of the reasons there are no true life sentences in some Indian districts) or even just lengthy ones: if someone knows that, should he be caught, he'll die / never get out / not get out for a long time, he'll get desparate and do many worse things to avoid capture because he knows he's already getting the maximum punishment and it can't be increased no matter what else he does. This argument holds for any maximum sentence, no matter if it's a new maximum sentence due to the abolition of a previous and larger maximum (the old joke law that stops the rails: the last car must be removed from every train). If the maximum sentence is five years, and there's no possible way to get a higher sentence, someone who doesn't want to serve that sentence has nothing more to lose by killing everyone who stands in his way and who might turn him in.

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