On the blog The Modest Blog Of A Liberal Humanist we found this interesting article. In this article the author argues that two teenagers who severely attacked an elderly homeless person, should be locked up for life either in a mental hospital or in prison, depending on the psychological condition of the perpetrators rather than a six or seven-year sentence as was actually the case here.
The author argues that these two persons are an eminent danger for society, and that it’s unlikely that they can be reformed within six or seven years. Hence a life sentence is therefore justified in this case. We agree with the analysis that this two young criminals are dangerous and have to be isolated from society. However, we would prefer an indefinite sentence rather than a life sentence.
Though the difference between a life and an indefinite sentence is subtle, it’s nevertheless of great importance. A life sentence means that a person is put in prison for the remainder of his life, save the possibility of parole or clemency. An indefinite sentence on the other hand, lasts as long as is necessary to protect society from the condemned. As long as a criminal remains a threat to society he will remain behind bars, if he however ceases to be a danger he can be released. Of course we recommend he will be supervised after his release.
The moral relevant difference between these two different sentences, is that a life sentence precludes any possibility of rehabilitation whilst an indefinite sentence still has this opportunity without compromising the protection of society.