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McEntee: Allgier deserves 'death by incarceration'

Published October 3, 2012 6:41 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With his change in plea in the murder of a Utah Corrections officer, Curtis Allgier might regret the day he opted for life in prison instead of execution.

And fans of capital punishment might come to realize that a life behind bars with no possibility of parole can be a fate worse than death.

After five years, Allgier — whose facial tattoos infuriate those of us who disdain skinheads and wannabe Nazis — will dodge a firing squad or lethal injection. But he will face what some researchers call "death by incarceration."

Inmates' privileges are few. They are fed, clothed, able to shower, maybe have a little time to exercise, but only with permission. Their routines, such as they are, are determined by prison officials.

Despite the company of other inmates and even small, earned amenities, they ultimately live alone, unloved, in perpetual dread and with virtually no chance of ever leaving prison until they are dead.

It might be wise for those who are howling about the prosecutors' agreement to drop the death penalty in exchange for Allgier's guilty plea to understand that, for some inmates, death would be infinitely preferable.

That's what happened with Joseph Parsons, who killed a motorist he'd caught a ride with and spent 12 years in prison before he gave up on his appeals and died by firing squad in 1999.

Allgier was a past parole absconder who was serving time in the Utah State Prison when Corrections Officer Stephen Anderson was assigned to guard him during a trip to a Salt Lake City medical clinic. When his shackles were removed, Allgier grabbed Anderson's service weapon and killed him. He was captured within an hour.

Anderson was a husband and father of five children and, at the time, 16 grandchildren. At his funeral, he was called a "Christlike man."

After five years, his family chose to end the legal battle and the prospect of facing years of torment if Allgier had been convicted, sentenced to death and then appealed his case, starting a process that can last for what seems like forever.

With his plea, Allgieragreed to life in prison without parole. He has been housed in one of the prison's most restrictive settings because of his behavioral history as an inmate, says Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke. The fact that he claims to be a lifelong member of the white-­supremacy Aryan Empire Warriors gang will also be a factor.

Allgier's behavioral history includes the coldhearted slaughter of a good man. It's only just that he spend the rest of his life in prison.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.