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Is it Time to Make 'Hard Time' Harder?

This photo shoot of infamous nurse-killer Richard Speck may be one indication why. Scenes like these understandably strike many victimized families and law-abiding citizens as a betrayal of the innocent, and convey a perception that our relative mercy for killers is being reciprocated poorly by the miscreant.

Spiritually oriented people often oppose the death penalty on grounds that only God should have ultimate power of life over death. Opposition can also come from the secular belief that a state should never be in the business of taking a life. From these perspectives, the worst a moral society can condemn its transgressors to is natural life without parole.

If we accept these theological and ethical limits on the punishment civilized societies may inflict on their worst malefactors, it only remains to determine the quality of that imprisonment.  What if a life sentence included a component of hard labor, day in and day out, with a rest on Sunday? A lifelong ban on the comforts and privileges less contemptible inmates enjoy. No television, no cigarettes, no dope. Absolutely no conjugal visits, and medical care that never includes such elective procedures as sex reassignment surgery.

Would such a life be more cruel and unusual than the quickened asphyxia of a lethal injection?

Not a week goes by in America that doesn’t compel us to consider our positions on capital punishment.

Another horrendous murder has occurred that for death penalty advocates perfectly illustrates the kind of evil that capital punishment was designed to redress. If not these two, especially the male, who should society ever execute?

If convicted and sentenced to life, David Eisenhauer, 18, and Natalie Keepers, 19, alleged murderer and accomplice respectively, will have a very long time to think about the reprehensible and premeditated act that left 13-year-old Nicole Madison Lovell stabbed to death along a North Carolina roadside.

Three possibilities: what we have now (which is varying iterations of conventional confinement for life), death, or hard-life.

Contrasting Arias, who hoped upon hope that her lawyers would successfully argue for a life sentence, with Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, who opted not to exhaust the appeals process, can be instructive when considering the quality of life under a sentence of natural life imprisonment.

McVeigh rejected any chance he had to live, saying that he would rather die than spend his life in prison. Jodi Arias instructed her attorneys to fight to keep her alive.

That’s where we’ll leave this femme fatale, to season-out like a caged Komodo dragon, to search the bleak corridors for a sustaining spirituality, to sleep forever alone, and then die.

Most of us would be right in there with her. Change the equation to a hard choice about hard-life and fewer of us would.