Could Robert Hansen Be Rehabbed?

Not to get overly philosophical, but crimes as heinous as those committed by Robert Hansen challenge the core of our beliefs. Readers of this blog have written to complain. Hansen, they say, should have faced execution. Then they lament that some countries, like Great Britain, lack the death penalty. (As does Alaska.) Or, absent the death penalty, they contemplate what terms define an appropriate punishment. Could Hansen be rehabbed?

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A Small Sample of Hansen’s Victims

These questions engender strong views, seemingly permanently etched in our feeble brains. Frank Rothschild tried to answer them all. Here’s how he addressed Judge Moody at Hansen’s sentencing.


Frank Rothschild: “So we have to ask ourselves, can he be rehabilitated? We know that’s a joke, that has failed, there’s no way, it’s too late. Will this deter others? People like this aren’t going to get deterred, not that have the kind of problems this man has. [But] we sure can isolate him and we sure can tell all the people in our community and reaffirm their value system, that this man will never see the light of day again.

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Frank Rothschild in Court (courtesy Anchorage Times)

“We can’t put him to death but truly that would be too easy for this man, Your Honor. It’s really what he’d prefer at this point. He said to us on Friday, I’m going to die in prison anyway, as a matter of fact, it probably would be better for me if I die quick.”


Rothschild was, of course, completely correct in saying it was too late for Robert Hansen. He could not be rehabbed. He got one chance in Iowa and blew it. He got two more chances in Alaska and laughed it off. So what do you do with a man who can’t be rehabbed and can’t be executed? Of course, one has to find a way to square all the circles. Frank Rothschild tried to find a way.


Frank Rothschild: “This man who loves the outdoors, he’s never going to smell the freshness of a mountain meadow, he’ll never hear water trickle again down a creek, he’ll never thrill in seeing our great wilderness and our wild animals that roam there. He truly hates being locked up. It’s better that we lock him up and make him live with this for each breath that he takes of the prison air that he’ll be breathing for the rest of his life.”

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Along the Knik River w/ Lt. Pat Kasnick (AST) and Officer Leon Steel (Fish & Game)
Courtesy Anchorage Times

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2021). All rights reserved.

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