Letter: Society has responsibility to rehabilitate criminals
I read the Gazette-Journal faithfully every week and was awestruck by the "Readers Write" letter on Sept. 2, 2010 ("Make the punishment fit the offender"). About a year ago, I would have shared part of the uneducated opinion of the author.
It certainly does seem to average citizens with no legal or law enforcement backgrounds that criminals, for the most part, do get their crimes nolle prossed, dismissed or receive "light sentencing" and even repeat chances. Many unfortunately do enter a revolving door at the courthouse.
I’m sure if asked, any lawyer, judge or probation officer would attest to the many factors that affect all decisions in the legal process. There is an intricate web that judges and lawyers go through which makes decisions more complex than giving an elementary decision of "lock ’em up and throw away the key."
For 32 years of my life, I was a law-abiding citizen. I broke the law and am now currently paying for my crime, which based on the good morals and values my parents had raised me with, I should be held accountable for. Even with past adversities in my life that may have brought me where I am today, I take full responsibility for my actions.
I agree that there are punishments that don’t seem to fit the crime. Recently, a man in Mathews was sentenced to only two years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, while a man in Gloucester County Jail is serving a one-year sentence for failure to pay child support (for reasons he has stated were due to a serious and debilitating car accident after which he was unable to work).
Another woman is serving just 90 days for a felony charge of heroin, and for my first offense, I am serving six months.
Yes, it is wrong to disregard laws—period. However, criminals are still people who have made mistakes. What are criminals learning by being thrown in jail and assessed multitudes of fines and costs? From my short time here it hasn’t taken long to feel the pain, embarrassment and shame that has cost me my job, home, children, friends and respect I had worked hard to achieve.
Others here have lost the same—some more, some less—but what do we gain by sitting in our cells 23 hours a day? Bitterness, depression, anger and a loss of hope for rebuilding a successful life in society. It is society’s responsibility to rehabilitate and educate us "broken people." In my opinion, it does take a village.