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Scott Turow's Death Row Turnarounds

By Thane Peterson

Q: Is a life sentence in Tamms a severe punishment?

A: I don't think anybody would want to live that way. Plenty of people involved in prisoners'-rights issues believe this is cruel and unusual punishment. I part company with them. I'm sorry, but you can't have it all. You can't say there's going to be no death penalty and then say we can't have severe conditions of confinement.

Q: Will the death penalty be an issue in the 2004 Presidential campaign?

A: I'm almost positive it won't be. Democrats know that their problem is to attract white male [voters]. None of the Democratic candidates is against the death penalty, including Howard Dean, who used to be against it.

Q: Why do you think the U.S. is so pro-death penalty, while most other industrialized democracies consider it barbaric.

A: One reason is that we have four-to-five times more murders than those countries.

Q: Aren't the two connected somehow?

A: You think the death penalty and the murder rate are connected?

Q: I think the idea that Americans tolerate high levels of violence...

A: The idea that we tolerate violence -- yes, but more particularly that we tolerate handguns. Certainly our laws on handguns and our murder rates are inextricably connected. But we're also a far more divided and fractious society.


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