Wednesday, February 13, 2013

You don't have to get life to die in prison

In our country's lust for harsher and harsher sentencing laws, we too often forget how harsh they already are.  I can't even tell you how many times I've heard people say that criminals should rot in prison till they die.  Most of the time, people who say such things are talking about murderers or serial killers ... but not always.

And, in fact, you don't even have to commit a murder to die in prison.  You don't even have get a life sentence -- or the death penalty -- to die in prison.  For the right people under the right circumstances, any prison term can become a death sentence.

Sadly, one such person was Richard Flor, a 68 year-old man attempting to grow pot legally under Montana's medical marijuana laws.  The federal government disagreed and charged and convicted him in federal court.  After he pled guilty, hoping for a shorter sentence and believing he would not survive prison because of all of his health problems, the elderly Flor still got a five-year prison sentence.

Only five years, you scoff?  It was still enough to ensure that Flor died chained to a prison bed only months into his sentence.

"Who in this country deserves to die shackled to a bed over marijuana?" [Flor's daughter, Kristin] said. "Nobody." ...

"My dad was half dead before they sentenced him," Kristin said.
What are we doing?  Did Richard Flor's prison sentence make us safer?  Did it even make sense?  Should we continue using long mandatory minimum sentences when they so obviously -- and tragically -- send thousands of the wrong people to prison for far too long?  How many more Richard Flors must go to prison -- and die there -- before we recognize the absolute folly of the system we have made?

-- Stowe