Do serious criminals deserve compassion?

Prison If you have committed a serious crime – say murder, rape, paedophilia – do you deserve any compassion from the criminal justice system?

The man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing, in which 270 people died, could be released from his Scottish prison next week to return to Libya because he has advanced, terminal prostate cancer. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, a former Libyan agent, has served eight and a half years of a life sentence.

Just last week the British Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, who spent 30 years on the run from the law for his part in an armed robbery, was released from his life sentence on compassion grounds. He is ‘gravely ill’ with pnemonia and in hospital. He was released after Britain’s Justice Secretary reversed his earlier decision not to grant clemency on compassionate grounds because Mr Biggs had ‘shown no remorse’ for his crime and subsequent evasion of justice.

In the United States Leslie Van Houten, who was one of Charles Manson’s gang, is hoping to soon get parole on compassionate grounds because she is terminally ill and near-paralysed with brain cancer. She was part of the group who committed vicious murders in 1969, including the heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate.

Do people who have committed serious crimes like murder, rape, paedophilia and armed robbery deserve compassion at the end of their life? Or is that a slap in the face to the victims of their crimes?

Some would say that South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an example of where compassion towards criminals was shown, with generally positive results.

Should showing remorse be a condition of getting clemency? How far should compassion extend – to letting someone out of prison, or just easing their conditions of incarceration? And should compassion be reserved for only if someone is dying, or are there other circumstances where a criminal could be deserving?

95 Responses to “Do serious criminals deserve compassion?”

  1. 1 Jennifer
    August 13, 2009 at 14:55

    No, they don’t! Especially when they take the lives of innocent people.

  2. 2 steve
    August 13, 2009 at 15:05

    I think if the crime is non violent in the sense that nobody was actually hurt, then perhaps some compassion should be given in case of terminal illnesses, but not for violent criminals that have hurt or killed people. I don’t believe Biggs killed anyone, and his issue besides his original crime was escaping from prison, but he voluntary returned as well. The WHYS did a show a couple years ago about some German woman, a Baader Meinhof member, who was guilty of murdering 5 people, some of which who were helpless and already incapacitated, was released after 25 years, and was completely unrepetent and in perfect health. That’s much more of an injustice than releasing a terminally ill man who had escaped from prison.

  3. 3 Tom K in Mpls
    August 13, 2009 at 15:08

    In general, never. In this case, three questions, is death certain in the near future, will he participate in promoting other attacks, and does it save money? In many cases the main thing to look at is the cost and benefit to society. The vengeance aspect is childish. Any legal system needs to hold some degree of horror but there is no fixed formula. Also, the ‘cost’ is rarely considered during the commission of violent crimes.

    In extreme violence cases we need to think about safety, reform (unlikely), and cost, in this order.

  4. 4 Monica in DC
    August 13, 2009 at 15:09

    Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi should have gotten the death penalty. I know you guys don’t have it over there, but in this case you should. Let the guy rot away, who cares.

  5. 5 Rob (UK)
    August 13, 2009 at 15:09

    I can tell where this thread is going to go…

    Yes, they do. They’re humans too. By showing compassion we demonstrate that we, if not they, are capable of compassion and kindness.

  6. August 13, 2009 at 15:26

    Criminals, if they act with intent and give a bad example for their acts, should serve their full sentence if their crimes cause great damage to individuals and society.

    As the law is meant to be applied, compassion shouldn’t rule over objective judgement. Fair judgement means the criminal has exhausted all the legal procedures and the punishment fits the crime.

    In the case of a collective crime, it doesn’t make sense to punish an individual on behalf of the rest of the group that is left free. The case of the Libyan agent,Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, is a case in point. He wasn’t alone in the terror act. A whole regime was behind him. He was a scapegoat for political reasons. It is known that war criminals are those who give orders for cruel crimes, not soldiers who are rarely tried. Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was just a “soldier” carrying the orders of his “generals” in Libya. It seems absurd that a case of this magnitude should be close by compensating the relatives of the victims and surrendering a Libyan agent. This was done for political convenience, but on the face of it, it remains absurd.

  7. 7 Chintan in Houston
    August 13, 2009 at 15:27

    This is a very interesting question; a few weeks ago I would have answered NO WAY!! But i saw an interview of the current president of Rwanda, and he explained how he brought about peace in the country after the genocide so that people of Hutu and Tutsi tribes could co-exist. This was done without imprisoning the people from both sides involved in the violence, instead they were asked to come out to their town/village community meetings, lay down their weapons, admit their wrongdoing and ask for apology from their elders.
    Interesting approach, it worked in Rwanda but definitely won’t work everywhere else.
    What I don’t like about the current system though I can only speak for USA is that if you have committed some crime, you get caught, you get punished by the law but that offense stays on your record during your entire lifetime. This prevents people from starting their life over again and they get caught in the system and become repeat offenders. You make a mistake, you get punished, and that should be the end of it.

    • 8 Jessica in NYC
      August 13, 2009 at 16:06

      Good point and people are subject to the laws of their land. In extreme cases such as the ones outlines above, I think the focus should remain on the victims and the suffering of their loved ones and effects on society and not on the “discomfort” of the perpetrator. The enormous of lives lives these killers took cannot be forgotten, because they are ill or dying of cancer.

  8. 9 Sue in Chicago
    August 13, 2009 at 15:33

    Everyone deserves compassion, but that doesn’t mean everyone deserves a “Get out of jail free” card. No matter if this man has cancer or not he should pay for his crime.
    If the crime was committed while the perp was a child, I would reconsider whether they get out early or not.
    8 years of a life sentence is pathetic.

  9. 10 Auspicious
    August 13, 2009 at 15:35

    Life is a progressional journey that makes us change our deeds from time to time. Serious criminals deserve compassion but the question would have been – Should criminals like Ronnie Biggs who showed no remorse years after committing their offenses be pardoned? I think the Lockerbie bomber should be let free to die ‘honourably.’ I grieve with the victims’ families.

  10. 11 Jessica in NYC
    August 13, 2009 at 15:37

    It’s human nature for some people to have compassion for monsters. However, the criminal justice system should be governed by the rule of of law and not feelings. These men committed acts of terror whose damage and pain cannot be measured and our society’s laws dictate a life of punishment for hanous acts of violence.

    …Lock ’em up and throw away the key.

  11. 12 patti in cape coral
    August 13, 2009 at 15:41

    Do serious criminals deserve compassion? If we reserve compassion for only those who deserve it, I think we’re pretty much doomed. However, I don’t think compassion means you aren’t held accountable for your actions. Compassion does not always mean clemency. I think it has to be taken case by case.

  12. 13 brinda,India
    August 13, 2009 at 15:43

    I agree with Jennifer,,,,,,,,,, they don’t. Yes it is a slap on the face of the victims and people who are effected by their death.

  13. August 13, 2009 at 15:50

    When there is not an iota of doubt that the suspect of the Lockerbie disaster carried out the heinous crime, he should not be shown any leniency at all. If he could callously take the lives of 270 innocent passengers, he should be kept in prison and serve his full life in prison without a single day in remission. He will have all medical facilities when he is ill. But he should in no way go scott free after master-minding the gruesome deaths of innocent passengers.One just needs to think of family members of the 270 passengers who were killed in the plane crash over Lockerbie. They are still grieving. This man does not deserve any compassion.

  14. 15 Drake Weideman
    August 13, 2009 at 15:55

    It is very difficult to rise above a desire for revenge, the need to exact upon someone a commensurate amount of pain and suffering as they inflicted upon their victim(s).. I would call this desire a gut-level response…it is immediate and most probably universally felt.
    We are also given brains, which can lead us to a desire to be ‘better’ than a pain & death inflicting monster.
    But we have already done that…we had the original ‘compassion’ to not kill the beast….we have already proven ourselves better then them by merely separating them from society.
    The end result of my ‘compassion’ is that the individual will die imprisoned, uncomfortable and away from loved ones…that is what the result of a “lfe sentence” is…it’s not supposed to be pretty, it is supposed to have a somewhat deterrant effect.
    I see no reason to let this guy, or Susan Atkins, or any other dying murderer do anything other than serve out their original sentence…

  15. 16 Justice, best served cold
    August 13, 2009 at 15:55

    The killings were “so vicious, so inhumane, so depraved, that there is no turning back,” she said. “The ‘Manson Family’ murderers are sociopaths, and from that, they can never be rehabilitated. They should all stay right where they are – in prison – until they die. There will never be true justice for my sister Sharon and the other victims of the ‘Manson Family.’ Keeping the murderers in prison is the least we, as a society who values justice, can do.” — Debra Tate

    It’s sad that Debra Tate is so angered by the pain that she inserts “society” in place of her own quest for vengence.

    • 17 Tom K in Mpls
      August 13, 2009 at 17:53

      Actually, I find it surprisingly clear and practical thought. Safety of the public is the first consideration. Next would be the moral guidelines the society lives by. Then the perpetrator. The definition differences on justice and vengeance felt by individuals in every society is too diverse and deep seated to make debate productive.

  16. 18 Dennis Junior
    August 13, 2009 at 15:58

    First off: These gentlemen should not be released from Prison Authorities, because they have medical problems….

    The prisons have Medical Centre(s) that other prisoners used when they are in poor health….

    No special treatment for two of the world’s (super-celebrities)….

    =Dennis Junior=

  17. 19 anu_D
    August 13, 2009 at 16:00

    Nope…absolutely not.

    Terrorist and murderers or for that matter all criminal serving prison sentence do not deserve compassion.

    Copmassion is antithesis to the concept of “crime and punsihment”

    The only exception I would make to grant compassionate amnesty somnetimes is to the “Prisoner of Wars”

    a_D in Kuwait

    PS* Can’t undertsand the point of opening two threads on nearly the same topic.

  18. 20 Brad
    August 13, 2009 at 16:04

    The simple answer is no especialy if it involves the death of innocent nad the defenseless.

    But we as a human species must as our selvs why do we breed such monsters in the first place.

    BG from Trinidad

  19. 21 Suresh in New Jersey
    August 13, 2009 at 16:10

    The nature and intent of the crime will dictate the terms.

    Rape, paedophilia, premeditated murder are all undeserving of compassion. These people have lost society’s trust to live responsibly and cannot be allowed to return.

    The argument about this particular criminal being an agent of a regime smacks of lopsided justice. The real perps – Col Gaddafi and his cronies – are enjoying life, while this poor sod rots in jail. His case could be heard and perhaps considered.

  20. 22 Andrew in Australia
    August 13, 2009 at 16:13

    Absolutely not. Many people will argue for compassion if a convicted felon becomes ill, but illness as an excuse would not prevent a crime being perpetrated so why should it be used as an excuse to avoid serving time? It is harsh, but a fact of life people will become ill and die if they are in jail for a crime then it was their decision to commit crimes they must realise if cought and convicted it will happen at some point and not count on that for a get out of jail free card.

    In the case of murder let alone mass murder how can any compasion be given to individuals who kill others. What compassion did they have, what life even if limited do they have dead at the hand of others unnaturaly? If a murderer is sentenced to life they must die in jail.

  21. August 13, 2009 at 16:13

    Yes. Not because he is terminally ill, but because a number of professionals are convinced he is innocent of the crime and his illness will likely not permit him to live to hear a new verdict. I would NOT have supported Leslie Van Houten’s release UNTIL hearing the history of her case and the choices she has made in prison during a one-hour NPR interview program. I now believe Leslie ought to be freed.
    These two, very different cases make the point that 1) change is possible, and 2) each such case must be reviewed solely on its own merit.

  22. 24 Andrew in Australia
    August 13, 2009 at 16:18

    Just on Ronald Biggs as an example, he had many years of fun and a comfortable lifestyle on the run, why should he be given compassion to leave jail to die. Had he served his sentence at the time he would have lived his remaining years as a free man but chose to avoid justice for his crime. That he is viewed as a romantic figure does not justify such sympathy. A man died as a result of the robbery he was invovled with, again, what compassion does he have for a life cut short? Age, is that a condition for release, then perhaps we should have no jail for anyone unwell, aged, depressed, handicapped or otherwise ‘different’? Crime is crime, lead a decent, honest life, do no harm to others and do not end up incarcerated. This is a legitimate time for people to say loudly, ‘you haven’t lost a loved one so don’t talk compassion!’

  23. 25 Andrew in Australia
    August 13, 2009 at 16:22


    What you advocate is giving tacit consent to murderers and the like. To excuse and offer compassion gives pause for other to think they can act outside the law as other simple minded people will feel sorry for them and absolve them of crimes committed and pity them serving a term of punishment. It is an insult to all honest people who do not harm others and not rewarded for bad behaviour.

  24. 26 Anthony
    August 13, 2009 at 16:28

    The following depends on the situation:

    If they are rapists/paedophiles, give them a chemical castration.

    If they are murderers, kill them. (By gunfire)

    I think (and this is just my assumption) that it would be easier to change Armed Robbers, than the others. Some people do it because they are backed in a corner. The other people are just “sick” (sick being the easy way to put it)

    Re: Leslie Van Houten
    They should have just killed her. They should still kill her. Why let her out to have a nice little ending?

    Re: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi
    NO!!! NO WAY NO HOW!!! Leave him to rot or put him in front of a firing squad!!! DON’T LET HIM GO!!!

  25. 27 Dan
    August 13, 2009 at 16:29

    I do believe that anyone, criminal or otherwise, is due compassion for their plight. That does not however equal release from prison. While I may feel sorry that they are suffering from an incurable disease, that does nothing to eliminate their guilt or bring back the lives they’ve taken.

    I would suggest that armed robbers do not necessarily belong in the same category as murderers, rapists and pedophiles. If they use their weapons to take a life, then they are murderers. But while armed robbery is certainly a serious crime, it is not the same as the other three.

  26. 28 Prof. Brian Bevan
    August 13, 2009 at 16:29

    No! N O! Never Did they show any doubts when they killed or took part in a killing.
    Already we see a weakening in our criminal justice system. In years gone by murder’s recompense was the rope. It should never have gone away then these situations and discussions would never have arisen. Again! we see just how weak our laws and penalties are becoming. Think of what the victims nearest and dearest face when these rediculous occurances happen. Had the old ways been adhered to then these so called compassionate considerations would have been justifiably avoided. Look at the taxpayers monies have been wasted on these killers. In today’s modern world we need to go back to some very basic and simple rules that worked for the benefit of the LAW ABIDING CITIZENS

  27. 29 patti in cape coral
    August 13, 2009 at 16:31

    I’ve noticed that a lot of the times when there is a controversial subject, a lot of people will say that if you have not personally experienced something, you cannot comment on it. I think what they really mean is, if you have not experienced this, you cannot disagree with me. There are a lot of people out there who have not personally experienced violent crime that would still agree that criminals do not deserve compassion. There are also people out there who have personally experienced violent crime who would say that criminals do deserve compassion. Opinions differ, and they are valid whether you have personally suffered a tragedy or not.

  28. 30 Roy, Washington DC
    August 13, 2009 at 16:33

    Since we’re talking about ‘serious’ crimes here, compassion depends on two things. First, are you remorseful for what you did? Somebody who feels guilty about what they did is already punishing themselves, and while they certainly still deserve criminal punishment, they would be a better candidate for compassion than someone without remorse. Second, is the victim and their family willing to show compassion? In some cases, as with pedophilia, this is highly unlikely…but in other cases, if they are willing to show compassion, they’re the ones who deserve to be able to make that call.

  29. August 13, 2009 at 16:35

    Hi Madeleine,

    How compassionate a community is reflects on what kind of community one is living in. If the criminal has served long sentence already and is suffering terminal illness, it is sad to show no compassion to such a person. United Kingdom has probably the highest applicants for refugees because it holds human life and values so highly. I have lived in India, New Zealand, Australia, England and now live in St. Louis United States. I would have to say that New Zealand was the most compassionate community I lived in.

    St Louis, MO

    Be that change you want to see in the world
    Mahatma Gandhi

  30. 32 Ramesh, India
    August 13, 2009 at 16:38

    Definitely not. But if we keep them in prison, the governments would find it rather embarrassing to fund the medical treatment of those terminally ill patients using tax payers’ money. So better throw them out because they are as good as dead. But I do not recommend such thing in India because we are capable of manipulating such provisions.

  31. 33 Daniel Tumwine
    August 13, 2009 at 16:43

    The ultimate objective of the penitentiary system is to reform, and not punish. Punishment is usually meant as a deterrent. We need to decide, on which ever side of the argument we fall, what our main objective for serving “justice” is. While I mourn for the victims of serious crime, including those deemed political and committed by BOTH sides of the terror divide, I think the ultimate triumph should be forgiveness and compassion from those wounded and wronged. Otherwise we shall be living in an Orwelian animal farm where “the animals looked from pig to man, and pig again, and could not tell the difference” as both would have been blinded because an eye for an eye made them blind.

    If not, then why should North Korea have shown compassion to the two American journalists who committed the SERIOUS (as defined by N Korea) crime of entering their country with no permission.

    It must be inexplicably painful for victims of serious crimes, and I’m in no way trying to trivialize their suffering. I however believe that closure is best achieved when one rises above revenge and anger and decides to forgive the perpetrators. If you would grab a chance to blow up a plane full of perceived “terrorists” – even if it were legally justified – just so you exact revenge on their evils does not exactly put you above them.

  32. 34 Habib Mdala
    August 13, 2009 at 16:53

    Notorious criminals should never get compassionate pardon.Those serving life sentence should rot in jail-they deserve to pay a heavy price for their malicious acts.Its a slap on the face of their victims if they are to be paroled even on compassionate grounds.Afterall,most of them do not show remorse.Even if they do,they dont deserve pardon at all costs.Let them serve the rest of their sentence

  33. 35 viktor - zambia
    August 13, 2009 at 16:57

    the only safe place for a criminal is in jail by releasing him you are not only puting in danger but also the society he will leave in.

  34. 36 Venessa
    August 13, 2009 at 17:11

    Showing compassion for violent criminals does not have to equate to release. People committing violent crimes do not deserve to be released simply because they themselves are dying. It is inevitable that they will die; we all do. They broke the law and therefore they have been given a punishment based on that. Commuting a sentence because they are ill sets a very bad precedence.

  35. 37 John in Salem
    August 13, 2009 at 17:21

    A complex question.
    Justice cannot be blind to circumstances and every crime has it’s own unique set. Everybody can think of someone who should be locked away and forgotten for a heinous crime but most offenses are not so simple.
    If a girl is repeatedly molested by her father from early childhood and then kills him, in cold blood, after she turns 18, should her crime be measured with the same standard as that used for a random street shooting? Should society’s solution to the cycle of family abuse be simply locking up the last generation of an abusive family?
    A man whose elderly wife is dying of cancer fulfills her request to be put out of her misery – is he to be judged by the same guidelines one would use to judge a “thrill killer”?
    Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt can never be the entire equation because human beings, and the choices they make, are never that simple.

  36. August 13, 2009 at 17:31

    I think they deserve compassion. People commit crimes for different reasons. Some becase they feel insecure, inadequate,lonely, others because they seek revenge and yet others for the fun of it. If people in the first category show remorse for their actions, i think they will be more useful in society than in some confinement.
    The most important thing to know for every crime is the motivation.

  37. 39 Lisa from Pennsylvania, US
    August 13, 2009 at 17:37

    When you commit a crime that harms another person in anyway you’re clearly not showing any compassion, why should YOU then receive compassion? Even if he won’t hurt anyone else and is no longer a threat I believe it should be an “eye for an eye,” and he does not deserve to be released.

  38. 40 Tom
    August 13, 2009 at 17:40

    Would it not be better to ask the relatives of those who died ,whether, they, who heard all the evidence in court, think that he should be released now.Surely, their judgement should be the deciding factor?

  39. 41 nora
    August 13, 2009 at 17:42

    On General Pinochet, the fact that he went down in history as unfit for trial by mental defect on some days and fit for trial on others was a victory for history. Restoration of civil society can be messy.

  40. 42 Steve in Boston
    August 13, 2009 at 17:42

    Leave it up to the victims or their survivors. Who better to decide?

  41. 43 James Turner
    August 13, 2009 at 17:47

    All human beings deserve a measure of compassion! These folks being in jail is it! For some crimes people are put to death! Something I do disagree with. I believe life in jail is much harder than being put to death. Life in jail without the possible parole, is so much harder than life until all appeals run out. Life sentence is for ever, death sentence is soon you will be free!
    All criminals must do the time! If they die in jail so be it! That’s a result of doing wrong in society!

  42. 44 Zak from Philadelphia
    August 13, 2009 at 17:52

    The administration of justice and compassion should remain separate. If a judge wants to feel sorry for someone, then they certainly can, but they have to remain objective and make rulings based on the crimes committed and not whatever disease the person might have gotten after the fact. A brain tumor could be a mitigating factor, for example, only if it could affect a persons behavior while the crime was committed. If a tumor, for example, develops years afterward, it’s irrelevant.

    Also, I don’t think anyone brought up how cautious judges or parole boards should be in non-murder cases because of how easy it is to fake remorse, especially for someone like a sociopath.

  43. 45 Keith- Ohio
    August 13, 2009 at 17:56

    Just because we should be capable of the compassion that these monsters were incapable of, does not mean that we should exercise this compassion by absolving them of their crime/punishment.

    The best way to approach these situations is to consider whether the treatment of their illness is possible in prison, and whether the person in question still deserves to be punished. People with kidney stones, etc. are taken out of prison temporarily for treatment quite frequently, after all. When people are given life sentences, our judicial system has decided that they are to remain in prison for life. I don’t see why that should be reconsidered just because they are nearing the end of said life…

  44. 46 Mike in Seattle
    August 13, 2009 at 18:07

    What reason is there to lock some guy in a cell while he dies from advanced terminal cancer? What justice does society get from making him suffer from cancer in a cell?

    It’s really nothing more than simple vengence, and I find is disgusting. To let him rot in his cell from advanced cancer shows that we’re really no better than he is.

  45. 47 Tracy in Portland, OR
    August 13, 2009 at 18:10

    Other than being terminal, circumstances have not changed. They still owe society a debt. And quiet frankly unless they are bedridden someone on chemo can still do another person harm. And has even less to lose. We all die. It should have no relevance on their sentances.. Unless of course it eleviates us as a society’s financial responsibility for their final illness. Or if they are truly bedridden and the facility does not have the equipment to “care” for them.

    Portland OR

  46. 48 Rachna from Cleveland, OH
    August 13, 2009 at 18:10

    Doing so will only encourage seriously ill with criminal mentality to go ahead, commit the crime and then claim to be released on grounds of compassions. For Example, Do you want Al-Qaeda to recruit young HIV infected/cancer patients?

  47. August 13, 2009 at 18:12

    Yes, i think criminals need compassion from the criminal justice, it’s the only greatest human quality to leave criminals from punishment. But conditions apply – it’s the duty of the releasing authority to see to it that they do not involve in illegal activities again.

    Thank you.

  48. 50 Ramón Cedano
    August 13, 2009 at 18:15

    Until this case was brought back into the public eye, I had been a staunch supporter of capital punishment for people who committed atrocities against humanity. However, learning about this man’s fate has been an eye opener. What is the use of going back to the millennium-old the tit-for-tat punishment?

    I think that learning about human suffering in the flesh through life imprisonment is more than enough to pay any crime. The death penalty does not erase evil action; but is, rather, tantamount to getting even: do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
    Romans 12:21

    My greatest respects to those who lost their beloved ones in the Lockerbie plane bombing.

    May God bless you all!

  49. 51 Zach
    August 13, 2009 at 18:19

    From the US. Not looking specifically at this case but take a more general approach, I tend to subscribe to the theories of Robert Merton. Merton’s theory is based upon the belief that deviance arrives from a societal anomie. My opinion is based upon my acceptance of Merton’s anomie theory.

    In that, I believe that compassion should be given to serious criminals because the criminal is not necessarily the problem, but is an effect of the societal anomie. Depending on the case, anomie can be anything from poverty to growing up without a parent. I think that rather than looking at the criminal, we have to examine the larger societal problem to prevent later generations from falling into the cycle again.

    • August 13, 2009 at 23:32

      ” deviance arrives from a societal anomie ” may be true, but we have seen 1000s of successful men and women spring from abject poverty.
      They didn’t turn out to be indiscriminate bombers, did they ?
      Wouldn’t this prostrate cancer criminal give out advice, tips and tricks to would be bombers in Libya when released from prison through pseudo-compassionate politician ?

  50. 53 Mohammed Ali
    August 13, 2009 at 18:21

    I think if criminals are truly and fairly found guilty of crimes they committed, they should serve the penalty for it no matter what.

  51. 54 steve
    August 13, 2009 at 18:24

    Given how common prostate cancer is, it’s likely that at least one of the passengers on that flight had prostate cancer. How much compassion did the bomber give that man when he blew up the plane the passenger flown in?

  52. 55 steve
    August 13, 2009 at 18:26

    So many errors are occuring on the show. #1, being convicted of a crime means the finder of fact found you guilty according to the burden of proof, which at least in the US is beyond a reasonable doubt. Courts don’t find people innocent, they find them “not guilty” which does not mean innocent, it means they couldn’t prove the crime was committed by the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Courts don’t find people “innocent”, they find them “not guilty”. This is why OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murder, but found liable for wrongful death, because of the lower burden of proof required in civil trials.

  53. 56 Keith- Ohio
    August 13, 2009 at 18:27

    I also fundamentally disagree with the argument that “if we don’t show compassion to terminally ill convicts, we are no better than them”. I would say that life imprisonment (or 8.5 years, in this case) for 270 deaths is hardly eye-for-an-eye or savage.

  54. 57 Anthony
    August 13, 2009 at 18:28

    So we have someone who is willing to kill 270 innocent people, who’s going to die anyways, and he will be set free?

    Maybe I’m just jaded, but I could see him taking revenge somehow since he’s going to die anyways.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  55. 58 Katya in Oregon
    August 13, 2009 at 18:31

    The fact that the criminal showed no compassion to thier victims shouldn’t stop us from showing compassion. We should be better than that. We should, as a society, show them the compassion that they didn’t have. Locking them up can’t bring back the victims.

  56. 59 Pedro
    August 13, 2009 at 18:35

    That’s a tough question… I think that each case should be analyzed separately. In the case of al-Megrahi, there’s no doubt that he’s guilty of all those deaths, so he should be kept in prison.

  57. 60 Radek D.
    August 13, 2009 at 18:36

    I think terminally ill prisoners should receive compassionate medical care within the realm of their confinement. We are all mortal and will eventually die, but this does not automatically create grounds for compassionate release from prison. There are plenty of prisoners with terminal illnesses that may or may not be diagnosed, and their health issues should be considered separate from their prison sentences.

    • 61 Soraya in Rabat
      August 13, 2009 at 18:52

      Liberating a criminal judged guilty and sentenced and everything, pulls into question his guiltiness. If this one is liberated, then he was probably innocent, not sick.

  58. 62 Weston Bird
    August 13, 2009 at 18:39

    From Weston Bird
    Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
    If he is allowed to leave prison and go back to Libya he will probably be thrown a ticker-tape parade and be greeted as a hero.
    It would be a different situation if he admitted his crime and showed genuine remorse, perhaps then he would deserve a measure of compassion.
    In Utah, as in many other states, a criminal seeking to be paroled before his sentence is fulfilled must confess to his crime and show genuine remorse. An unrepentant murderer should not be given special privileges.

  59. 63 steve
    August 13, 2009 at 18:40

    @ Mike in Seattle

    So what diseases is it okay for people with life sentences to die in prison from? You apparently think cancer shouldn’t allow a death sentence to be served. How about heart disease? AIDS? Why are some diseases not permissible to die in prison for, but some are?

  60. 64 Jonathan
    August 13, 2009 at 18:42

    Compassion is providing the criminal medical treatment while in prison. I would expect nothing less. However, the idea of letting the criminal go free because of a change in life circumstances is not warranted. His sentence did not come with a “get out of jail free” clause. This is his consequence, and he must carry it out.

  61. 65 Bradd
    August 13, 2009 at 18:42

    Since this particular person killed as a political statement, should we be concerned that his release might serve as a focal point for publicity that might trigger similar acts by those with similar political beliefs?

    How does compassion fit in that scenario?

  62. 66 mike
    August 13, 2009 at 18:43

    To say that justice for “state sponsored terrorism” is the reason to keep somone incarcerated, particularly in this case where the justice is selective (american/european victims get justice, others…not so much), is hypocritical. Where is the justice for victims of American state sponsored terrorism? Incomplete justice is not justice at all.

  63. 67 Katya in Oregon
    August 13, 2009 at 18:45

    I think that mercy is nessessarily part of justice, because without it justice is revenge.

  64. 68 Baraka
    August 13, 2009 at 18:45

    Whilst I firmly believe that justice should be the leading virtue in dealing with serious criminals, I also believe that in certain circumstances compassion should shine through- it would be a sorry thing if we let horrific offences completely overshadow our own mercy. If a criminal is dying of a terminal illness, then perhaps they should be afforded the kindness of dying at home.

    To quote the great bard on this (in Hamlet): “Use every man according to his desert, and who should ‘scape the whipping? Use them after your own honour and dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.”

    I could not put it better myself.

  65. 69 Jean Ramjit
    August 13, 2009 at 18:45

    No. Compassion should not be connsidered because of a medical condition. People with prostate cancer can live for a very long time. There is no set date for death. He’s only served 8 years?
    This is not enough.
    The compassion has to go to all the families who lost loved ones.
    Did this criminal have any compassion for the hundreds he killed?
    We all know terrorists have no consideration for precious and innocent lives.
    After he is dead, then he ought to go back to Libya, all expenses paid by the Lybian Government.

  66. 70 halfnots
    August 13, 2009 at 18:46

    Surely, some of this is function. It seems unlikely that prisons have the capabilities to care for a dieing person. Caring for a dieing person (even in prison) already means more freedom for the inmate then the rest of the prison population. The prison routine would surely be interrupted, more visitors, more space, more comfort. So would the difference of release, if he is indeed dieing, be much different?

    It seems like we don’t have enough information to answer this question about this particular case and what the function would entail.

  67. August 13, 2009 at 18:47

    If I was terminally ill, could I kill people and get away with it, just for being terminally ill?!
    NO! There is no way, that compassion should be shown to guilty criminals.

  68. 72 Jasmine G
    August 13, 2009 at 18:48

    If someone commited a crime heinous enough that believe they should die as a consequence and they are unwilling to accept the pain they are responsible for, then by our showing them compassion, we give them one last opportunity to understand how wrong their choices made in this life.

  69. 73 Enoch from New Jersey
    August 13, 2009 at 18:49

    A plain truth

    This Lockerbie murderer should rot in jail to the end of his life to deter others from following his act.

    If the West wants to live deterrence should be applied also against potential suicide bombers — first degree family members of suicide bombers must be made to pay dearly… That is if we in the West want to live!

  70. 74 Leslie
    August 13, 2009 at 18:49

    The idea behind incarceration is to dissuade people from committing crimes by creating a punishment for doing so. If this system is to work, we cannot take pity on people who have murdered hundreds of innocent people. This man was given a life sentence; in other words he is to be incarcerated until his natural death. Eight years for murdering 270 people? That’s not justice and he cannot be released just because he is dying. Those people in that plane didn’t have the luxury of dying surrounded by their families. So he’s dying. So he’ll die in prison and thus complete his life sentence. If he wanted people to take pity on him and receive compassion from society, he should have rethought his participation in an act of mass murder. It is not acceptable in our society that people like this should be granted the luxury of deciding where and how to meet their end. He should die in a jail cell because that is the path he chose for himself through his actions.

  71. 75 Rachna from Cleveland, OH
    August 13, 2009 at 18:50

    Justice is in place to prevent crime. By releasing someone on the grounds of ‘compassion’ we will be sending out a message that if one is terminally ill and he/she creates a crime, chances are he/she will be freed. That is not a sign of justice, is it?

  72. 76 Hugo
    August 13, 2009 at 18:50

    What does the fact that al-Megrahi has cancer has to do with the law? As far as I’m concerned, being in prison is not a cause for cancer, so he should be imprisoned.

  73. 77 T
    August 13, 2009 at 19:07

    For everyone who says they don’t, consider this. What if someone you knew was convicted of a serious crime? Would YOU want them to be put to death (if they were innocent)? What if they had some terminal illness? Maybe they’d be saying the complete opposite.

  74. 79 anu_D
    August 13, 2009 at 19:07

    The more I see this “compassionate release”…the more it appears this as a negotiated release in the post lifting of sanctions on Libya…and Gaddafi’s relation& trade boosting trips…. to some of the EU nations recently.

    And as their reciprocal nice gesture Shell or BP may be awarded plum development blocks in pushing towards 2 millions barrel / day overflowing with oil Libyans

    • 80 benza
      August 15, 2009 at 00:43

      Exactly my sentiments.

      Just as crafty politicians play out several underhand games without letting the outside world know the truth, the powers that be could have done what they intended, in the first place, without telling the world about their ”compassion” towards a mass-murderer, and making ”fools” of all of us.

  75. 81 Denya
    August 13, 2009 at 19:10

    Compassion is a value of the society we live in. There is NO relationship between compassion and the crime or the remorse of the criminal. We can have compassion for people whose crimes are unforgivable. And I certainly HOPE I live in a society that values compassion.
    To forgive someone perhaps takes into account the seriousness of the offense and the level of remorse. But in releasing someone who is terminally ill, you are not forgiving them – you are not granting them a pardon – you are not releasing them from the judgement of society. You are applying compassion.
    I find it rather frightening that so many of the responses are so full of righteous vengence. I had rather hoped we’d been moving away from “an eye for an eye” over the 2000 years or so.
    Mind you, I’m not so “holy-holy” as to suggest that we always turn the other cheek. We as individuals and as a society have the right to protect ourselves. If a criminal is still a risk for the society around them, then that overrides compassion. But if the criminal is no further risk – such as the comatose robber mentioned – then compassion is ours to give – a GIFT – and we should certainly do so.
    The Netherlands

    • August 13, 2009 at 22:50

      Denya, please think of the Sharon Tate episode. A heavily pregnant woman was hung and had her stomach split open.
      Imagine the hopes and expectations of the 270 people whose lives were blotted out in a split second by the hands of this murderer who seeks compassion from our society.
      Is this an act of compassion or political clout by a decadent government ?
      Humans react with love, compassion and vengeance. And society need protection from future criminals and NOT send out the wrong message.
      You are an exception.

  76. 83 ALEX
    August 13, 2009 at 19:26

    Our compassion sould be given to them when we put them under psychological,. educational and creative programs which help them to become better people and not with a diminution of their penalty.

  77. 84 lovemoren
    August 13, 2009 at 20:19

    The term, ‘deserve’, implies earning or being entitled to something. So at this point, what the criminals have earned is wrath. But we don’t always get what we deserve whether good or bad. Mercy is a strange thing. Sometimes it is received when least expected. Mercy doesn’t have to make sense.

  78. 85 Lahni
    August 13, 2009 at 21:08

    armed guards on a severely debilitated prisoner is a waste of manpower/funds. Do they deserve compassion? No. Should it be given? If you are christian, yes. But more importantly, the victims and family should be allowed to see the prisoner in order to obtain closure. America tends to forget that, without capitol punishment, victims live in fear of the prisoner escaping or manipulating from the inside.

  79. August 13, 2009 at 22:32

    Remorse could be acted out. Just as Augusto Pinechet faked illness and walked briskly towards his friends when out of plane in his country.
    Compassion to brutal criminals should be determined by victims or their near and dear ones not by a politician who make the victim and loved ones suffer once more the pangs of crime.

  80. 87 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 13, 2009 at 23:04

    Does serious criminals deserve compassion?

    This question is ambivalent because there are several scenarios that can play out. Therefore there is no YES or No to the question it all depends on the circumstances surrounding the crime, victims, perpetrator, the courts and the society

  81. 88 Michael in Bend, Oregon
    August 14, 2009 at 00:28

    Rather than give the criminal offender a compassionate release from prison, why not place them in a type on incarceration home where they are allowed to have their families come see them. I mean really, how do we know that the criminal won’t commit the crime again or collaborate with others to do a more awful crime after their release? I believe that the old adage holds true, “You do the crime. you do the time.”

  82. August 14, 2009 at 05:44

    I think compassion should be shown after a evaluation of the situation. A person who has committed a serious crime should never be released completely. THe person might be released for a short time only as in The Lockerbie case. If there is the slightest risk of the prisoner escaping or committing another crime, s/he should not be released. A prisoner might change after he has been in prison for some time, and he might realise his mistake. However, we should never release him completely, but release for some time like during the death of a family member to show compassion. But that depends on whether it can be done safely.

  83. 90 Martin
    August 14, 2009 at 08:08

    Hell no! These sociopaths need to serve their time. They had little regard for people when they commited the crime. This “wishy washy” notion of compation is rubbish. In extreme violent cases these people need to be executed!

  84. 91 Denya
    August 14, 2009 at 13:14


    I don’t know if you’re still following the blog, but your answer seemed strange to me.

    What on earth does Sharon Tate have to do with anything? Charles Manson is still in jail as far as I know… So you mention her just to illustrate that people commit terrible and unforgiveable crimes? Indeed they do.

    You say humans respond with love, compassion and vengence. I would wish instead to live in a society that delivered justice. The victims are the last people who should determine the penalty, as they are the least objective. If someone hurt my daughter, I would want them boiled in oil. But fortunately I’m not in charge of the justice system. My personal desire for vengence is not part of the rule of law in a civilised society, nor should it be.

    And as for giving these criminals the wrong message – I think we are doing that when we DON’T treat them as we would wish to be treated ourselves. We can only teach by example. And if we show potential criminals only a brutal world of eye for an eye – well, to me THAT is the wrong example.

    We show our values in large part via our justice system. I would wish to live in a society that is cabable of compassion. Therefore, once a criminal is no longer a threat, I see no harm in delivering the message that we, as a society, are cabable of compassion.

    I’m sure we won’t agree. But thank you for your direct response to my post.

    The Netherlands

  85. 92 will
    August 14, 2009 at 16:20

    Yes.He is going to die anyway,keeping him in jail is only going to waste the tax payers money.Let the libyans pay for funeral costs.Bring back the death penalty,putting someone like this in jail is a waste of space and money.

    • 93 Dennis Junior
      August 14, 2009 at 17:27

      You know, Will thanks for the remarks…I never thought about it in that fashion….Let him be released to Libya and the Libyan authorities take care of him.

      =Dennis Junior=

  86. August 16, 2009 at 11:46

    Prisons do not solve criminality. It is a sticking plaster which when removed often reveals a worse wound. Community service suitably supervised is the better option except in cases where the criminal requires some form of mental or intellectual assistance in a customised facility. Victims of crime rarely get the sympathy they deserve either at the time of the crime or after. A recent example is the woman who was seized by the perpetrators at the recent 43 million gem robbery in Londres. The only information provided was that “nobody was hurt” a palpably ridiculous report produced by someone who has no sympathy with a person taken at gunpoint.

  87. 95 Gabriel Rivers
    October 7, 2009 at 16:59

    No! They don’t deserve the smallest speck of compasion. People wonder why there is so much crime, I’ll tell you why, because those in the justice system are too lenient and release criminals from the daycamp that is prison. All they do is give them a slap on the wrist and let them go do it again. I am among the few who see the unclouded truth, this world is rotting, and those who are making it rot deserve to die.

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