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LIFE-25: Interviews With Prisoners Serving Life Sentences

james hörner

warning: if you support the death penalty it is quite likely that this book could destroy that belief.

Life25 book cover LIFE-25 contains interviews with fifteen men at various stages of serving the LIFE-25 sentence. this sentence came into being in 1976 when Canada abolished the death penalty and replaced it with this sentence for first degree murder.

society, under the influence of the media, is often under the impression that because someone has murdered someone else they should fry for it. however, as the prisoners tell their life stories, we begin to understand how people in a bad situation end up in an even worse situation. common themes of abuse or neglect come through, conveying a strong sense of isolation and independence that is forced upon many youth. lacking guidance, many tell of youth falling prey to criminal activity or substance abuse. when you don't know anything but an ill-formed childhood and a life of petty crime it is difficult to perceive of a world which is caring and normal.

it is incredible to hear stories of bad circumstances or simple actions gone terribly wrong. while reading this book you cannot help but feel a great deal of anger towards a society that allows people to fall through the cracks like this; some of whom who grow up to find themselves behind bars, convicted of murder, and suddenly wondering how their life went so far astray.

also throughout is a fascinating perspective of existence in prison, working towards reform, and the anticipation of release and reintegration into society. it is incredible to see how many prisoners, after going through a period of adjustment and anger, resolve to educate themselves in order to eventually create a place for themselves in the society they never really knew in the first place.

most of the prisoners are acutely aware of the flaws within the prison system. for instance, one prisoner talks about how upset it makes him to hear about guys almost finished with short sentences talking about the job they're going to pull as soon as they're out. the lengthy sentence gives them time to contemplate the future and rehabilitate. many come from foster homes or life on the street, never having had a chance to understand themselves.

yet it is suggested by the european prison model that after seven years prison becomes counter-productive. having overcome their emotional scars and personal problems, becoming educated, and learning to function in society, many prisoners have a decade left in prison. several tell stories of properly alloting time for personal growth and courses over the years in order to have it all fresh in their minds for their parole review. by the end of the book this entire process seems overdrawn and, ultimately, laughable.

after it is immediately apparent that prisoners are also human, most of which are not psycho-killers and re-offenders that the media would have us believe, it is difficult to perceive "the system" as anything but a farce- a political game to keep the masses "safe" from these "dangerous" men.

in the end, the only thing which appears to be dangerous is the way in which we treat humans like animals and how we attempt to tuck away societal problems in maximum security prisons at an exorbitant expense to taxpayers. LIFE-25 will not only make you think, but will probably change the way you perceive incarceration.

published by new star books
ISBN 0-921586-55-8

james hörner edits canadian content.

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