Just imagine, it’s only weeks until Charles Manson’s release? Imagine, also, a ruling from the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeal affirming the orders of the United States District Court that not only mandated Manson’s release but also awarded him a tidy sum of money to be paid by the taxpayers of the State of California. The conditions of Manson’s prison confinement for more than four decades violated his human rights, the District Court found. He suffered innumerable indignities and harms to his humanity. Standards previously applied by American courts under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting Cruel and Unusual Punishment set too low a bar for the treatment of prisoners in the United States. European courts have set new and higher standards for the humane and civilized treatment of those whose misfortune it is to be convicted of a crime. Imagine that the 9th Circuit found that the civilized and humane European standards are derived from the natural rights of man and that these natural rights preexisted the Constitution and, where more protective than the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, they must be applied to protect prisoners in the United States. Manson’s release and compensation naturally follow.
The liberation and compensation of Charles Manson cannot be a surprise if American courts are to follow the lead of Europe as has been encouraged even by powerful judges in the United States. Isn’t it correct that, where European standards of criminal justice are, well, let’s say more civilized, more forgiving, less penal and more permissive than American standards, these standards provide a good guide for the “better angles of our nature” and we ought to apply them here in the United States too.
Take Norway for example. Other than Disneyland, Norway is reputed to be the happiest place on earth and Norwegians must be happier still because of how humanly and justly their courts have treated self-styled neo Nazi and mass murderer Anders Breivik.
Breivik killed 77 people, a lot more than Manson and, unlike Charlie; Breivik did it himself in a bombing and shooting spree in which he especially targeted teenagers. Even so, that’s no reason to treat him badly and Breivik has suffered inhumane incarceration in his three room private suite – one room for sleeping, one for exercising and one for studying. In addition, Breivik has the use of a computer. He has video games, television and access to a phone to call his girlfriend. Even so, Breivik complained that the food was not up to his standards, his coffee was cold and that his human rights were violated because he was alone and lonely in his rooms. The Norwegian court agreed that Breivik’s human rights were violated and awarded his attorneys more than $50,000 for pointing it out.
Breivik will not have to suffer indignities all that long, really, in comparison to prison terms in the United States. Norway is committed to the rehabilitation of criminal offenders and, if Norway cannot rehabilitate Anders Breivik before he finishes his 21-year maximum sentence, well, whose fault is that? Out he will go.
In America’s crueler less civilized justice system, Charles Manson has already served 45 years, more than twice the maximum time that Brevik will serve for killing 77 people. Americans might be okay with leaving Charlie Manson in a small cell, humiliating him with handcuffs and other restraints and serving him cold prison coffee but Manson’s conditions of confinement would be absolutely unacceptable to the Norwegian court that handled Anders Breivik’s case. So we can only imagine, with delight or with horror the day when our courts will achieve the same level of civilization and humanity as the do the courts of Norway.
Content prepared by Edmond McGill. © Edmond McGill, 2016
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