Response to Chris Campano's 1,000 Year Sentence
Are there alternatives to sentencing a one-off murderer to 1,000 years behind bars?
Featured in an early episode of Forensic Files (Season 1, Ep 3: "The House That Roared"), Chris Campano will forever be known as a murderer (to the extent he'll be "forever known" at all). Like many murderers, he was apparently enraged when he killed his wife Caren in 1992. Their marriage was less than perfect, as she was regularly on his case about his drug addiction. While it's unclear what final argument activated his rage, it definitely made him homicidal. Caren had 15 skull fractures, three broken ribs, and he wrapped her up in a sheet and phone cord. She was found in March 1993, "near a motocross track in Oklahoma City."
When the punishment was read, Caren's sister shouted at the killer's relatives "He'll never get out. I'm going to show up at every parole hearing. You lied about my sister. You lied."
Other than the bloody murder scene—which Christopher attempted to clean up with bleach and water—the case is somewhat memorable for the sentence. He was found guilty of manslaughter, and given a sentence of 1,000 years.
Normally when someone's convicted of manslaughter, it almost sounds like they're getting a light sentence. It is, after all, not premeditated murder in the first degree. Also, some people get significantly smaller sentences for murder, especially in other countries. (As I've written before, countries like Colombia arguably go way too far in the other direction, where they'll even let a murderer of hundreds of children go free after a brief sentence!)
So, what likely earned Campano the 1,000 year prize? For one thing, it was a definite case of overkill, as the murder scene was revealed as a bloodbath (the police have a tool called Luminol which reveals blood, and other things, at crime scenes). On top of that, the sentence had to comply with state law. Technically, if someone can't receive a life sentence, they can be imprisoned for something like 1,000 years. Of course, this doesn't stop people from receiving multiple life sentences elsewhere, but we live in sort of a zany world.
Was the punishment just?
It's always an awkward question to ask, because technically punishment isn't the same thing as justice anyway. Something "just" is fair, reasonable, equitable and impartial. Punishment may have nothing to do with that stuff. Basically, a lot of this comes down to opinion. While I personally don't advocate murder (and would be stricter against repeat murderers), I fail to see much wisdom in a 1,000 year prison sentence for a drug addict who killed his wife out of rage.
Now, I know some out there will say, "You're just a bleeding heart, liberal softy! You're what's wrong with this country!" However, I just can't help but look at world history, and see the violence (sometimes genocidal violence) conducted by governments and assorted authorities. In fact, some of that's going on as I type this. If I'm supposed to think Campano deserves 1,000 years, then what about people with more power who often do things just as bad and get away with it? In fact, sometimes they're celebrated. A simple rage killing may signify a malignant person, but I fail to see how prison really solves issues like drug addiction, murder, rape, rage, alienation or abuse.
I don't want to say prison is 100 percent flawed and wrong (because absolute arguments are fallacious). However, in many cases, prison seems to objectively do more harm than good. In fact, on top of the physical and mental harm arguments, they come equipped with a rather hefty price tag (as does the United States military). It just seems like that money and attention could be better spent, even just by randomly helping people out to pay their bills or whatever (hint hint).
What would I suggest?
People with anarchist/libertarian-leaning philosophies tend to struggle on crime/anti-social behavior issues a bit. However, it's not because we're uniquely ineffective at crafting answers. It's a lot simpler than that: This is simply not something for me alone to decide. I am not a dictator, nor would I claim to have the final analysis. However, I would suggest something similar to what Infoshop.org's Anarchist FAQ suggests. I hate to sound like an anarchist ideologue getting answers from a radical tome, but they have a valid idea.
Instead of dotting our landscapes with ever-more prisons, we should simply consider putting the "worst of the worst" on remote islands somewhere. You could make sure it's basically hospitable, and that food and water can be possible on the island, then just let them be. To me this seems like a more humane, fair and generally just outcome than putting them in a cage, and often layering torture upon that. It allows that, at least sometimes, certain people forfeit their right to live among regular society. At the same time, relatively normal people aren't burdened with punishing them on a daily basis. The offender's lives can be lived somewhere else, and be as pleasant or unpleasant as they care to make them. It's not ideal, but neither is the idea of constantly punishing the guilty.
I know some would probably say, "You weren't impacted by Chris Campano's case, so who are you to say what should happen?" However, the fact that I'm less involved is a good thing. I am less biased against such a person. I can see that he was guilty, and maybe deserves some type of punishment, but I'm less inclined to suggest something harsh than somebody who was directly impacted by his actions. Also, if we're going to claim superiority over drug-addled murderers, then why not actually be superior? Revenge is NOT a superior attitude to the acts of some rage-induced murderer.
In fact, the way I see it, both societal revenge AND rage killings are at least somewhat understandable. At the very least, I think most people have had moments in their lives where they acted blindly in the moment. Maybe they slapped, kicked or punched someone, or at least threw a bit of a visible/audible tantrum. Compound that phenomenon with alcohol and/or certain other drugs and you have a potentially volatile situation. Sorry, but I think sometimes that's all it takes!
Similarly, I don't think trying to cover up a murder scene is that difficult to comprehend, either. I know we're supposed to not b honest about it, but isn't there an element of common sense to one's doing that? I mean, here's a newsflash: Most people wouldn't want to be put away for 1,000 years, so they sometimes try to cover up their crimes. It's not a good thing to do, obviously, but even that doesn't make someone into the biggest monster ever to walk the earth. (Also, I'm probably going to repeat this point in future articles, so get ready for the broken record effect if you decide to read any of those.)
On top of that, it's time we just admit that, when it comes down to it, some people just aren't relationship material. While some societies are less violent than others, it seems someone will always have a defective approach to "love" somewhere. They are damaged people, possibly beyond repair. The true crime show Nightmare Next Door implies that we could know such people. In fact, maybe the person reading this is one of them, or could become one.
I think it's about time we became honest, did our best to demystify the criminal, and stopped pretending we're always miles high above them when they do something wrong. Chances are we are not. We just weren't shaped into someone violent enough to get imprisoned for 1,000 years (although, as suggested, some murdered don't get punished nearly as much).
Finally, I have to note something: The 2015 Nightmare Next Door episode is called "Roaring House," while the 1996 Forensic Files episode is called "The House that Roared." Could't NND have done a better job coming up with a title? Maybe my article piggybacks Forensics Files a little, but I still went with a different title. I mean, what if I called this article "That House Is a'Roarin'," or something like that? Well, actually, that would be a better title than NND's. So, I guess if I write a followup piece on Campano, like if he escapes or something, expect it to bear that title. Still, I think that 1,000 year sentence will likely stick around longer than he will.