In the rush to empty prisons nicely evidenced by the passage and implementation of the federal First Step Act, I fear that the policy wonks and the judges who follow them disregard a patent truth.[i] There is evil lurking among those who are elderly, yet seek release.
By using the word “evil,” I mean an existential threat to a civilized society. I do not intend the foregoing to be provocative. I mean it literally.
Before Harry Potter’s train leaves, transporting us magically to a world where good consistently triumphs, we need to remember that the journey would not be worth taking without Voldemort showing us that we are risk. We would do well to remember him.
The evil Lord V. is not just a convention of a magnificent writer. Rather, he is a real and a palpable horror and this is true despite his age. As we rush headlong to empty out prisons, we ought as a society to scream “screw compassionate release” when faced with such monsters—assuming, of course, we can differentiate between those who are elderly and remain evil and those who are elderly but too tired or sick to be evil.
So, believe me when I say that in our prisons there is a certain number of very old Voldemorts, albeit in small numbers. Let us take a concrete example drawn from a piece written by Adeel Hassan in the New York Times. See A Murderer Deemed Too Old for Violence Was Just Convicted of Another Killing, The 77-year-old man, who was free despite a long history of violence against women, was convicted of an attack nearly identical to his killing of his wife 40 years ago, New York Times (July 19, 2019).
Read the piece yourself. I’m not going to do the work for you. If you take the time to read it, you will understand what I mean. Or you can simply peer into the face of the evil man seated at counsel table and shudder.
Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)
[i] I intend no comment on pending or impending matters that are before me.