Oscar Pistorius is behind bars. Though how long he will spend there has provoked outrage through social media.
Pistorius will begin a 5 year sentence for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp. The judge of the case, Judge Thokozile Masipa, stated to Pistorius and the court “I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send a wrong message to the community. On the other hand, a long sentence would not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy.” Judge Masipa also added a 3 year sentence for negligently discharging a firearm in a crowded restaurant which will be a suspended sentence and served concurrently with the culpable homicide sentence. Pistorius will also surrender all of his guns and firearms licences.
The judge stated that house arrest or community service, which had been suggested by 2 defence witnesses, would be inappropriate considering Pistorius “deliberately fired four shots into the door”. The judge however did acknowledge that some will disagree with her decision saying “Society cannot always get what they want. Courts do not exist for a popularity contest but only to dispense justice … The general public may not even know the difference between punishment and vengeance.”
Reeva Steenkamp’s parents have stated that they are happy with the sentence saying “I’m pleased that it’s over.” They did however state, when asked if this felt like closure, not “unless you can magic her back” they will not have closure.
The defence is not expected to appeal the decision; but there is an “appetite” for an appeal from the prosecution. That appetite may simply be because of the length of sentence and potential for a house arrest to be available so early in Pistorius’ sentence. The prosecution is said to currently be “looking at the legal basis for challenging the conviction and/or sentence.”
The International Paralympic Committee has also banned Pistorius for 5 years, meaning he would become eligible again for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. “The rules state that if someone is given a five-year sentence by a court, they must serve that sentence before returning to competition” said an IPC spokesperson.
Now comes the part which has brought outrage to the internet. The defence team are stating that Pistorius despite the 5 year sentence may be considered for house arrest after serving just 10 months in prison. The National Prosecuting Authority has however insisted he must serve a minimum of one-third in jail; 20 months. This disparity and the potentially short prison sentence has resulted in a twitter backlash both on behalf of how short the time served will be; but also the hashtag #ThingsLongerThanOscarsSentence has emerged.
This goes to a larger debate on what people see prison as. If one sees prison as a place to be rehabilitated or the sole purpose is to seek retribution against those who have wronged society. If you believe in rehabilitation who is to say whether Pistorius will reoffend, considering he has had is guns taken from him. Although he does have an inauspicious past in regards to violence which could mean he needs time to be rehabilitated. The other side of this argument is that he deserves a more severe punishment considering someone’s life has been taken. This is why I believe the hashtag above has been started; the 10 months seems light if it is a punishment and if it were a precaution to prevent another offence there appears to be little in regards to rehabilitation in prison.
Simon Jenkins, writing for the Guardian, stated “Imprisoning Pistorius can serve no purpose,” as he is already “ruined” by what happened. This position has received a lot of backlash considering the public desire to see Pistorius punished but again it speaks to what your personal philosophy on prison is.
The facts are this, Oscar Pistorius will serve at least 10 months in prison. A woman is dead and the response of wanting him to spend more time behind bars is not without strong grounds. We do not yet know how long he will spend in prison, nor do we know how he will deal with this tragedy personally.
For now let Pistorius think about it whilst staring at the wall of his cell. Think on what could have been had he thought differently that night 20 months ago.