Outside the Box Punishments

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/.

Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Pennsylvania Finds 20 Percent of Juveniles Re-Offend Within Two Years, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

A new report issued by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commissionfinds that among juveniles whose cases were closed in 2007, one-in-five recidivated within two years.

The Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Recidivism Report found juvenile recidivism rates to be as high as 45 percent in some counties, with the average length between case closure and recidivism to be 11.5 months.

 Emergency Measles Vaccination Campaign to Protect 125,000 Children in Central African Republic, Unicef

UNICEF and its partners are mounting an emergency measles vaccination campaign in Bangui, the conflict-hit capital of the Central African Republic, after eight children tested positive for the disease in April.

Working with the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization and NGO partners Merlin, IMC, ACF, PU-AMI and COOPI, UNICEF aims to reach 125, 000 children during the 22-26 May campaign.

Recent fighting in the country has led to a breakdown of basic services and increased the risk of disease outbreaks in Bangui and across the country. This, along with poor living conditions, and a historically low vaccination rate for measles of 62 per cent, means that the lives of large numbers of children are now at risk from the disease.

The Oklahoma Tornado: How to Talk to Children About Tragedy and Disaster, The Huffington Post

On Monday, May 20th, an Oklahoma tornado crashed through suburbs, leveling entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow to an elementary school. How much more heartbreaking does it get?

In the aftermath of the Oklahoma tornado tragedy if you’re wondering how to talk to children about tragedy and natural disasters, you’re not alone. It’s totally normal to be bamboozled by such catastrophe. The key, however, is including children in the dialogue.

In India, Rapists Don’t Spare Children, Inter Press Service

According to a recent report by the New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), sexual offences against children in India have reached an “epidemic proportion”.

The 56-page report, citing National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) statistics, stated that rape cases increased from 2,113 cases in 2001 to 7,112 cases in 2011, with a total of 48,338 cases in that period.

D.C. Circuit Weighs Child Pornography Restitution Case, The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times

The thorny question of how to calculate restitution to victims of child pornography came back before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week, with the U.S. Department of Justice defending a proposed formula.

Friday’s arguments marked the second time the court considered the case of Michael Monzel. Monzel pleaded guilty to one count each of distribution and possession of child pornography. A trial judge ordered Monzel to pay $5,000 to a victim known by the pseudonym “Amy,” but on remand from the D.C. Circuit reduced the award to zero, finding the government didn’t produce evidence on how much of Amy’s losses he caused.

The government appealed, arguing U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler was wrong to reduce the award and that its proposed formula – dividing a victim’s total losses by the number of individuals found criminally responsible and then adjusting based on certain factors – represented a fair solution. Monzel’s lawyer, Federal Public Defender A.J. Kramer, said the formula was arbitrary and that Kessler was right to reduce the award after the government presented no evidence linking his client to specific losses.