Parenting from prison: The collateral damage of harsh mandatory sentences

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  • KathySC Gam, MD
    April 2, 2014 10:51 a.m.

    I appreciated the information in this article. I think its good to see the other side of the issue.
    I do disagree with a major point. Several times it was mentioned that mandatory sentencing became popular because of citizens being fed up with rising crime rates. I don't think this is accurate, or if it is its only part of the story. The reason most of the time for mandatory sentencing laws is to take the power away from judges who were being too lenient. People are tired of seeing repeat offenders who get probation or short sentences who then turn around and commit worsening and more violent crime. Here are some current examples:
    •Montana Judge Todd Baugh, who gutted a sentence for a statutory rapist saying the girl “looked much older” even though the rapist was her teacher who knew her age
    •Texas Judge Jean Boyd, who let the rich kid off after killing four people because his lawyer said he suffered from “affluenza”
    •Nevada Judge Brent Adams, who reduced a child molester’s sentence from life to one year after the fact.
    Mandatory sentencing will continue as long as judges make rulings like these.

  • The Authority Richfield, UT
    March 31, 2014 5:14 p.m.

    The problem with this article is that it paints a picture of mandatory minimums tearing apart families with unreasonable sentences.
    The reality is that most people who are sentenced to prison on a first or second offense never actually see the prison until they've violated their probation multiple times. The vast majority of felony cases end with suspended prison sentences and probation. They only wind up going to prison after breaking the law again and again before a prison sentence is ever imposed.
    This sad tale of a woman wronged by a system that's hands are tied by minimum sentences is an extreme case of a unique example at best, but more likely a fantasy at worst. I'm not saying lock them up and throw away the key is the answer, but at some point people who peddle poison to youths and help fund the evils of drug cartels in Mexico need to be held accountable. Mollycoddling people only seems to exasperate the problems.

  • BryceDeMann Murray, UT
    March 31, 2014 7:07 a.m.

    Single mom with 4 kids at age 20 and the problem we see is a mandatory minimum sentence? Were her parents serving these prison terms as well? It's OK if Plaxico Burress spends 18 months in jail for having an unregistered gun. But this "mom" should get mercy? Maybe planned parenthood should ad some jail term education to the program, then she could have made an informed decision.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    March 30, 2014 8:35 p.m.

    How does this rationalise with 'clamp down on', 'crack down on' and 'lock 'em up and throw away the key'? of contemporary conservatism?

  • my two cents777 ,
    March 30, 2014 10:19 a.m.

    While it is just so sad that children are the "collateral" damage - it is NOT the system who has damaged these children it is their parents who have CHOSEN to break laws, usually far more than once, who have destroyed their own families. Don't blame the "system".

    March 29, 2014 6:51 p.m.

    The reason we know GaryO is right is because the most crime-ridden areas of our country, like Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles, are bastions of conservative ideology and government.

    Oh, wait...

    @The Authority - spot on.

    This article takes one sad example of judicial over-reach and pretends it's typical of our prison population. I suspect she's very unique among those given harsh sentences. Even still, before she went to prison, she was an unmarried drug dealer with several children from different fathers (yeah - tell me that's a stretch because it wasn't brought out in the article. Let's not be naively daft here).

    By this woman's own admission, the reality of prison and the programs she took therein opened her eyes. What are the chances she becomes the model mother without a prison sentence, and never reverts to abysmal judgment to make her way through life? I'd say extremely slim.

    That being said, I believe corrections are in order, and this woman's unrelenting, unforgiving sentence was a travesty of justice. I'd fight for her, but IMO to say she's a fair representation of our prison population is highly dishonest.

  • Clifton Palmer McLendon Gilmer, TX
    March 29, 2014 11:21 a.m.

    The solution to prison overcrowding is simple: Quit committing felonies.

  • What in Tucket? Provo, UT
    March 29, 2014 9:15 a.m.

    I guess it is all Bush's fault. I think it is the welfare mentality that is the cause and the nanny state. Crime was far less in the 1950's before the welfare programs started up. Actually I think cocaine is less dangerous than marijuana or alcohol.

  • Kronk Blackfoot, ID
    March 27, 2014 12:16 a.m.

    The idea behind mandatory minimums is "a felony is a felony is a felony." But some felonies are so much more serious than others. For that reason, a "judge" should be allowed to "judge" what the sentence should be. I sat on a jury for a drug dealing trial in which there was NO physical evidence, only the testimony of another convicted drug dealer. We did not convict due to the poor credibility of the only witness the government could find and the absolute lack of physical evidence of the crime. Not even sure a crime occurred, let alone that this particular man did it.

  • The Authority Richfield, UT
    March 26, 2014 2:17 p.m.

    Hey GaryO,
    Your post reflects the naive view of the extreme left. It's the criminals who are the victims — people who steal, murder and sell illegal drugs are the victims. Give me a break.
    The very social programs you laud have given rise to the idea that people don't need to work. Many people have no want or expectation that they should work, because why should they when welfare can pay their rent and food bills. It's a disservice to people who are told since they are a minority in a poor neighborhood they need to just live off welfare. It robs them of personal pride, self esteem and the ability to contribute positively to society.
    I'd like to say I feel sorry for this lady who can't be with her kids, but if she's in prison because of a mandatory sentence, she deserves it. Mandatory sentences are not handed out lightly, and only come after multiple incidents of criminal activity or violent crime. She wasn't thrown in prison because she had a joint on her, she did something awful, most likely repeatedly.

  • Kay Hunt Celebration, FL
    March 26, 2014 9:08 a.m.

    Having worked in the federal court system when the mandatory minimums were beginning I feel impressed to say that I saw judges not being allowed to use good judgment in sentencing. Their hands tied because of the mandatory minimums. Justice was not served in these cases of too light of sentence or to harsh depending on the crime, the victim, the defendant and the prosecutor. I am glad to see that there is a swing back the other way. Why send a person to jail at a really high price to the tax base when a shorter sentence and home monitoring can do the trick. If it does not than use a longer sentence. Prison does not change the behavior it may only teach new ones.

  • KC Ship Logan, UT
    March 25, 2014 1:40 p.m.

    Jesus himself was judged by his peers as a criminal and convicted of a capitol offense. He was put to death for his "crimes." I have no doubt that at the time, his fellow citizens were certain they were right. Funny how time has a way of changing perspectives.

  • I know it. I Live it. I Love it. Provo, UT
    March 23, 2014 3:17 p.m.

    BWNE, I agree... completely.

  • BWNE Hickman, NE
    March 21, 2014 11:02 a.m.

    I agree and had the same thought process as I know it. And a big factor in changing my mind is how my taxes, property and all keep going up and up meanwhile we build more prisons, hire more agencies and incarcerate more people than any other place on the planet. I was a big supporter of 3 strikes and have also changed my mind on that. After looking at facts and studies of the past 20 years we really need to be teaching these offenders how to act and behave. We as a nation are creating a monster by simply locking them up forever. Eye for an eye, if you murder, you die. I know many don't agree but I don't understand why any kind of drug crime would be more sever than murder! You want to penalize for a drug crime, go to the cartels in the 3rd world countries and start there. Lock down our boarders. Would be cheaper than housing the worlds inmates.....

  • crazladie Draper, UT
    March 21, 2014 3:32 a.m.

    This is sooo tragic in so many ways! Who can ever say what they would do, had they walked in anothers shoes...sure, she broke the law and deserved punishment, but 30 years??? Some of the comments here make me think how heartless we are becoming! This was not justice! This is exactly why BIGGER government is such a horrible idea! Let the states govern themselves for the most part, and let our judges judge the way they were meant to when this country was founded! Sure, mistakes will be made, but none as misplaced as this! No system is perfect, but this country is headed in disastrous direction, and WE THE PEOPLE are the only ones that can change it! Stop relying on the government to say and do everything! Get involved, and serve and find out what is happening locally! Soon we all will have no choices, just like our poor judges! Can you imagine how they feel dealing out these horrific sentances! So sad!

  • I know it. I Live it. I Love it. Provo, UT
    March 20, 2014 9:13 p.m.

    Brilliant article!

    I used to question this, but I was WAY wrong. I was too focused on what we think Justice is today, and forgot what will actually be helpful and effective. I actually now believe house arrest is the perfect solution, as long as the person wasn't putting their children in danger.

    Think about it... people aren't spending enough time with their children these days anyway. The more they do, the more their love grows as well as the desire to be responsible for the sake of their children. The children would benefit from it. The adult would benefit from it.

    The reason why problems are increasing is because moral responsibility is decreasing. Less people believe in religious responsibilities, and if that continues... family responsibilities are at least a decent compromise.

    If anything, such a radical departure from our broken system would probably be a real wake up call today.

    1) Keep families safe
    2) Keep families together
    3) Teach people responsibility at the same time

    I can find nothing wrong with it, at all. A brick wall doesn't require care and love. A child does. Families need more love these days.

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    March 20, 2014 7:19 p.m.

    Hey TLFinSLC - What makes you think mandatory minimums keep crime down?

    We have over six times as many people in prison as Canada does (per capita), and their crime rate is much lower than ours.

    So how do you figure?

    "Beginning in 1987, when the new mandatory sentencing law took effect, the violent crime rate actually rose over the next four years by a startling 24 percent and did not return to its 1987 level until a decade later."

    All mandatory minimums do, aside from burdening society with more debt, is make it impossible for judges to employ some common sense in sentencing.

  • pocyUte Pocatello, ID
    March 20, 2014 2:45 p.m.

    I get it, there are inconsistencies in the system,

    However, the collateral damage isn't from mandatory minimums the collateral damage is from people breaking the law, period.

  • Kathy. Iowa, Iowa
    March 20, 2014 2:18 p.m.

    This really reminds me of the sob story about the young man that broke into a house with a gun and was shot and killed by the homeowner. His family wanted the homeowner tried for murder because they knew this armed man confronting a man in his own home really wasn't going to use the gun he brought for the crime.

  • TLFinSLC Salt Lake City, UT
    March 20, 2014 2:08 p.m.

    I still agree with mandatory minimums... they stated that crime rates have gone down, and the stronger stance we take against crime the more word will get out to the criminals to obey the law if they don't want their families subjected to the outcomes of their bad choices. It's unfortunate that innocent children have to be taken care of the rest of society when parents are irresponsible, but I would rather see that than innocent children being raised by criminals.

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    March 20, 2014 12:15 p.m.

    That right folks, America the land of the free is just a wild claim.

    America is the land of the imprisoned.

    Why? . . . Because of political "Conservatives" who keep holding this nation back from the success we deserve.

    We have over SIX times the incarceration as Canada. And Canada has lower crime rates in EVERY category. The homicide rate in the US is TWICE as high as Canada's.

    Canada is a much more liberal, proactive, and progressive country that emphasizes social programs for preventing crime, not more cops, and not more prisons. The USA also outranks Canada in the number of police per capita.

    Here in the US, as backward and "Conservative" as we are, we focus on police buildup and building prisons. Sure, somebody profits from all this (at the great expense of the nation), but it should not happen.

    We need to get our priorities straight in this nation.

    Yes, it's nice to think of ourselves as "the Greatest Nation in the World," but the way we handle crime and punishment, and the way we treat our citizens makes us look like fools.