Most people give killers very little thought. Murderers are degenerates, and that's that, right? Well, not necessarily. Sure, they've done awful things, but their situations are usually a bit more complex than you might think. It's easy to make reductive statements about killers, but there's often more to their stories than meets the eye.
California's San Quentin Prison is one of the most notorious prisons in the world. As part of a rehabilitative program called "The Last Mile," the state is allowing some inmates to share their thoughts and feelings online. Recently, three convicted killers took to Quora to share their thoughts about what it was like to take a life.
Tommy Winfrey was barely 19 when he ended up in prison after killing someone.
"I felt immense peer pressure to go through with the murder...I realize now that I was in a very bad place in life," said Winfrey. "I felt worthless and unworthy of love, so in return, I placed little value on my life or on the life of anyone else. I felt like a great weight was lifted off my shoulders when I pulled the trigger."
It's taken Winfrey 15 years to come to terms with what he did.
"Admitting to myself that I was feeling scared, lonely, and unworthy of love was just too hard. By admitting these feelings, I would also have to come to grips with what I really did, and how I affected the world. I am finally there...15 years later," said Winfrey.
David Monroe, a friend of Winfrey, killed someone as a 15-year-old gang member.
"The truth is," he said, "that people murder other people because they are hurt inside and are struggling to deal with their emotions maturely. The term 'hurt people hurt people' is not a new concept."
Both of Monroe's parents were abusive alcoholics. Killing someone, Monroe explained, was a way of inflicting his pain onto others.
"I did what most people do and bottled everything up and buried it deep down inside. Through violence, I was able to relieve myself of pain by inflicting it onto others. Murdering someone was the ultimate release," he said.
Larry Histon didn't open up about the specifics of his murder, but said that killing someone felt "nebulous."
"I believe that the emotional response would range from emptiness to tremendous regret," said Histon. "I believe this to be true whether or not this question is targeted to the physical, intellectual, or emotional destruction of other human beings. For example, if you are a malicious person, you can essentially murder or destroy a person who you consider to be your adversary by the words you speak out of your mouth."
(via The Independent)
It's easy to dehumanize those who live behind bars. And yes, these men committed heinous crimes, but it's always helpful to know what life was like for them before they ended up in prison. The goal of the criminal justice system should be to rehabilitate people like this, not condemn them to spend the rest of their lives in jail.