Jared Loughner, the guy who killed five people at a meet-and-greet event hosted by U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords a couple years ago, was just sentenced to 140 years in prison.
I’m pretty sure that means he’ll never leave prison alive.
Loughner is, by all reports, mentally ill. Very much so. And an argument can be made that because he’s mentally ill, he’s not responsible for his actions, and therefore sentencing him to a lifetime in prison is unjust.
I take a different view. It’s the responsibility of the society to come to some meaningful agreement on what constitutes essential safety – from foreign aggressors, sure, but also from violent criminals, storms, water sources, insulation, and yes, even those who would or could disturb our safety, and even take our lives, through no reason other than the misworkings of their brains, like Jared Loughner.
The key question is: if he were freed, would another event like that which happened in Tucson occur? I’m no expert, on either violent mentally ill people in general or on Loughner in particular, but it seems to me that unless we know for sure – and here’s where I may disagree with you – society can (and should) imprison this person.
It’s a gray area. How are we to say that a violent criminal in full control of his faculties who committed murder or rape is fully rehabilitated after 20 years in prison? I don’t think we can. Yet we, collectively, as a society, have adjudged that sentence to be the appropriate one in those circumstances.
It concerns me when decisions about shared needs – such as that for safety – are unilaterally appropriated by government as part of some national-security power grab. Extrajudicial killings of citizens via unmanned drones are abhorrent, as is indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping and its digital equivalents, gag orders, and the heavy-handed suppression of whistleblowers by globally applying some unspecified and unchallengable national security interest.
That’s not the case here, however.
I’m also thankful that the victims were united in calling for the judge not to impose the death penalty, which IMHO is barbaric and dangerous and ill-applied, especially against the most vulnerable (and yes, I include Loughner in that category).