Thursday, December 15, 2005

What Should Society Do With Its “Tookie Monsters” ?

The “ Tookie Williams Saga “ has finally ended.

After decades of appeals and delays , and more appeals and more delays; after vast agitation by a wide variety of people : ranging from sincere opponents of the death penalty, to shameless self-advocates looking for more media “face time”, Tookie Williams – the convicted murderer of four people finally got the justice a jury of his peers had decreed.

There are many who say the death penalty is “barbaric” ; or that it serves no useful purpose.

I tend to agree – when the penalty is exacted 20 years after the crime !

Justice delayed is – all things considered – justice denied ; and thus, serves no useful purpose.

I find myself nodding in agreement with the proposal by an Ocean County ,NJ official ; who says-with considerable accuracy- New Jersey should abandon the death penalty ,because decades of experience have shown the NJ Supreme Court simply will not permit a death sentence to be carried out : no matter how hideous the crime.

The official points out the insanity of a financially-stressed state paying out millions and millions of dollars in death sentence appeal costs , when it is obvious what the outcome will be.

I think most people would agree with this pragmatic assessment – though I am sure there are some cynics who would say we need a death penalty - in case a NJ Supreme Court Justice is ever murdered.

(Anyone care to bet on the outcome of THAT appeal ?)

So, without a death penalty , what DO we do with our “Tookie Monsters”?

I use the term “monsters” advisedly. By the time a homicide case has passed through the court system , the “lesser” homicides have been dealt with. Commonly, these lesser cases do not involve the monsters who plan and premeditate murder,and who are as willing to kill to secure their goals as we are to sip a beverage or scratch or yawn.

I’ve met a lot of them ,and can say ,when you see one of them do or say something which seems to have redeeming qualities –like Tookie Williams and his “famous” (303 copies sold) anti-gang books – it is done for one reason only: to secure a temporary advantage for the criminal.

Every SERIOUS criminal I’ve ever met is lacking in what we might call “moral vitamins” , or “conscience” , or genuine empathy towards for his fellow humans. “Right” is what helps him; “Wrong” is what hinders or delays his satisfaction. If we were to express it in wilderness terms, career criminals are predators,and we are their chosen prey.

Unfortunately, there is a small-but-influential segment of our society that has never been able to grasp this simple truth – even when it springs up like a stepped-on rake to hit them in the teeth.

Their first thought (Lord help us !) seems to be : “ What did WE do wrong ? Was there some sort of program which could have prevented this ? How much will it cost ?”

This small segment of our society also thinks the obvious answer as to what to do about “Tookie Monsters” is just …wrong-headed.

“We can’t lock people up without hope of release !”, they shout. “ It’s –it’s – just WRONG !”

Did I mention the fact this small segment of influential people gets to sit on parole boards,or judicial and legislative committeees that govern our parole policies ? That they are people nobody elected ? That some see it as their function to achieve ethnic or racial quotas in granting parole ? That some believe it is their plain duty to frustrate the will of the electorate ?

If we’re not going to execute monsters who would kill us in a heartbeat, let’s at least make sure they are locked up - as securely as human ingenuity will permit – for the rest of their natural lives: no parole, no release on “intensive supervision”, no “max –outs”.

Tookie Monsters need to be in the jar-with the lid on securely !


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