Life without parole sentences
A petition presented to the New Zealand parliament called for life without parole sentences for those who kill a serving police officer. The petition had 39,000 signatures. The petition was organised by the mother of a slain police officer.
A life without parole sentence has only been handed down once in New Zealand, for the Christchurch mosque shooter. It is a sentence that tells New Zealand that this is the worst of the worst crimes.
Once you start lowering the threshold for handing out life without parole sentences you leave people in prison who would normally lead law-abiding lives with maturity on their side without a hope for the future. It also reduces the seriousness of the worst criminal acts as the same sentences are handed out for the less serious ones.
The huge cost to the taxpayer of keeping people locked up is a factor that needs to be considered.
If the government does have the funds to keep people locked up for life then the question is, “What else could they do with the money?”
That is assuming that whoever is inside is capable of turning a corner and living a law-abiding life.
Here is one suggestion: that sentences be reduced and the money which is saved be invested in programs aimed at vulnerable youth.
Law enforcement needs to go after those who take advantage of juveniles and entice them into crime, particularly drugs.
There are examples of offenders who received a life without parole sentence in America after being involved in murder with older folk.
Morgan Leppert from Florida is one of these; as a fifteen-year-old she and her twenty-one year-old boyfriend were involved in the murder of a fifty-eight year old man before stealing his pick-up truck.
Now you have to ask, “Who should shoulder most of the responsibility for this crime? The twenty one year old or the fifteen year old?
American law does not seem to take into account this factor which is not a justification for their actions but rather explains them.
Instead, retribution seems to be a motivating factor in sentencing. Getting even with those who have wronged us may give the victim’s relatives some satisfaction but it does not bring them back. In fact, being a victim or a victor is a choice one makes and that is an attitude.
Is there any circumstance where a sentence of life without parole is justified?
When there is a risk to the public but that needs to be assessed as it already is when offenders apply for parole.
In the case of the Christchurch mosque shooter, there will be some who treat him as a hero if he is released, therefore, there is the risk that he will inspire others to commit a similar crime.
Life without parole sentences should be handed out only in exceptional cases and the Mosque attack is one of those exceptional cases.