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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Condemned Man Escapes from Prison

Foxnews.com has a story about a condemned man who escaped from a Houston jail and was a fugitive for three days before being recaptured. Thankfully, he didn't kill anyone, but it leaves me wondering about the premise of this statement from the Catechism:

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

Back to the Foxnews story, the ex-fugitive explains that his escape was made possible through human error:

"Once I got there and seen how relaxed it was -- they sit ... and play video games, they sleep on the job," he said. "The sheriff said it was human error and nothing is wrong with their policies. I have to disagree."

Thompson fled a week after he was re-sentenced to death for the 1998 shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

After Thompson met with an attorney in a small interview cell, he slipped out of his handcuffs and orange jail jumpsuit and left the unlocked room.

He refused to reveal how he got a handcuff key in the Harris County Jail. "I'm not a snitch. I'll take that one to the grave with me."

Thompson waived a badge fashioned from his prison ID card to get past several deputies.

"Then I walked out the front door," Thompson said. "It was the hardest thing in the world to not run. I walked down the steps, down the street, around the corner, stripped to my jogging clothes and went on the jogging path."

It seems to me that the possibility for human error always exists. There are ways to minimize the risk of human error, but I'm not sure how well they comport with human dignity. The ex-fugitive explains:

Thompson said he expects to pay for his escape by getting no leniency from Texas courts in his legal appeal. He said prison officials asked if he would try another escape.

"I said, 'I don't think there's any holes in your security here,'" he said. "I'm pretty much resolved to my fate. Concrete box 23 hours a day. Just sit in there and think about how they're going to kill you."

[emphasis added]

Putting questions aside about the dignity of keeping a prisoner in a concrete box for 23 hours a day, the other interesting thing about the concrete box, is that that the technology is not a new one. It therefore seems odd for the Catechism to premise its teaching on the idea that prison's are somehow safer "today."