Despite the absolute depravity of the rape and murder of Maryann Measles, her killers shouldn't be sent into a system that implicitly uses rape and torture as an aspect of punishment, despite the desires of the victim's mother.

Alan Walter Jr., one of eight friends accused of abducting, raping and drowning 13-year-old Maryann Measles (search) in October 1997, pleaded guilty Thursday to six counts, including felony murder. Under the plea agreement, Walter, who was originally charged with capital felony, will be spared the death penalty. Prosecutors are recommending a life sentence, which in Connecticut is 60 years in prison. ...

Measles' mother, Cindy, broke down in tears as Litchfield State's Attorney David Shepack recounted the details of the crime. She said she signed off on the plea bargain because she wants Walter to suffer.

"I want him to learn how to sleep with one eye open, and always look over his back every second of the day, never have a moments peace," she said. "I want him to know some of the terror Maryann had to experience. I think that's done most effectively with life [in prison]." ...

"He's going to get to know Bubba very well," she said.

First of all, Alan Walter Jr. should be executed, not given a "life" sentence that will really let him out in 60 years. Failing that, does a country that's too squeamish to execute a brutal ax-murderer or impose a real life sentence want to purposefully condemn a criminal to decades of rape and torture? Or are we content to allow it to happen due to neglect?

Our prison system needs serious reform. It's not acceptable that inmates are held in such inhumane conditions -- and I'm not talking about giving them cable TV and weight rooms. I don't care if we lock them up alone in eight by eight concrete block cells. But if we want to torture people, let's have that debate and do it purposefully, rather than with a wink and a nudge. Let's take responsibility for our society, otherwise we really are no better than barbarians.



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