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Life In Prison: Harriet Salarno, A Victim Speaks

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Video published January 15, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: KPBS reporter Joanne Faryon interviews Harriet Salarno, a crime victim whose daughter was murdered in 1979. Ever since, Salarno has fought for crime victims' rights.

— In 1979, Harriet Salarno's daughter was murdered on a California college campus. A young man whom Salarno and her husband took in and raised with their daughter was convicted of the crime. He is currently serving 17 years to life on a second-degree murder charge.

Harriet Salarno stands next to a photo of her daughter, Catina Rose, who was murdered in 1979.
Enlarge this image

Above: Harriet Salarno stands next to a photo of her daughter, Catina Rose, who was murdered in 1979.

Soon after her daughter's murder, Salarno formed the non-profit organization Crime Victims United of California, fighting to strengthen victims' rights laws and promote public safety.

Salarno supports other families of victims by attending parole hearings. She also lobbies State Legislators to ensure that victims have a voice.

Hear more about Salarno's story and the Crime Victims United of California in the upcoming Project Envision documentary, "Life in Prison," airing January 25, 2010, at 9 p.m. on KPBS Television.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 16, 2010 at 5:49 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

While I have sympathy and compassion for Mrs Salarno's loss- I must say it is she that has Vengance. When do we say lets stop hurting and start healing? 30 years is a VERY long time to carry this type of vengance and hurt...

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 16, 2010 at 6:25 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

We need to become a society that believes in forgiveness and understanding.

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Avatar for user 'ReEntry'

ReEntry | January 16, 2010 at 8:34 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Wow.... let "her" without sin cast the first stone.... Please, Mrs. Salarno, let this hurt you've allowed to fester.... let it go. People make terrible mistakes. They also learn by making mistakes. We all do. Your mistake is holding on to this hurt. Let it go.

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Avatar for user 'FrankCourser'

FrankCourser | January 16, 2010 at 10:46 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

While my heart goes out to any victim of crime and especially the loss of a child, I am the father of 5 children. I would like to point out that Crime Victims United was really the brain child of the CCPOA. The prison guards union. They fully fund Crime Victims United and at the beginning housed them at their CCPOA headquarters. The idea was to use Harriet Salarno and her story to fire up the public to pass tougher laws with longer sentences that would benefit the CCPOA membership. It was brilliant and worked like a charm. California went on a prison building spree that had never been seen in any state ever! Then came Three Strikes with the murder of Polly Klass and Kimber Reynolds. That became the crowning glory for the CCPOA. Thousands would be swept up under this law. Although the ads paid for and produced by the prison guards union said it would put away the violent offenders, in truth thousands of drug users, shoplifters and petty criminals would account for the majority convicted. Today 25% of all inmates are strikers 2nd and 3rd. 65% convicted of non-violent crimes or victim-less crimes of drug possession. Harriet Salarno and her daughters death have served as the growth and profit of the CCPOA. Sadly she can not see the harm and heart break she has caused thousands of families in California.

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Avatar for user 'pixiedust'

pixiedust | January 16, 2010 at 5:47 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Ms Salarno, you have chosen to allow your grief to destroy you. You have set out to do the bidding of the CCPOA and get your 'pound of flesh' by making sure that offenders who had nothing to do with the death of your child receive sentences are far more lengthy than the gravity of their crime would dictate.

The sad thing is that there will never be enough revenge for you; you will just have to keep fighting for more and longer prison terms, harsher conditions for inmates and parolees; it must give you some perverse delight to know you made others suffer.

I understand the emptiness we experience when we lose a loved one, particularly at the hand of another, but most people come to realize that they have to let go of the hate in order to get on with their lives, and they become better people because of it.

Sadly hatred and vengeance became your two best friends, and now you would not know what to do without them. God help you.

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Avatar for user '1union1'

1union1 | January 16, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Most murders occur amongst known families and friends, all of this vengeance on other families because mentally ill people act out their illnesses helps no one. Harriet Salerno and the Crime Victim's groups have been manipulated by the CCPOA and other law enforcement labor unions to build a huge human bondage industry that has caused far more than destruction than it has prevented.

I wonder how she can truly believe that her hatred and vengeance honors her daughter that so many other people have lost their children due to the harsh, overcrowded, negligent conditions? Salerno is a good organizer, it's too bad she doesn't see healing and prevention of mental illness as better solutions to crime than mindlessly punishing sick people. Harriet Salerno has certainly shared her pain and inflicted it upon other family members whose loved ones died preventable deaths in the prisons. Thank you Harriet - a heroine you are not...the law enforcement labor union's simple use you as a puppet.

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 17, 2010 at 5:14 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

To say that she feels her husband is in danger is manipulating the public. Unless the man convicted of the crime has made threats or publicly stated that he intends revenge on her husband, then she has no idea how he's feel about his crime.

This woman has no clue about what lifers are about. All she talks about is the pain of losing her daughter and about making it her life's work to make sure no lifer is ever on the streets again. She's a very vengeful person and masks it as victims rights. If she's still grieving this much after decades, she really needs to go see a shrink, because she certainly isn't moving past anything. She's stuck. She's only a victim because she is making herself one.

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 17, 2010 at 5:15 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

ALL Lifers are not murderers by the way....

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 17, 2010 at 5:16 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

http://prisonmovement.wordpress.com/

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Avatar for user 'HelloKitty'

HelloKitty | January 17, 2010 at 12:04 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Romans 12:19 (King James Version)

19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Her test is this; FORGIVENESS. She has failed miserably so far.

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Avatar for user 'HelloKitty'

HelloKitty | January 17, 2010 at 12:05 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

In fact this hate makes her very ugly in her own heart, and it is also written that hate is murder. She too will be judged for her hate as if it were murder.

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Avatar for user '2tough2die'

2tough2die | January 17, 2010 at 5:50 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Evidently all of the above comments were made by people that have never been victims of crime. Why does mental instability have any bearing on punishment? Is the person murdered any less dead? The person found guilty any less guilty? A crime was commited. There are consequenses to be paid. You people are attacking a victim. Of course she's angry,vengeful and full of rage. I think you are all in denial of your own human nature,and trying to come off as benevolent,politically correct saints in waiting!

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 17, 2010 at 8:54 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

And I quote.. 'I can understand the victim's family being pained by the loss of their loved one but as a family member of a murder victim I hold no ill will towards the man who took her life, time passes, people change and the events of one day should not dictate the rest of ones life. I believe in redemption and second chances, everyone deserves a second chance."

end of story....Harriet needs to start healing and let this go....

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 17, 2010 at 8:56 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Received via email today:

My husband was 19 years old when he went to prison, at 46 years old he is far from the person he was at 19. The media likes to use scare tactics to influence the public into believing that the people in prison are monsters and, yes, maybe some are but first and foremost they are people, people who need to be loved, maybe if they had had love as a child or love as an adult they wouldn't have traveled the path they did and even if they had loving parents, a good home and everything they could need that still is no reason to lock them up and throw away the key. The media doesn't want to tell the public that those people in prison are the same people that you see at the grocery store, the library, the bank etc, they want the public to believe that they are not people but monsters, if that is the case then WE THE PUBLIC are the monsters because that is where they come from, inmates are not dropped off by aliens to be housed on our planet, they are people just like you and me who made choices albeit bad ones and now they are paying the price but should that price be the rest of their life?
In order for WE THE PUBLIC to not be monsters ourselves we have to give these people a chance to redeem themselves and that can only be done once they are released and prove that the system works.

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 17, 2010 at 8:57 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Now 2tough2die...what have you got to say for yourself?

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 17, 2010 at 8:59 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Crime Victims United of California- gets major funding by the CCPOA...the union for Correctional Officers in this fine state. Conflict of interest? Job security by making sure the prisons stay full? you tell me....do some research, the truth is out here for all to see.

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Avatar for user 'enoughalready'

enoughalready | January 17, 2010 at 9:09 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

"You people are attacking a victim. "

It may appear that way but that's not really the case, when do you move from victim status ?to survivor status ?

"There are consequenses to be paid"
They have been paid, sadly she wants everyone to pay.

Sharon Tates mom forgave her daughters killer she even visted him in prison, she knew she had to find peace to go on living without hate in her heart.

I think Ms Salarno could be more of a benefit in helping get programs into prisons and help rehabilitate prisoners, she could do something constructive to get passed her anger, instead of being a puppet for a group that has lost control of reality.

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Avatar for user 'HelloKitty'

HelloKitty | January 17, 2010 at 9:33 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

How is the hate constructive? How does it change anything? Hanging onto this hate causes illness to name just one. It is a "dysfunctional" emotion to carry this long!

I am a victim of violent crime as well and i can definitely understand the anger and the rage, but at some point you have to work through that and seek peace. How do you seek peace?

FORGIVENESS will give her life that PEACE. If only she could let go as advised above and help these human being that were once monsters. That will be healing and beneficial for her life as well.

Our heavenly Father commands us to forgive. If we do not, He will not forgive us. It really is that simple.

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Avatar for user 'HelloKitty'

HelloKitty | January 17, 2010 at 9:36 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

And whether she wants to believe this or not,most of those monsters were once victims themselves. Does that mean they should not be punished? No! But she is focusing on hate and revenge for over a decade now. That makes her no better in my opinion.

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Avatar for user 'Joanne Faryon'

Joanne Faryon, KPBS Staff | January 18, 2010 at 1:34 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago


This is a complicated issue with many points of view. We are trying to provide balance to our coverage and initiate an informed conversation. The half hour documentary KPBS TV airs next Monday (Jan 25 at 9 pm) will provide more context concerning longer sentencing laws. Legislators began implementing laws, such as determinate sentencing, in the mid 1970's. Statistics show homicide rates had nearly doubled from the 60's to the 70's. It's great to have a passionate discussion on the issue, but personal attacks don't further the debate. The bottom line is California has to come up with other solutions - according to the receiver in charge of prison health care, the state can't afford to pay for health care for all its aging inmates without breaking the bank. Joanne Faryon

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Avatar for user '2tough2die'

2tough2die | January 18, 2010 at 10:55 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm happy to see all of the responses to my statement.I always love to be misquoted and have my words twisted. Obviously everyone in prison doesnt deserve to be there,but yes Cleo,some are best described as monsters.What is sad is that "normal" citizens are losing jobs,homes,and health,while the monsters don't enjoy "freedom" they at least don't worry about where they will sleep,when they will get their next meal or whether the local clinic will let them in. If you commit a violent crime and get caught,chances are it isnt the first or last time.Some people are beyond rehabilitation. Jesus may love them,but I don't have to.

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 18, 2010 at 11:14 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Some people are beyond rehabilitation. I can agree with that 2tough2die- but most can be rehabbed and are not. And at a great expense to the taxpayers. I would assume your Pro death Penalty by most of your statements here. If your familiar with health care at all in prisons, and it appears your not- inmates must request to see a DR- taking days, weeks, maybe months. There is nothing stopping any of us out here from going to the ER.

Thanks Joann for your input...2013 is right around the corner, and then what? Is CDCr even looking that far down the road? What about Compassionate Release- the law was passed and yet, seemingly not in use....AB1539 I think it was. We need to be proactive on this issue and NOW!!

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 18, 2010 at 11:18 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

I dont think anyone has made a personal attack here- we can agree to disagree on a civil level. I try and stick to facts & try to stay away from emotions when posting here. Of course the subject matter here does bring out emotions for all who have been involved in one way or another with the system.

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Avatar for user 'HelloKitty'

HelloKitty | January 18, 2010 at 11:41 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

I definitely agree with "Cleo" above, the majority are redeemable through rehabilitation-educational-religious programs and there are some who are not salvageable for one reason or another, being mental illness to name one. You can't punish a mentally ill person into being well.

Jesus loves you too "2tough2die", but we all die and when that happens we meet our maker and answer for our own lives as well. God is not a God who would want anyone to grip onto hate and revenge forever as it gives the devil a foot hold over your own heart.

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Avatar for user '1union1'

1union1 | January 18, 2010 at 10:04 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Empirical Evidence by leading criminologists prove that prisons do not deter crime When people receive a college education, they are taught the difference between who should be considered a valid source or not. The lawmakers allegedly have college educations, why are they ignoring empirical evidence that incarceration doesn't work?

Because they are feeding off this human bondage industry, which is nothing less than modernized slavery. On amazon.com read comments from leading criminologists, others, Prisons are a failure. Why not put the money on the front end to prevent crime and mental illness via education? Why empower punishing instead of prevention and healing? What a bunch of morons we, the people, have empowered over our lives.

We need to elect smart-on-crime politicians. Many books are in print right now with empirical evidence that prisons aren't working Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Worse (Studies in Crime and Public Policy by Todd R. Clear =Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration by David F. Weiman------ -- Prison State: The Challenge of Mass Incarceration (Cambridge Studies in Criminology) ---------Downsizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration by Michael Jacobson , the intellectuals are speaking out against prisons as a failed practice from the dark ages.

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Avatar for user '1union1'

1union1 | January 18, 2010 at 10:08 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

The comment that "obviously everyone who is in prison deserves to be there" is illogical when we consider that 80,000 people are incarcerated over minor, non violent crimes such as being a half hour late to a parole appointment, stealing food with the full permission of the priest, even stealing a watermelon out of a field where they are rotting is a felony. The people who will be released are the ones who should never have been imprisoned in the first place except for the organizing work of Harriet Salarno and her manipulated cohorts. A prisoner dies every day, more die shortly after release, what about those murders taking place in our names, paid for with our tax dollars? What about their grieving families?

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Avatar for user 'sanfran'

sanfran | January 18, 2010 at 10:26 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

It is morally defensible and entirely reasonable for society to isolate sociopaths in prison, even unto old age and natural death. I'm happy that some of my tax dollars support the incarceration of predators. This is a good and legitimate function of self-government.

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Avatar for user '1union1'

1union1 | January 19, 2010 at 7:22 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Isolate but not torture and murder, that benefits no one and harms many.
This pure evidence of torture and murder by state employees in California prisons just cost the taxpayers $475,000.

In 1850 Dorothea Dix and the quakers managed to get all the mentally ill taken out of prisons and jails and put into private homes and hospitals whose intent was to heal, not to punish sickness. No mentally ill person was ever deterred from being sick because another mentally ill person was locked in a cage and tormented. The majority of prisoners are non-violent

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local-beat/Prison_Predators_Los_Angeles.html

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 20, 2010 at 12:36 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

2tough2die // January 18, 2010 at 10:55 a.m. ― 2 days, 1 hour ago

I'm happy to see all of the responses to my statement.I always love to be misquoted and have my words twisted. Obviously everyone in prison doesnt deserve to be there....

1UNION1 you have misquoted 2tough2die- she said "doesnt" ....

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 20, 2010 at 12:42 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

sanfran // January 18, 2010 at 10:26 p.m. ― 1 day, 14 hours ago

It is morally defensible and entirely reasonable for society to isolate sociopaths in prison,

Sociopaths- do have facts & figures on how many in prison ARE actually Sociopaths? Not very many..and no one deserves to be mistreated....of course not all sociopaths are mentally ill, that is much different. Not everyone who commits a crime is mentally ill...

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 20, 2010 at 12:44 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

spare us, please!!

Warning about Cayenne Bird and UNION - Chronicles of Abuse, Fraud and Scams

http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=65906

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Avatar for user '1union1'

1union1 | January 20, 2010 at 10:21 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

That site Prison Talk is controlled by prison guards. The fact is that the UNION families have won $6.5 million in lawsuit payouts in 2009 with more still coming to court. Watch for details very soon on another national television program about the five lawsuits described at the above link. Naturally prison guards lash out at the families who sue them, more than 1000 state employees have been served with lawsuits by UNION families with more on the way.

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 21, 2010 at 4:20 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Guidelines

Please stay on topic and be as concise as possible. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Community Discussion Rules. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

1union1 is in fact not posting truth here according to the guidelines above; the comments should be removed. PTO is NOT in any way affiliated with the Dept of Corrections for CA or any other state.

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Avatar for user '1union1'

1union1 | January 23, 2010 at 1:26 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

All it takes to prove the point is to go into Prison Talk Online and post basic solutions to the problems, talk about the problems with prison guards and a whole pack of them will come out and attack. Mention what every high school graduate is taught about civics and the need to form voting groups and elect the right people to office who have taken no money from law enforcement labor unions. Have several people try to post the truth, you'll be amazed at who is in charge of that forum - prison guards!

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 23, 2010 at 8:36 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

That is absolutely false. Stop misleading the GP with out right lies....

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Avatar for user 'dasugo'

dasugo | January 25, 2010 at 11:26 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

I just watched that program tonight. How depressing is this. Ms Slamo has no forgiveness after all these years. I'm so sorry for you. I do feel sympathy towards losing your daughter, but after 30 years, you still have all this hate? Come on, get a grip and get some rehabilitation. It'll make a better person out of you. And what 's this about the inamtes getting all this health care? I write to several inmates as pen pals as I'm a people person and very interested in the minds of others. I write two of them who has Hep C. They're still waiting to get treatment. Ones been waiting for 8 months and the other one for 13 months. They don't care what happens to them. They figure they're monsters. And by the way, These two are in for possesion of drugs. Why couldn't they send them to rehab instead of waisting all this government money and throwing them in prison? It'll just make them worst when they get out. They need rehabilitation, not prison time. I've been writing to inmates for 3 years now and heard all kinds of stories about the guards in how boring their jobs are so they hastle the inmates. I've had a pen pal that has had all of his art work taken away, cause a guard liked it so much. I've sent them calendars and they never get them or was it sent back to me. So who ever gets a hold and reads the mail, I guess they get to take what ever they want. It upsets me to find that the inmates I write, get no medical care and things taken away from them. Sure, maybe some of them do deserve it. But these guys are harmless but drug users . Do you care about any of this Ms Slamo? The govenment is wasting our money in housing these inmates. It totally blew me away about the seniors in prison and how much we're spending to keep them in there. Some of us out here don't even make that kind of money that these inmates are getting housed for. Yes, I'm pointing the finger at you Ms. Slamo, cause I can't believe the hate you have after all these years. You must be a woman who hates life............

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Avatar for user 'mstanya'

mstanya | January 26, 2010 at 12:12 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

i feel sorry for this lady, where is the forgiveness it has been 30 years. i was in prison at one time. got out and finished my parole. i was in with lifers and alot them were in there for domestic violence. i think it depends on the person. but to let someone sit intherethat has changed. is wrong and who is that lady to say who has changed and who hasn't she is not god!!!!

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Avatar for user 'Juror5'

Juror5 | January 26, 2010 at 10:29 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

She asks rhetorically how older inmates would survive if they could get out? She concludes that anyone serving a lengthy term and paroled in their 60's or 70's would resort to crime to survive and be back behind bars, so best to keep them forever. In the cases of many seniors, once released they would be immediately eligible for Social Security. However, they can not collect these benefits while in prison. Isn't it effectively cruel and unusual punishment to take a person advised by the trial court of when they might be released on parole and then deny them that hope for release? Are we to really accept the notion that 99% of inmates serving X to Life are never suitable for release? I am certain that in the past when judges sentenced offenders to 25 to life, they did not imagine that virtually none of them would be paroled. Many years ago their was an expectation that if an offender was a model prisoner there would be a chance for parole. Then our society became tougher on crime, imposing 3 strikes laws and denying paroles as a matter of policy, citing "nature of the crime" as cause for denying parole. I would submit, that if the "nature of the crime" had been so heinous to begin with, wouldn't it have been the duty of the trial court to have imposed a harsher sentence? I think a lot of what we have in the parole system is a form of double jeopardy wherein inmates are never able to complete their sentences as they can be deemed "unsuitable" for release until they die. If we as a society are to conclude that 99% of those sentenced to X to life are never to be paroled, then it is cruel and unusual punishment to give them hope where there is none. It would be much more humane and honest to say at the time of sentencing--commit a 3rd strike--life without parole--molest your kid--life without parole, etc. If we don't want to let old offenders eligible for parole out after 20-30 years to collect their Social Security and live their "golden" years as members of society that have "paid their debt", it would be far more humane to tell them in the first place that they will never see the light of day. If we have truly forsaken the notion of rehabilitation, then we must commit ourselves to incarcerating more and more of our citizens for all sorts of crimes for the rest of their lives. I for one would prefer that sound minds could somehow adopt a "kinder gentler" approach, and formulate workable programs wherein older offenders that have served their time and are eligible for parole could feasibly reintegrate into society, rather than building colonies of penetentiaries for a geriatric subculture of our society deemed beyond redemption.

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Avatar for user 'Cleo'

Cleo | January 31, 2010 at 4:36 p.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago

I will never understand
how people can be so…so blood thirsty. Is this who we are as
humans? Have we not evolved into higher beings where two wrongs
don’t make a right, where forgiveness and love are put on the back
burner? It boggles my mind.

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