Too Old to Commit Crime?

By DANA GOLDSTEIN | The New York Times
MARCH 20, 2015

prison sentence changesDZHOKHAR TSARNAEV is facing the death penalty or life in prison for the Boston Marathon bombing. But what if, instead, the maximum prison sentence were just 21 years?

That was the sentence that Anders Behring Breivik received in 2012 after killing 77 people, most of them teenagers attending a summer program, in Norway in 2011. It was the harshest sentence available. That doesn’t mean Mr. Breivik will ever walk free. Judges will be able to sentence him to an unlimited number of five-year extensions if he is still deemed a risk to the public in 2033, when he is 53.

The idea of a 21-year sentence for mass murder and terrorism may seem radically lenient in the United States, where life without parole is often presented as a humane alternative to the death penalty. Yet in testimony last week to a congressional task force on reforming the federal prison system, Marc Mauer, the director of the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group, suggested exactly that approach. He made the case for a 20-year cap on federal prison terms with an option for parole boards or judges to add more time if necessary to protect the public.

Such a policy would “control costs” in a system that is now 40 percent over capacity, Mr. Mauer told the task force, and would “bring the United States more in line with other industrialized nations.”

This proposal has little chance of becoming law. But a compelling case can be made for it nonetheless. Research by American social scientists shows that all but the most exceptional criminals, even violent ones, mature out of lawbreaking before middle age, meaning that long sentences do little to prevent crime.

Homicide and drug-arrest rates peak at age 19, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, while arrest rates for forcible rape peak at 18. Some crimes, such as vandalism, crest even earlier, at age 16, while arrest rates for forgery, fraud and embezzlement peak in the early 20s. For most of the crimes the F.B.I. tracks, more than half of all offenders will be arrested by the time they are 30.

Read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/sunday-review/too-old-to-commit-crime.html?_r=0

stef Posted by on Mar 20 2015. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Too Old to Commit Crime?”

  1. American

    Or better yet just give them their choice of lethal injection, hangman’s noose, or firing squad and execute them if convicted for the crime of first-degree murder. Case closed.

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