Society should insist punishments fit crimes

March 19, 2010
By

In a letter to the editor in the Feb. 5 JP Gazette, Nancy Ahmadifar defended the granting of paroles and pardons in the context of the arrest of a parolee for the shooting death of a Tedeschi store clerk here. She stated: “…to deny second chances would be a tragedy of immeasurable proportions…” I disagree.

She also asserted, “Many people who have violated the social fabric have… become law-abiding, productive citizens.”

According to the US Department of Justice, in a study of 15 states, over two-thirds of released prisoners were rearrested within three years.

Ms. Ahmadifar’s final observation was that society must provide “the tools and opportunities to change and maximize everyone’s potential for doing good.”

There are four legitimate reasons why society can and should assess punishment to fit the crime, any one of which is sufficient and justifiable: to dissuade criminals from repeating their criminality; to discourage others from felonious behavior; to tell victims how seriously and sympathetically we regard their suffering; and to reassure society that its safety is of utmost importance. When we routinely forget and forgive, we trivialize these objectives.

The efforts of many experts—including psychiatrists, penologists, legislators, prosecutors, jurors and judges—go into determining appropriate and effective prison sentences. Ms. Ahmadifar would be wise to consider their deliberations before being led by her bleeding heart.

There are many victims of any crime. Family, friends, associates, neighbors, relatives and the broader community are all affected when a crime is perpetrated. If those who are personally violated wish to forgive as part of their own recovery, more power to them. But let that forgiveness be in their own hearts, not imposed on others through ineffective paroles and unwarranted pardons.

Ms. Ahmadifar concluded, “The death of compassion would be the worst tragedy of all.” I disagree. Another murder committed by an ex-con on early release would be a much more tragic death.

Bob McDonnell
Jamaica Plain

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