Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Are penalties for small crimes too harsh?

No one likes the idea that our taxes are supporting adults that are in prison where they get free room and board, unless they present a real danger to society. However, the way the system works, there are countless cases of people who committed small offenses and have to be in jail. By going to jail or having felonies attached to their records, they are greatly set back in life and their problems just snowball. I heard two cases in Northern Virginia that made me think about how the courts could have handled them differently, specially when it comes to child support.

Case # 1: A 31 year old man (let’s call him T) who was kept away from his father while growing up by his mother finally reconciles with his Dad. He abused drugs in his youth but now is clean. Because of his drug activities in his past, he had to spend time in jail. With his record and lack of education, he has a limited choice of jobs. He lives with his old grandfather, who does not have anyone to take care of him and suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

T rented a TV and one day, and because he was short on cash, he decided to take the TV to a pawn shop so he could make some money. He works some odd jobs which he supports himself and his grandfather with. Since he was behind on the monthly rent for the TV, the store owner calls him and asks him to return it. He stupidly tells them the TV is in the pawn shop, and that he had planned to get it later.

He is slapped with 2 counts of felony. A public attorney will defend him, but he may be convicted, which will further hinder his chances of getting other jobs. What should have been a civil matter becomes a criminal matter. T might go to jail for being stupid.

Case # 2: A man who also had a past conviction of drug dealing in a small scale and therefore works odd jobs owes back money in child support to the mother of his daughter. The court mandates that he pay a monthly sum that is very high for someone who does not have a full time job. Since he falls behind in his payments, he is sentenced to go to jail for failure to pay child support.

Meanwhile, his child support debt grows while interest is added to it. He is allowed to work days and report back to prison after his employer asks the court to free him during the day. He pays the sum he owes until he is up to date with his child support. He is let go and continues to pay for the child support. However, the amount determined by the courts is too much for his small income and he falls behind again. He has no one else to ask for money. Again, he is sent back to prison where he clearly cannot work and pay any child support.

What gives? Why is the system pushing people to the brink and digging them deeper instead of helping them succeed? It seems social workers, along with the Justice System, needs to rethink the penalties for such cases. Maybe the punishment can be community service instead of jail. The cycle then repeats itself generation after generation: drugs, lack of education, latchkey kids, low pay, alchohol abuse…

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March 3, 2010 - Posted by | Grievances, Society

1 Comment »

  1. Hello. This is Brandon. I posted this while intoxicated and regret making my name public. If you could please remove my name from that post, I’d be very grateful. Thank you.

    Comment by Brandon Fulmer | June 1, 2011 | Reply


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