Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pardon final step in rehabilitation, but many want only punishment

    I admit to some surprise over the massive round of pardons issued by outgoing Mississippi's Gov. Haley Barbour. Yet the outrage also raises another question: Do we want our penal system to rehabilitate prisoners or merely punish them?
    Historically we wanted our penal system to do both. Yet the comments I've read in social networking and news sites suggest that most people want punishment, and after that more punishment. And then more. They aren't interested in rehabilitation.
    We all know that in many -- maybe even most -- cases rehabilitation isn't possible. A lot of the people who go to prison are just bad eggs. They can't be rehabilitated. Yet most of the people pardoned by Gov. Barbour seem like prime candidates for rehabilitation. In fact about 90 percent of those receiving pardons were already out of jail. Some had been out for 20 years or more. They are, by definition, rehabilitated. All the pardon did was allow them to hunt, vote and perhaps get a professional license.
    One of the things that is most troubling to all of us is to see a murderer go free. Yet the fact is that there is a fine line between murder and manslaughter, and many murders are the only crime a person ever commits. They become enraged and act out. Someone who is in prison for a first offense of murder, said murder not being committed for the primary purpose of theft, and who behaves as a model prisoner, is one of the least likely people in the jail to commit another crime.
    The Florida Bureau of Prisons produced a report on prisoner recidivism. I didn't study it at length, but it appears to have some interesting statistics. I've reproduced below a chart from the report showing factors affecting, both positively and negatively, male (but not female) recidivism rates. Note that the female chart is different. For example, black males have a higher-than-average recidivism rate but black females have a lower-than-average rate. More time in prison increases the recidivism rate for males while lowering it for females. (Yes, I know I've misspelled "ameliorating" in the chart.
    Our of Barbour's more than 200 pardons, my guess is that after the dust settles there will only be a dozen or so that really rankle. It just doesn't bother me for someone who has been out of jail for many years to get a pardon.
    This doesn't mean I'm not scratching my head over some of these pardons. I am. In some cases I disapprove.
    But this ought to give us a chance to ask ourselves some questions about our penal system and what we want it to do. Do we want it to rehabilitate prisoners or merely punish them. We ought to want both. But if we refuse to allow fully rehabilitated prisoners to return to society then we've decided that all we really want our penal system to do is punish and not rehabilitate.
    We need to do both.

(Click to enlarge chart)


Pugnacious said...


My sentiments, exactly. Or as Ben d' T over at Tom's place is apt to say, "What Colonel Reb sez."

I recently spoke with a "private investigator" whose father owns the trailer park where Gavin shot and killed his wife and shot and injured her lover. He says that there is another side to that story that no one has heard.

He says that Gavin came home and found his wife gone and was able to track her down to another trailer where he caught her in bed with her lover...the baby was on the floor, not in her arms. Gavin was not the biological father of the six-week old baby. He did kill his adulterous wife and injured her lover out of rage and pled guilty. In most cases of this nature, Mississippi jurors would probably set him free.

A similar case occurred in Noxubee county some twenty-years ago. An irate husband caught his wife in his home, in his bed, with her lover. When he ordered him out of the house at gunpoint, her buck- naked lover charged him and was shot six times as he pursued him out into the yard. The sixth shot was a coup de gras shot to the head. The DA never filed charges against the shooter.

The dead lover's daughter's wedding the following day had to be canceled to make funeral preparations.

The "investigator" also claimed that a deal had been made with the family of Karen Irby's victims, that if a $26,000,000 dollar donation were to made to charities by the Stuart C. Irby oligarchy, they would not object to her conditional release.

Pugnacious said...

Examples of "Crime of passion" defense.

Pugnacious said...

David Gatlin, not Gavin.