Lifers: prisons death sentence in waiting

If an individual commits an act against the law so disgusting and inhumane against another human life should they be punished by losing their own? Is life imprisonment an infringement on the perpetrator’s human rights? Do they deserve human rights?

Lifer Jeremy Bamber was convicted of killing his mother, father, sister, and her two sons in 1985. He has been in prison for 31 years and has always proclaimed his innocence – even dedicating a website to his pleas and explanation of the events. He believes that whole life sentencing goes against what prison preaches: rehabilitation, denying the possibility of redemption.

“If the state wishes to have a death penalty, then they should be honest and reintroduce hanging,” he says.

Currently, there are around 70 whole life UK inmates destined to die in jail. When people have been deemed unfit to ever rejoin society outside of locked rooms, scheduled time outside of their cell (normally one hour per day) and require the constant supervision of guards would it not be cheaper to reinstate capital punishment?


Image result for prison inmates
Photo courtesy of Flickr.


It’s reported to cost £40,000 a year to ‘lock someone’ up at Strangeways prison.

Exclusive analysis of Ministry of Justice data shows that it costs the equivalent of £41,200 a year to house an offender at HMP Manchester. Some argue that the price to keep the prisoners locked up is too high and they are not worthy to have that much spent on them.


Individuals sentenced to life-long terms report ‘praying’ for a heart attack or cancer. They feel that they would prefer a death sentence than their own life sentences.

England and Wales are almost alone in the entirety of Europe that are still handing out these sentences. Other countries such as Spain and Norway no longer sentence people to whole-life jail terms.

Human ‘rights’ for the humans who do ‘wrong’?

Human rights prohibit: “inhuman or degrading punishment”. Most European countries rule that telling prisoners they will die in prison is doing just that as some may be charged in the early years of adulthood with their whole lives ahead of them.

Though, didn’t those behind bars do just this to those they hurt? Is it just to take away the human rights of those who took away the rights of their victims?

Jamie Reynolds murdered Georgia Williams: “the trusting Telford 17-year-old to fulfill his long-standing desire to hang a girl and sexually assault her body” the judge jailing him for a whole-life term said.

Reynolds was 23 at the time of sentencing and is set to spend the rest of his life in jail. The average male life expectancy is 81 years. 59 years, more or less, left to live out his life in a cell. Is this inhumane? A waste of money? Should he rot away his life in prison?  

Lord Phillips, 2006 Lord chief justice, argued that there was pressure to hand out increasingly longer sentences because of public interest

“Some murderers are being sentenced to a minimum of 30 years, or even full-life terms. But I sometimes wonder whether, in 100 years’ time, people will be as shocked by the length of sentences we are imposing as we are by some of the punishments of the 18th century.”

Image result for old punishments for crimes
Image courtesy of Flickr.

Erwin James, is a writer for The Guardian and convicted murderer. He was sentenced to life but later released after spending two decades inside. In his column, he wrote that lifers are: “Blessed, or cursed, with a will to live.”

He described his own inner turmoil: “On prison wings and landings, lifers are the walking dead. You’re alive but you’re not living.”

A lifer wrote to The Times recently and said: “Put me in a chemical coma – wouldn’t that be cheaper?” 

Image result for death penalty
Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.


A decade ago a letter to the Italian president was sent and signed by 310 fellow prisoners serving life, convicted mobster Carmelo Musumeci, who had been inside for 17 years, asked for “our life sentence to be changed to a death sentence”.

He said that he and his fellow lifers were “tired of dying a little every day”. That year, 18 life-sentence prisoners in the UK took their own lives.

Realted post on the ‘invisble license of lifers’ coming soon…


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