Police say Josef Fritzl left a lot of human wreckage in his wake: the daughter he imprisoned and raped for 24 years, the seven children he fathered with her and the wife whose life he shattered.Is there really any evidence that harsh prison sentences do much to deter crime? Now this isn't a statement on whether Europe should impose harsher penalties - but the assurance that it would deter crime is ludicrous.
Yet, for an atrocity that has stunned the world, he may wind up serving just 15 years in prison if charged, tried and convicted.
Practically speaking, that may translate into a life sentence for Fritzl, 73. But his case has revived a debate over's lenient penal system — and whether harsher, U.S.-style sentencing guidelines might help deter such heinous crimes.
The US is a nation, after all, that imposes the death penalty for heinous crimes, yet we seem to have more of them than most other western nations. We are a nation that will put people in jail for years, if not decades, for minor drug offenses, yet our jail are bursting with such people and adding more every day.
What longer sentences do accomplish is making sure that the individual doesn't commit more crimes, but trying to assert that harsh penalties deters crime goes beyond all reason.