May 19, 1996 in City

Life In Prison Shouldn’t Be A Riot

Rowland Nethaway Cox News Service

The porno videotape of mass murderer Richard Speck taking drugs and living it up in prison makes a piercing argument for the death penalty.

Speck says aloud what many law-abiding Americans fear most about their prison systems.

“If they only knew how much fun I was having in here, they would turn me loose,” Speck said.

Had they only known how much fun he was having in prison, a lot of people would have taken Speck out and shot him.

Speck was a criminal drifter who broke into a Chicago nurses’ dormitory in 1966. He rounded up eight student nurses. He bound and gagged them and took them one at a time to strangle and slash them to death with a hunting knife.

He claimed that his butchery was committed in a drug-induced amnesiac state. A jury didn’t buy it. Speck, who had been in prison twice in Texas, was sentenced to die. But Speck escaped execution when the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972. His sentence was commuted to eight consecutive terms of 50 to 150 years each.

The videotape of Speck in Illinois’ maximum-security Stateville Correctional Center punctures the notion that criminals are sentenced to prison as punishment for their crimes. Speck is shown along with another inmate snorting cocaine, engaging in various sex acts and bragging about how he has been having the best time of his life while serving time in prison.

Speck did his share of partying before he was arrested as the “sub-animal” who committed what was then described as “the crime of the century.” Speck loved to hit the honkytonks on the North Side of Chicago where he partied with prostitutes and fellow low-lifes.

But in the videotape, Speck brags that he is having more fun in prison than he ever had on the outside. His idea of fun is abhorrent to most people, but that’s not the point. The point is that the taxpayers don’t send criminals to prison to have fun.

The two-hour videotape covers two days during which Speck, one of his lovers and the camera operator use the prison’s video equipment to make their porno tape. Speck says that he has had more lovers in prison than he can count. He strips off his prison jumpsuit to show his blue women’s underwear. He has sex with his lover. He even admits that he committed the killings, which proves that his trial excuse of drug-induced amnesia was a lie.

Speck died in prison the day before his 50th birthday. The public was told that he died of a heart attack. This new videotape makes one wonder if he didn’t die of a drug overdose while partying behind bars with his fellow party animals.

People shouldn’t get mad at Speck over the videotape obtained by Chicago’s WBBM-TV. And people shouldn’t use Speck’s outrageous prison behavior as an argument for the death penalty. That also is missing the point.

The point is that lawmakers and prison officials should make sure that prisons are not turned into Club Meds for felons.

Prison becomes a comfortable home and a way of life for many convicts. Once released, they easily return to crime because they do not fear returning to prison. They can shoot baskets, read books, watch color TV, lift weights, renew friendships and eat three nutritious meals a day.

Prison officials say they need the good-time credits, special privileges and amenities to keep convicts happy and prevent them from rioting. But taxpayers don’t want happy prisoners.

Taxpayers don’t want prison riots, either. But they do want prisoners to feel punished for their crimes. They want prisoners to regret their crimes each and every day and swear that they will do everything in their power to never return to such a living hell. There’s a big difference between cruel and unusual punishment and no punishment.


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