The Results of Punishment Over Recidivism

NBC New York reports on Walter Unbehaun, a 73-year old ex-con who robbed a bank because he could no longer function outside of the prison system:

Unbehaun told FBI agents he “wanted to go back to the only life he knew — prison life,” according to court papers filed this week by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The case poses quite a dilemma for zero-sum logic:

Prosecutors want U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to lock him up for six to eight years, a sentence they acknowledge “would seem to be rewarding him for precisely the behavior we seek to deter.”

But they say Unbehaun’s willingness to stick up a bank, even though he walks with a cane and has had hip-replacement surgery, shows just how determined he is to stay behind bars, making him a public danger at an age when most criminals have settled down.

“Did the system fail Mr. Unbehaun?,” prosecutor Sharon Fairley wrote in the filing. “We may never know. But, what we do know is, clearly, Unbehaun lacks the desire to lead a law-abiding life outside of prison walls.”

Logically, this thinking is sound. But for our own good, those of us not in the prosecutor’s chair should support prison reform to treat recidivism.

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