By James Alan Fox

In debates about punishment, whether focused on the death penalty or adult sentences for juvenile offenders, I often get asked how I’d feel if it were my loved one–my wife or my child–who was murdered. Sometimes the question is posed in a respectfully polite way, as in a comment to my recent posting on juvenile life without parole. Yet occasionally there is a more threatening undertone accompanied by the suggestion that people like me are what’s wrong with the criminal justice system.

I can tell you with complete certainty that my response to such a “God forbid” event would be emotional, irrational, and extreme. My impulse, although a controllable one, would be to want vengeance. However, for the most part, it is not relevant how I would feel and what I would wish for under such a devastating hypothetical.

Isn’t it ironic that those who clamor for stiffer penalties are rarely asked if they would feel any differently were it their child who was accused of murder?

Read more at Boston.com.