Saturday, May 11, 2013
Still On My Soap Box
The news set me off again this morning. In Kansas, a 27-year old convicted felon has been arrested for the murder of three people whose bodies were found on a farm on Monday. The victims included two men and a woman, who had an 18-month old baby girl. There have been no signs of the baby, and now she is "presumed dead". Police have not identified any motive for the killings.
The suspect previously served time for shooting a former employer in 2005 after being fired from his job. That man was shot five times, seriously injured and never able to work again. He died in 2011. The suspect was sentenced to five years for attempted murder and released on parole in 2009. Now he has been arrested for killing three people, possibly four.
In another case, William Spengler killed his 92-year old grandmother in 1980 by beating her with a hammer. He was convicted of manslaughter and served 18 years in prison. In December, 2012 he set fire to seven houses in a small New York town. He had several kinds of weapons with him as he laid in wait for firefighters to appear, then ambushed them. He killed two firefighters. These killings took place on Christmas eve.
Those are two cases that have been in the news recently. I also remember several cases locally in which convicted felons were paroled, only to kill again within months. How can this happen? As I grew up, I thought if you committed murder your freedom was gone. To me, a murder conviction meant automatic life in prison with no parole. Now I know that isn't true. I wonder, how can a man beat his 92-year old grandmother to death with a hammer, serve 18 years and go free to kill again. It was reported that when this man returned to his community neighbors were fearful because he was a known troublemaker. Why was a known troublemaker who killed his own grandmother paroled?
I understand there is an overcrowding problem with prisons. But shouldn't there be a more reasonable standard regarding who is set free? It seems to me that the most violent offenders should be kept away from society. Non-violent offenders can be paroled if need be. For example, those convicted of possessing a small amount of drugs. I have read that a large percentage of the prison population are in this category. It seems like common sense to me to have a "triage" system by which to parole prisoners. Non-violent offenders go first, and keep the most violent offenders behind bars.