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Robbins: Mayberry had a cure for ‘affluenza’

POSTED: December 23, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Don’t they watch “The Andy Griffith Show” in Texas?

Perhaps you’ve heard about this story in the national news: A Texas teen was drunk and driving a truck that caused a wreck that left four people dead, and others seriously injured. A juvenile court judge sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years probation and a stint in a ritzy California rehab facility. No jail time.

A psychologist called by the teen’s attorneys testified that Couch suffered from “affluenza,” a condition where his development has been stunted by his parents’ wealth and their propensity to give him everything he wanted.

First, some pre-rant background.

The teen had at least one alcohol-related brush with the law before. On the night of the crash, he had a blood-alcohol level of .24, three times the legal limit, and THC, valium and muscle relaxants were also in his system. He had apparently stolen beer from a local Walmart, and was driving 70 mph (in a 40 mph zone) when the Ford F-350 pickup he was driving swerved and struck a motorist who had broken down, and three people — Good Samaritans —helping the disabled motorist out.

All four — Breanna Mitchell, 24; Brian Jennings, 41; Hollie Boyles, 52; and Shelby Boyles, 21 — died.

Prosecutors in the case were asking for a sentence of 20 years, with at least two years in jail. In a Dallas Morning News story, an assistant district attorney who has prosecuted more than 50 intoxication manslaughter cases, Richard Alpert, said in every one of those cases, the culprit was sentenced to at least some incarceration.

In the story, Couch’s attorney, Reagan Wynn, said Judge Jean Boyd was simply following the law with her sentence.

“If the point of the juvenile system is to rehabilitate these kids and make them productive members of society, then the judge did absolutely the right thing,” Wynn said in the story. “If the point of the juvenile justice system is all about vengeance, then she didn’t do the right thing.”

So according to the “affluenza” defense, the best way to rehabilitate someone who has committed a crime is to not punish them? They are sending him to rehab in a Newport Beach facility that costs $450,000 a year. Is that also where they send criminals that suffer from “povertyitis”?

Listen, I don’t know what strip mall they got this “psychologist” from, but there is no such thing as “affluenza.”

And if there is (and, again, there isn’t), the cure for “affluenza” isn’t to withhold punishment. The cure is: Hold them accountable for their actions.

Which brings me to the “Bailey’s Bad Boy” episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.” In that episode, a young Bill Bixby plays a pompous rich teen who sideswipes a truck in Mayberry. His father plans on getting his son off without any punishment, but young Ronald Bailey (Bixby), after watching Andy hold Opie responsible for his behavior, decides to be accountable and “stand on his own two legs.”

Bailing your kids out of jams doesn’t help them — it handicaps them.

Accountability. As we say here in Georgia, “that’ll cure ’em.”

Len Robbins is editor and publisher of The Clinch County News in Homerville. His column appears weekly.


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