Firstly it has nothing to do with revenge, it is justice for the victim/victims. Why should we respect their rights when they didn't respect their victim/victims right to live. You've got you head on back to front.
How are you differentiating justice from vengeance here?
Neither do I. But why shouldn't they at least get hard labour, why should they get better treated than their victim/victims did. What did they do to earn it.
But that is the thing they aren't made to suffer, but they should. They get it easy, their victim/victims didn't. I bet their victim/victims would like even half the easy life, they will get or have got. Their life's were ended. They can never see a smile, make friends, laugh. smell flowers. play games, watch tv, etc. But the murderer can. Something seriously out of wack there, me thinks.
So... an eye for an eye (not literal circumstances but equal or greater suffering). In what way is this not revenge?
I think one of the reasons this may feel out of whack is that you're assuming your experiences are rather universal. You wouldn't make these choices, you would have chosen alternative behaviors that prevented such tragedy. The problem with this is it is dependent upon the assumption that everyone would make the same choices as you if they were just thinking clearly. That ignores a great bit of information we have at our disposal, and is functionally equivalent to asking why we don't "just let them eat cake."
You are basing your argument on the idea that we have the free to behave differently than we did in the past, or that others have the free will to behave differently if they were only paying attention. In other words, the choice made was A, but it could just as likely have been choice B. You're presuming free will means the criminal could have behaved differently, could have declined to feel the impulse altogether, that he was the conscious author of his thoughts and actions, but chose unwisely. The problem is, no one has been able to describe a way in which mental and physical events could arise that could explain this freedom. It does not conform with what we know.
What we do know is that the brain makes "choices" and operates outside our awareness. To quote from neurologist Sam Harris
, "You are not aware of the electrochemical events occurring at each of the trillion synapses in your brain at this moment. But you are aware, however dimly, of sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, and moods. At the level of your experience, you are not a body of cells, organelles, and atoms; you are consciousness and its ever-changing contents, passing through various stages of wakefulness and sleep, and from cradle to grave." Well, if you pay attention - you can notice that you no longer decide the next thing you’re going to think, than you can decide the next thing I’m going to say. For example, at any time, the brain is tossing about different thoughts. They just emerge in consciousness. You may be reading this post and the thought pops into your head that you can't forget to pick up milk later today. You didn't consciously decide to interrupt your concentration to think about milk. If you can’t control your next thought, and you don’t know what it’s going to be until it arrives, where is your freedom of will?
Here's an interesting piece of information about how the brain works. If you touch your finger to your nose (go ahead and do it now, there's nothing more to this), what do you perceive? What do you feel? If you're human, you'll feel your finger and your nose sensing each other at the same time. Interestingly, we know that on a neurological level, the first sensation reaching the brain is input from the nose. You don't "feel" that, but the brain processes it first. Full stop. This is fact. But you feel them simultaneously. This too is fact. This is but one [really simple] experiment that shows our brains correct for this time discrepancy by buffering awareness. Our experience of the present moment is in reality a memory of the present moment. This same process governs what we think, desire, do, etc. In other words, we are not the agents of our free will, but the observers of our behaviors. We immediately judge those behaviors to be in conformity with our sense of self and approve or disapprove. Those thoughts are stored away, and used in later "calculations" the brain makes without our conscious input.
You, bertatberts, may have made a different choice than any given criminal in prison, but if you had lived their lives, experienced their experiences, were operated by their brain, you would have made the same choice. So why spend money making them miserable when that money could be spent exploring what experiences lead to antisocial behavior (such as lack of education, nutrition, safe home, safe neighborhood, lack of being white
)? Why not focus on preventing those experiences? These experiences aren't mysterious to us, we as a society just don't allocate resources to prevent them nearly as much as we allocate resources to punish them. That, in my opinion, is thinking back to front.