Clarke: An unduly harsh prison sentence (letter)
These were the words printed on a photo of 21-year-old Tyrus Vanmatre on the front page of the Summit Daily on Friday January 8. These chilling words motivated me to not only read the article in its entirety, but follow the related thread in the SDN archives to attempt to get an understanding as to how such a young former Summit High School student could possibly deserve such a horrific and unimaginable sentence. My review of the archives relating to Tyrus’ case indicated that he had made some incredibly stupid decisions, from an alleged “bad acid trip” concluding with an attack of one of his friends with a machete. The friend fought back to defend himself with the incident ending with significant — but not permanent or life threatening — injuries to both young men.
While this was an “incredibly heinous crime” as defined by Fifth Judicial Judge Mark Thompson — and one that certainly merits a significant punishment, how can we simply give up on a young man by delivering a sentence that will guarantee that he will die in prison? Most of us have made many stupid mistakes when we were young — or even not so young, though admittedly most were less violent than that allegedly committed by Tyrus Vanmatre. Don’t we have an obligation to persevere with Tyrus, to work with him toward getting him on a better path through his life and giving him a chance to redeem himself and become a productive contributing member of society? Sentencing him to “Life without parole” will result in completely wasted life in the creation of a hardened criminal with a huge burden on taxpayers by adding to this country’s epidemic of incarceration. Can’t we do something better — for Tyrus and society?
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