Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is taking criticism over his decision to grant pardons to over two hundred convicted persons, some of whom have committed murder.

Generally, I agree with granting pardons to people, especially those who had limited offenses, perhaps committed when they were young, and have had a period of  "good citizenship".  Of course, pardoning those who have committed premeditated murder raises other questions.  Weren't they sentenced to life?  What's the criterion for a pardon, or is it just that the Governor decides to smile on a few people?

Governor Barbour states that crimes of passion are usually one-time events and unlikely to be repeated. I wonder what the data is on this? Most of us probably haven't spent enough time around murderers to have an opinion.

My wife's nephew was a convicted murderer.  He was a heroin user, and another user was stealing from the group.  He and a friend took the guy to Stanley Park and executed him.  The Crown Counsel suggested leniency, but the judge sentenced him to fifteen years.  He spent the rest of his life in prison, dying at Matsqui Institution in his early 50's of liver disease.

Over the years I got to know Jack, as he received escorted leaves from prison and had periods at half-way houses.  Unfortunately, there is no real support for persons in his situation.  When someone gets released, they usually gravitate back to the same neighborhood, associate with the same friends.  One time he ran away from the half-way house, spending about a year living with a girl friend.  I don't think the police made much of an effort to find him, and when his girl friend's money ran out, he turned himself back in.  Of course, this extended his sentence.

Jack treated my wife well. She was one of very few who ever visited him in prison. He made her a nice lamp in the prison shop.  He was always very polite.  He once told me, "Vince, you're an accountant.  Me, I'm a criminal", as though that was a fate he couldn't escape it.  Maybe if his father hadn't died young of cancer; or if he hadn't been shuttled between foster homes as a kid; or if he hadn't been started on morphine after he injured his ankle, his life might have been different.

Hopefully, Governor Barbour's pardons will make it easier for those receiving them to find jobs and live normal lives.  The prison system doesn't seem to work in the U. S.; trying something else might.