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Serial killers and Parole

Open Breakwater Prison Door in Cape Town. (Lennon Fletcher/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

To any Police Department, the cost of launching a serial killer investigation is excessive and often not budgeted for. It comprises extra manpower, overtime, setting up an operational room, vehicles, helicopters and gasoline, processing multiple crime scenes, deployment of alternative resources such as profilers, artists for reconstructing faces of unidentified victims, expensive DNA tests and other forensic analyses, as well as hidden costs, which can run for months or years. Once the suspect has been arrested, the preparation of the dockets for court continues for the docket bearer, after the rest of the team has been disbanded and sent back to their original stations.

Regarding the Department of Justice, a trial may last for months or years, effectively taking one or two detectives out of active duty to assist the state prosecutors – whose time is consumed by one case.  A court room is occupied for an extended period, and other cases are put on the back burner, pending court dates and availability.  Witnesses need to be transported to and from court, external experts’ expenses are settled, and the State usually pays the fees of the accused’s Pro Bono defence attorney, if the defendant cannot afford it, which mostly, they cannot.

Not even calculating the emotional cost of losing a loved one, for the families of the victims there may be loss of income of a sole breadwinner, dual family income is reduced significantly, funeral costs, cost of a tomb stone, cost of bereavement therapy, decline of living standards, unpaid school fees, possible foster care for children of victims, and much more.

Regarding the Department of Correctional Services, the taxpayers’ money is used for the upkeep of the incarceration of the prisoner – for decades.

I have been told by government officials that it is inhumane to keep a serial killer in prison for life, despite all of them having been sentenced to several  life imprisonment by judges – Moses Sithole got 2410 years, Steward Wilken received seven life sentences and was further advised by Justice Chris Jansen that he would have received the death penalty had it still been available to him. Clearly the judge did not intend him to return to society. 

Reviewing the life of a serial killer who has been in prison for a decade or more:  They are being provided basic living conditions, a roof over their head, regular meals, clothing, shelter from the elements, access to hygiene facilities and medical and dental care – at the expense of the taxpayer.  No stress of making ends meet or paying bills at the end of the month, (as would be the case of the victims’ families) no threat of retrenchment or unemployment and tedious job seeking for this person.  They are probably working – the Station Strangler – a teacher by trade, taught in the juvenile prison, some work in kitchens, laundries or workshops – which gives some kind of meaning to their existence.  They have access to free pastoral and psychological services. If they upgrade their good behaviour status, then by choice they can attend activities of certain NGO’s such participation in theatrical performances and talent shows, even sport activities at some institutions.  They are even provided entertainment at times. Some can even pursue their studies and enrol for artisan training.

They have formed relationships with fellow prisoners, some even form friendships, and they are allowed visitations from their family members. I have been inside many prisons, and was often amazed at the range of freedom and mobility of the prisoners within their wards – they roam around, mingle freely, visit each other in cells, socialise, fool around, play games, eat together – it is noisy and almost reminds one of a students’ dormitory.  Of course there is overcrowding and violence some times, but there is also camaraderie, gang loyalty, 24-hour surveillance and wardens on duty.  Serial killers are seldom, if ever, kept in solitary custody – once inside they are treated the same as everybody else.  This does not sound like an “inhumane situation”.  Granted, they are not free to roam the streets of society, but lest one not forget, they broke the rules of society and should take accountability for their situation and incarceration.

What would happen to them if they were to be released? A community whose children, wives, fathers, sons and daughters have been brutally raped and killed, may have moved on with their lives after decades, but they are not always ready to forget nor to forgive. Parole of a serial killer implies old wounds are reopened. At the very least, fingers would be pointed against the recently released serial killer and at the worst, vigilante groups may target them. Where-ever they may go, people will look, whisper behind their hands, insult and turn away from the serial killer. Who would employ them, how would their colleagues feel about working with them? Will such a person be served in a restaurant or a grocery store?  The community will ostracise them – which was one of the original catalysts of them becoming a serial killer. Their childhood sense of worthless inferiority would be triggered, urging them to kill again to restore the homeostasis of their ego – for holding a life in their hands afforded them a sense of omnipotence – a godly feeling.

No parole board, no over-zealous pastor, no social worker can offer a 100% guarantee that a serial killer will not kill again. Even a 99% margin, leave a 1% chance. And it takes only one person, one innocent victim, one life to be murdered, for the cycle to start again. One is one too many. All experts, profilers, and investigating officers warn that it is not just possible, but highly probable that a serial killer will kill again.  There are endless examples of this all over the internet. 

If a serial killer is released, the initial effort, time, manpower and costs incurred by the police department and the department of justice and the taxpayers’ money, have all been in vain – after all the years, it has all been wasted on one man or woman. What effect the release of a serial killer have on the morale of those who worked endlessly to apprehend them in the first place? What is the point of having launched the investigation, the arrest, trial,  sentence and incarceration of a serial killer in the first place, if only for that serial killer to be released to kill again?

Governments are accountable to their citizens and a parole board cannot hide behind an excuse of ‘inhumanity’ and at the same time ransom the safety of a community. Thát is inhumane.

Top image: Open Breakwater Prison Door in Cape Town. (Lennon Fletcher/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

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