The Violent World of Jeffrey Dahmer

Article excerpt

Jeffrey Dahmer died as he lived horribly, violently, in an unspeakable situation far removed from the lives of many Americans who found his story repulsive and fascinating at the same time. His fatal beating at a maximum-security prison in Wisconsin should prompt no satisfaction, no sense that he got what he deserved. Mostly, it should make people stop to reflect how terribly wrong some lives go, and be thankful to be spared the pain of being either Dahmer or one of his victims.

The horrific nature of Dahmer's crimes captured the attention of a public often jaded by everyday brutality. A loner who worked in a chocolate factory, he admitted killing, mutilating and sometimes eating the bodies of 17 men and boys. Speculation about what prompts someone to act as he did - was he sick, was he evil, could he have been stopped? - is interesting but, in the end, beside the point. After he was sentenced to serve 16 life terms, he dropped out of most people's thoughts.

Behind bars, though, prisoners have a kind of hierarchy of offenders, and Dahmer was at the bottom. Officials at the Columbia Correctional Institution kept him in isolation for a year before they determined he would be safe in the general prison population. …