Excessive sentences drive America’s race to incarcerate, although studies show no link between the length of time served by an offender and his or her likelihood of returning to crime.
In Ohio and around the country, the criminal justice system appears to have given up on second chances and redemption, even for the youngest of offenders. Michigan has sentenced juveniles as young as 14 years old to life in prison, without parole.
Such sentences often are unjust. They cost taxpayers million of dollars in incarceration costs. Society loses people who eventually could contribute to it.
That’s why the just sentence handed down last week by Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Frederick McDonald was encouraging. He sentenced James Moore, 21, of Toledo, to three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
Moore’s codefendants, Keshawn Jennings, 21, and Antwaine Jones, 19, were convicted this month of aggravated murder and other charges and face up to life in prison when they are sentenced next week. Seeking a rival gang member, Jennings and Jones shot up the wrong apartment, killing 1-year-old Keondra Hooks and wounding her 2-year-old sister.
Moore drove the getaway vehicle. He admitted his role in this senseless and brutal crime, and promised to testify against Jennings and Jones.
But Moore didn’t “flip” only to save himself. He appeared genuinely repentant, and his apology to the grieving family sincere.
Human behavior cannot be predicted with certainty. Still, by all indications, Moore will redeem himself and become a productive citizen when he leaves prison, instead of costing taxpayers $25,000 a year for decades. Moore may even influence other young men to stay out of gangs and trouble and, by doing so, prevent other such tragedies.
Throwing away the keys would have served neither justice nor the taxpayer. In giving this young man a second chance, Judge McDonald served both.