For Tsarnaev, neither death nor solitary perfect justice

Telegraph Tsarnaev

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U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s got it wrong when she suggested that, in the wake of sentencing, our thoughts will turn away from the Tsarnarev’s forever. Nor is the moral debate settled in favor of the death penalty, as she suggested. The question of a just punishment persists. For now, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will live on in solitary confinement. Decades of research show that this often dislodges the personality and reduces a person to uncomprehending stupefaction. At worst, the isolated person floods his cell, self mutilates and eats his own feces. He becomes less than human. The American prison was once conceived as a reformatory where a person would be forced to sit in quiet contemplation, face to face and naked before his crime. For Tsarnaev, 19 at the time, this would mean grasping the enormity of his horror. Reduced to something less than human, this will not come to pass. The “death qualified” jury felt the state’s most severe retribution appropriate. The desire for revenge is understandable and often justified. But if neither a swift death nor a sustained destruction of the mind is ideal, our anger ought to be redirected toward developing a new form of justice.


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