A few years ago, a friend committed a crime. He deserved punishment, but there were extenuating circumstances: He was weathering three personal tragedies, continuous pain from severe scoliosis, drank alcohol to relieve some of the pain and overreacted to a perceived threat to his children.
The district attorney prosecuted him for a felony. That cost him his job and devastated his family. I don’t think the DA, judge or anyone felt he was a future threat to society, and I as best remember, the judge even stated that opinion. He could have been punished in a manner that would have maintained his job, i.e., prosecuted as a misdemeanor with punishment of weekend jail, community service or probably some other way in which I am not aware.
He was sent to prison for several years at a high cost to the state, the loss of his income and perhaps early release of someone who really was a threat to our safety. He was injured in prison, is unable to work full time and is now on disability.
An AJC story around that time indicated that our jails were so full that some convicts were housed in county jails. In it, a representative indicated that “public safety is very important in Georgia.”
I would suggest that destroying the lives of people who are self-supporting and not a threat to society puts them and their children more of a risk to our safety than punishment by other means.
I asked a friend who was a DA if cost to society was a factor in sentencing. He said he had talked to quite a few DAs in Georgia and they mostly agree that “all victims want is vengeance.” I can understand victims wanting vengeance but perhaps better conviction and sentencing should also be a consideration for the safety of the rest of us, and potentially future victims of their actions.
My friend is doing OK, but some are so devastated and have a harder time getting a job, and probably turn to crime out of desperation. My friend went from supporting his family to being on disability because of an injury in prison. Prison does not seem a very good option for people who have disabilities.
We probably have made some people who made mistakes more of a threat to our safety. Yet, retrying the past is futile. I would love to hear from our DA, judges and our legislators as to what is being done now to truly improve our public safety through our judicial system. Or is our objective still just vengeance?