Earlier this month, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a law creating a “murderer registry” that would require criminals convicted of first-degree murder to check in with the state for 10 years after their release from prison.
The bill was named for Andrea Will, a young Batavia woman who was strangled to death by her boyfriend in 1998, when they were both students at Eastern Illinois University.
The boyfriend, Justin Boulay, was set free last year after serving only half his 24-year sentence. For taking away an estimated 70 years of his girlfriend’s life, Boulay did just 12 years in the joint.
Here’s an even better plan for keeping an eye on killers: don’t let them out of prison. I was all in favor of repealing the death penalty, but if Illinois isn’t going to have capital punishment, we should have another method of permanently removing murderers from society. The penalty for first-degree murder should be changed to a mandatory life sentence, with no chance of parole. It’s a lot easier to keep track of people in prison. Instead of asking murderers to check in with the state, we’ll have prison guards check their beds every night.
That’s the law in Michigan, which has been using life imprisonment in lieu of a death penalty since 1847. It works. Only a governor’s pardon can free a murderer, and no pardoned murderer has ever killed again. It’s a better, fairer system than Illinois had when Boulay was sentenced, because you don’t have some murderers getting 24 years in prison, while others get the death penalty.
Former New York governor Mario Cuomo, a death penalty opponent, favored the same alternative.
“[T]here is an effective alternative to burning the life out of human beings in the name of public safety,” Cuomo once said. “That alternative is just as permanent, at least as great a deterrent and--for those who are so inclined--far less expensive than the exhaustive legal appeals required in capital cases. That alternative is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”
Polls have also shown that, given a choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment, the public prefers life imprisonment as the ultimate penalty for murderers.
By signing the death penalty repeal, Gov. Pat Quinn angered law-and-order voters. He might win back some of their good will by replacing it with a system that ensures murderers never live among us again.
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