Today, the Boston Herald has a news story about an organization of which it does not approve. Lifer’s Group Inc. has very strict membership criteria — you have to be serving life in prison. It meets twice a month at the state prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts and discusses matters of mutual interest.
Matters such as the biographies of the Parole Board, the layout and particulars of the meetings of the Parole Board, and lobbying to remove the “life without possibility of parole” penalty from the books.
The Herald (and its resident gadfly, Howie Carr) disapprove of the state’s official sanction of the club’s existence. I disagree.
Massachusetts has no death penalty on the books. (This should come as no surprise to anyone.) In the Bay State, the two harshest penalties are life in prison and life with no possibility of parole. That some of those serving those penalties should wish to mitigate their punishment is no great surprise.
The biggest problem with the “life without parole” as the harshest sentence can best summed up with a line from the song “Me And Bobby McGee: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
In Massachusetts, if you’re serving life without possibility of parole, you are quite possibly the freest person in the state. There is virtually nothing the state can do to you, legally, that they aren’t already doing. This was most graphically demonstrated in the case of Joseph Druce, the man who murdered a convicted pedophile priest. Both men were in prison; Druce was already serving life without parole for a prior murder. Druce stalked John Geoghan, cornered him in a cell, jammed the door with a book (specially torn to the precise thickness to hold the door shut), then beat the defrocked priest to death. Druce was tried and sentenced to another life without parole sentence, and I can’t help but think that the daily trips out of prison to court must have been a nice change of pace for the killer.
In the end, this “Lifer’s Club” — and membership in it — is a privilege. And the wonderful thing about privileges is that they can be taken away as a punishment.
If participating in this “Lifer’s Club” keeps these worthless wastes of skin and oxygen thieves behaving themselves and not acting up — by attacking other inmates or guards, just for example — then it’s worth the mild annoyance it causes. Let ’em keep it.
But keep half an eye on them. Should they ever get anywhere close to abolishing the “life without parole” penalty, we have to make sure they’re stopped.