Yesterday, Felicity Huffman, the first of the infamous college entry exam scammers got out of federal prison after serving an 11 out of 14 day sentence. She is now required to fulfill 250 hours of community service. My head is still rattling over this one. In Ohio, a friend of mine was sentenced to 90 days-not in jail, but in State prison for failure to pay child support. Another friend’s 10 year old son spent 11 days in ajuvenile facility for retrieving a baseball fromthe roof of his elementary school on a weekend-thus, “Causing Panic.” In another case, yet another gentleman has pled guilty for public indecency for urinating behind a tree at my favorite fishing hole. He will spend 60 days in prison and receive 2 years probation and be required under the Adam Walsh Act to register as a tier 1 sex offender.
WHERE HAVE WE GONE AS A SOCIETY???
I want to deconstruct each of these crimes and their punishment and take an honest look at how these could be better remedied.
For Felicity Huffman, the only thing I can say is, What a waste of time and resources. What a WASTE! Prison is hardly a place to send someone for 14 DAYS. The cost of incarceration at federal level is ridiculous in and of itself. In NO way has Ms. Huffman endangered any lives. True, a better candidate was cheated out of placement in an Ivy-league college, but is it truly worth PRISON? 250 community service hours is fitting. Heck…I think community service hours would be an EXCELLENT way to provide disposition for her crime.
My friend was ordered to pay child support. I agree. Don’t make a child if you’re not going to provide for your child. He made 4. He worked in a high position and made a high salary. When the job he was working suffered a series of layoffs, his position was eliminated. The unemployment was not enough to cover his child support payments. He filed for a reduction but his wife had a feminist lawyer and the case was heard by an activist judge. He lost his case. A month later, the judge sent him to prison-not jail, for 60 days.
My friend has a very precocious 10 year old son. Like 10 year old boys worldwide, his brain only has 2 settings: Thought and ACTION!!! As we all know, only one setting works at one time. Both settings work well. He is an A+ student. He is active in sports, he is friendly and polite. He was playing ball on a Saturday afternoon with friends when he hit the ball and made a home run. The ball-the ONLY ball they had went on top of an awning at school. Without thinking, he climbed the drain pipe and retrieved the ball and went back to playing. A week later, he was served with papers to appear before the judge. The security cameras showed he “Breached security causing panic”, a funny charge since nobody was at the school to panic! Our juvenile judge has no sense of humor and ZERO imagination, and, as panic is not tolerated, the kid goes to Juvenile Hall for 11 days. While there, older kids beat him unconscious in the holding cell and stole his shoes. The cameras at the JDC were not working in the holding cell at that time.
Finally, we all know the story. A man and his son and his son’s buddy (both teenagers) went fishing. Nature calls-usually more persistent when a dam with trickling water is involved. Add to that, the man was diabetic and there are no facilities at the Dam. He goes behind a tree to relieve himself. Unbeknownst to him, a sheriff’s deputy was checking the parking lot, as the Dam is a high drug trafficking area. He was escorted back to the cruiser and served a ticket and a notice to appear. He was sent to prison-not jail for 60 days, placed on probation for 2 years, and will be among our happy family of registered citizens for 15 years.
WHAT DO THESE CASES HAVE IN COMMON?
Overkill. For one thing, why have we jumped to incarceration as a first resort for all crimes? Especially prison? I thought only certain felonies qualified for state or Federal prison. In none of these cases were the safety or well being of society compromised. 4 people with otherwise stellar pasts are now soiled with the results of incarceration. The very fabric of well meaning society has been torn by extreme jumps to incarcerate and demonize.
There is no question that infractions of written laws were cited in each case. Each of these cases could have been handled in a more common sense way that would have benefited society while sending a message of correction to the offender.
Had I made the rules, Ms. Huffman would have indeed spent community service-but her community service would have been directed. Perhaps tutoring underprivileged students. To make her punishment demoralizing, I would have forced her to do her community service incognito and placed a gag order on the proceedings so she could take no gain for it.
The child support issue should have been looked at with common sense. It wasn’t. Placing a man in prison does NOT help him come up with money to pay child support. Congratulation s, Judge. Through your officious pontification, you have cheated a man out of being able to provide and his children from being able to receive. How about this??? Provide him with some kind of help finding suitable work, possibly training to be able to be a better provider?
My heart cries for this poor kid. Thanks to the epidemic of panic fed and digested by this judge, a 10 year old will be aged well beyond his years before he sees 11. This was not a lesson. This was not even punishment. This was torture. Literally, a threat would be punishment enough. Maybe requiring him to join an actual little league team would be a great gesture???
Finally, friends, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Perhaps providing a porta potty or 2…and a garbage can for trash would help. There is a lot of trash at the dam…and maybe suggesting this gentleman clean some of it up and placing it in the can while urinating behind the closed door of the new pirta potty would be a worthwhile outcome???
Wastefulness. A waste of decent human beings. A waste of MY tax dollars. A waste of time. A waste of reputations. Is THIS a proper way to pursue justice? If I made the rules, things would be different. If I made the rules, prison populations would be manageable because only those whose crimes caused damage or injury or posed a danger to society would be there. When I was in the military, about1/5th of the people there were facing a decision: military service or jail. One of these men made the highest rank an enlisted man could make. The resources that live inside the walls of a prison are valuable, if only we could tap into the value of each person incarcerated. If only I made the rules.