Good Should Prisoners For Whom There Is Substantial Evidence Of Innocence Essay Example
be required to admit guilt to be granted parole?
Crime and punishment are two interrelated concepts that often arouse heated debates in legal and political circles. It is common knowledge that crime must entail punishment in case the guilt has been proven. However, there are cases when people have to endure long-term imprisonment even though they swear to be innocent and have substantial evidence of it. Refusing to admit their guilt they have no right for parole whereas those who confess to committing a crime are allowed to appeal for parole. So, perhaps, the possibility to be granted parole can be a good reason why prisoners for whom there is substantial evidence of innocence admit the guilt. Or probably our law-makers should admit the necessity to reconsider the parole laws to give innocent people a chance to avoid imprisonment for something they have not done.
Parole was introduced in the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was aimed at letting convicts finish their sentence outside prison if they followed certain rules and did not deny supervision. It was believed that in such a way criminals could sooner become law-abiding citizens as they had admitted their guilt, realized its wrongfulness, and were eager never to return to prison again. However, refusal to profess their guilt was considered to be criminals’ refusal to recognize the fact that their lives had been wrong. Therefore, they were not believed to be ever able to become eligible to leading law-abiding lives outside prison walls. Since then, parole boards have always relied on the criminal pleading guilty as a major factor in the release decision (Medwed).
The proponents of the above mentioned principle argue that despite the public outcry connected with the matter the number of people who have been convicted and were actually innocent is very tiny (Marquis). More often are the cases when criminals use this public agitation to their advantage. They read and watch the news; they discuss the issue with their inmates; and then they pretend to be victims of illegal and unjust accusation who are forced to spend years of their lives in prison. Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Astoria, Ore., is convinced that the idea of US prisons being full of innocent men is just a myth boosted by the press; US prisons are actually “full of criminals who were finally caught” (Marquis).
But people start to doubt the idea when they hear or read about real life stories of people who spend half of their life locked in prison trying to convince the court and everyone around in their innocence. One of the most frightening cases of this kind has recently been made public. It is a story of Jeffrey Mark Deskovic who served 16 years of his life in prison for the murder he had not committed (Santos). He was 16 when he was accused of raping and murdering his classmate, Angela Correa. He had all his life ahead. He had plans as most young people of his age do; but the unjust accusation changed everything for him and his family. For years he appealed to be acquitted and was always denied it although he had substantial evidence against his guilt (semen in the victim’s body was proved to be not his). And only when the DNA matched another man who was already serving time sentence for murder and who confessed to killing Angela Correa, Deskovic was released.
That heart-breaking story should make everybody think, especially law-makers, that probably there is something wrong with our parole laws which either make innocent people confess to a crime they did not commit (like Jeffrey Mark Deskovic did) or let guilty people free only on the ground they admitted their guilt (which actually does not prevent them from committing another crime). This idea is supported by a great number of people. They insist that there should be no rules without exceptions (Otis) and parole boards should take into consideration all the factors available when they decide whom they grant parole (Snyder). Of course, admitting the guilt can be viewed as the first step towards reconsidering wrongfulness of one’s behavior but it should not be the only option for those who get into prison. If a convict pleads not guilty and there is substantial evidence of his/her innocence, why should he be put under the circumstances when he has to confess to something he has not done in order to avoid a long-term sentence while the investigation is being carried out. Parole boards should take into account all the factors when making a decision: every aspect of the convict's prison history, willingness to get education, absence of violent encounters in prison, motivation and what is awaiting him or her on re-entry into society: Family? A job? Support? ( Snyder). When all these things considered, a well-grounded decision can be made. Obviously, it will take more time. But what is this time compared to years of pointless and ruinous imprisonment of a person who is innocent? This is the case when the person’s life is at stake (in the direct meaning of this word) because there are stories about people who died waiting for their acquittal (Bermudez).
So, the issue of parole for those who plead not guilty should be thoroughly reconsidered. Why is it so that people who admit to committing a crime can hope to be granted parole while the ones who insist on being innocent have even no right to have their case examined for this opportunity? Besides, the fact that the inmate pleads guilty does not guarantee he/she will not get involved in criminal activity again. Therefore, it is legislators’ job to introduce the necessary changes into parole laws that could recognize people’s rights to insist on their innocence without fearing of being deprived of some other options.
Bermudez, Fernando. “I Feared I’d Die in Prison for Maintaining My Innocence.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
Marquis, Joshua. “Parole Boards Shouldn’t Provide Incentives for Claims of Innocence.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
Medwed, Daniel S. “Confessions Are Not Reliable When It Comes to Parole.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
Otis, William G. “It’s Perfectly Reasonable to Require an Admission for Parole.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
Santos, Fernanda. “DNA Evidence Frees a Man Imprisoned for Half His Life.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Sept. 2006. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
Snyder, Leslie. “Innocence Claim Is Just One Factor for Parole Boards.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
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