The Death Penalty's Other Victims

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"Murder is my beat," I used to jokingly tell my friends. They found it fascinating that my job involved interviewing hundreds of California's inmates who are condemned or serving a life sentence for murder. The first time I heard the clang of San Quentin's' sally port closing behind me, I knew I was a student at a top tier school for learning about lethal violence.

I had only been exposed to homicidal violence on the nightly news until a close friend was murdered by a man she had been dating. I futilely tried to comfort her two young sons while their father struggled to tell them that their mother was gone forever. As a mother and a psychologist, I was compelled to learn as much as possible about violence that could forever alter the course of a child's life.

Three-hundred-fifty psychological evaluations in California's high security prisons later, I learned that aggression ebbs and flows in even the most violent individuals and the heinousness of a crime does not predict or determine the ability of a man to rehabilitate himself.

There are inmates who, after many years of work and guidance have become wise and moral men and inmates who live every day in mental cages of hatred and vitriol.

The death penalty is not likely to deter violent crime as murderers don't consider the consequences to themselves or families when they pull the trigger or wield a blade. There is no thought of "maybe I shouldn't" or "this is evil."


Dying in prison of disease or old age is no bargain. It is a harsh judgment and a harsh life. But just as no innocent child deserves to lose a parent to violent crime, no innocent child deserves to be condemned to live as the offspring of a monster. And just as the children of my murdered friend needed comfort, no child of these murderers should suffer knowing that a parent was deemed too evil to live among us on Earth.

With a Perspective I'm Michel Lynn Inaba.

Michel Lynn Inaba has conducted forensic evaluations for the California Board of Parole Hearings for five years. She lives in Sacramento.