Every so often, a judge somewhere in the country will make headlines for his or her unconventional sentencing. Most recently, it was Judge Marvin Wiggins. When addressing a courtroom filled with people who owed fines for various reasons, the judge provided them with the option of donating blood instead of paying the fine or serving jail time. Those who did received credit toward their fine, but the ruling has raised ethical concerns. At the same time, it provided a glimpse into how these kinds of rulings can help reform the prison system and benefit the wider community.
While using the act of giving blood prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to file an ethics complaint for “violation of bodily integrity,” the act of giving people a choice in their punishment was likely a relief to low-income individuals who struggle to pay fines for non-violent offenses. In addition, the donations provided a great benefit to the community. Offering an alternative to jail time is a policy judges and lawmakers can consider in order to reform the justice system.
What Other Options Are Available?
Judge Wiggins is certainly not the only judge to give out creative sentences. Ohio’s Judge Michael Cicconetti has a reputation for this, as well. In one instance, he had a student who broke a window do yard work for the victim. In another, a driver who passed a school bus in traffic was sentenced to ride with the driver for a day in order to understand the safety concerns involved with operating a bus.
There is a line between ethical and unethical when doling out these kinds of punishments. However, jail alternatives that provide a real opportunity at reform are sorely missing from our justice system. They keep people out of our nation’s overcrowded prisons and benefit the community as a whole.
Right now, these kinds of sentences are few and far between. Without question, an arrest can be a frightening experience. A conviction can have a lifelong impact. That's why you need an attorney with 25 years of experience if you are facing possible jail time, probation or thousands of dollars in fines.
Your rights deserve to be upheld in the court of law. Contact our law office today.