16 July 2008

Dying In Jail

I wonder what it is like to have spent 56 years in prison? I wonder this from the outside and have no intention of ever wanting to find out from the inside. I wonder what it is like to have spent more than half of your 80 years of life behind bars?

Eric Thomas Turner (pictured), was a quadruple murder and the last inmate in a NSW prison that had been sentenced to death. The death sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He was released but murdered again. In this case 'was' is the operative word as Turner has died in prison as a result of complications from lung cancer.

Turner was an evil man who killed his first person at the young age of 20 in 1948. His first victim was his then 15-year-old girlfriend, Claire Sullivan. His second victim was Frank Sullivan, Claire's father. He strangled Claire and he axed the father. He was sentenced to death on 15 December 1948.

His sentence was commuted to life in prison. I am not sure why there is no truth in sentencing and when a person is sentenced to life in prison then this is exactly what it means; you die there! However, maybe after 22 years behind bars the State felt sorry for the fella or believed him rehabilitated because he was released in 1970.

Turner seems to have kept out of trouble for a while. But, perhaps it is true, "once a killer always a killer," because 3 years after his release Turner killed his mother-in-law, Harriet Field, by stabbing her 11 times. Turner's stepson, John Pilz, tried to intervene to save his grandmother and Turner killed him as well.

Not surprisingly the community was somewhat outraged that Turner was released in the first place. Nevertheless, he was convicted and again sentenced to life imprisonment. This sentence was then redetermined. The life sentence remained but a non-parole period of 20 years was set. Therefore, since 1993 Turner has been eligible to seek parole. However, it was not until his illness had become too much for him that he had sort to be released on parole.

He did seek release in 2007. The application for release was refused.

Turner was the longest serving prisoner in the NSW correctional system. However, the title of the longest continuous serving prisoner goes to the 84-year-old William "The Mutilator" McDonald. McDonald was sentenced in 1963 to life in prison for the murder of four homeless men.

As I said, I wonder what it must be like to spend so much time behind bars?

10 comments:

Brett said...

I'm with you on this: why is that "life" doesn't always mean "life". This guys was a serious bad-ass and surely he was one to keep locked up. It would be interesting to know whether the parole guys who released him truly believed that he had "reformed" or whether they were just going through the motions. Do people EVER get locked up for life? I suspect the really scary guys like Charles Manson will always be in prison, but what about the not-so-famous ones?

GJ said...

Hey if he was dead like first planned then some people would still be around today. Reform is a nice idea but how do you guarantee it???

Rob Baiton said...

Brett...

Truth in sentencing! Whatever the judge says is how it plays out. Simple re-phrasing really and back to the old days -- the term of one's natural life (simply you die in prison).

The not-so-famous ones are getting harder and harder to find thanks to the ever-increasing and pervading nature of the Internet. It is the case now that even small-town crooks can become Internet famous in no time at all.

GJ...

Yep, if they hung this fella like he was sentenced, then there would be at least two people who would have had the opportunity to live out their lives.

I do not know that you can guarantee rehabilitation or reform.

rimafauzi said...

He is a monster and they should have never let him out. I don't really agree with death penalty, I think life imprisonment is better, but then again, there goes our tax dollars (euros) so... I don't know..

As for life behind bars.. well, I guess some people like it, otherwise they would not keep on committing crimes all over again, would they?

Rob Baiton said...

Rima...

I am anti-death penalty too.

And herein lies the problem for us that do not support the imposition of the ultimate penalty for crimes; our tax dollars are what keeps our conscience clean!

I am sure that many (and I mean many) years ago as a first year Uni student I did a psychology subject that looked at the issue of repeat offenders and if I recall correctly it suggested that some individuals found that being in jail was preferable to being on the outside.

I would not remember where to look for the textbook now. I guess an Internet search might turn up some research on this topic but I am too lazy at the moment to do that research :D

GJ said...

My dad spent many years in prison when I was a youngster. Only as a guard at Parramatta and Long Bay.

I could ask him what it was like!!:-)

Rob Baiton said...

GJ...

There is, I would think, a difference in perception depending on what side of the abrs you're on...

the writer said...

This is an unimportant comment I know, but that guy sure had an ugly hairdo!

therry said...

He shouldn't be allowed out into the world with that kind of hairstyle lol

no wonder he kept murdering people - they probably bagged the crap out of his hair all the time.

"Haha, your hair's stupid."

Stab!

Rob Baiton said...

girls, girls, girls...

The photo certainly isn't flattering! I think it is his mugshot from the late 1940's.

Maybe he spent to much time outside in the wind and this is the result of an all natural blow dry!