On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, an Oklahoma District Court Judge sentenced a seventeen year old to 10 years of church, as punishment for manslaughter. The stipulation was part of a 10-year deferred sentence based on the guilty plea. This particular judge is well known for requiring church attendance as part of probation agreements. Besides the alarming First Amendment issues with this particular sentence, this is just one example of the growing trend of judges looking to alternative means of punishment.
Do “outside the box” punishments have a place in the legal system? Proponents of rehabilitation find alternative forms of punishment helpful to an offender they view as troubled, and in need of help, not incarceration. On the other hand, those who seek retribution and deterrence might find these types of punishments as too lenient. It is becoming more common for judges to seek alternative punishments for habitual offenders, as well as for certain crimes: yoga for anger management in family violence cases, public shaming for shoplifting, and even dietary restrictions in a case of animal cruelty.
The creativity of judges is endless, but does this alternative method serve the correct purpose? Are some of these even constitutional? This issue is particularly interesting for juveniles since it is well established that juveniles are different from adults. In a system that claims rehabilitation as its top priority, should juvenile justices make alternative punishments a priority? The Juvenile Justice system could benefit from using more community programs, as well as identifying and addressing specific issues, like education.
Featured image courtesy of http://easyquestion.net/thinkagain/2011/02/18/think-outside-the-box/.