You didn't read that wrong. That's the story in this article (plus some video) from the Tulsa World, detailing one case in which justice seems to have gone far, far off the tracks:
Patricia M. Spottedcrow, 26, received a 12-year prison sentence last October for selling a total of $31 in marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, 51, was also charged.
In blind guilty pleas before a judge, Spottedcrow received prison time, and her mother received a 30-year suspended sentence. Neither had prior criminal convictions. ...
The judge, who is now retired, said in a previous interview that Spottedcrow's decade-long sentence was imposed because her four young children were in the home at the time of the drug buys. She said first-time offenders usually do not go to prison and alternatives including treatment are typically sought.
When Spottedcrow was booked into the jail after sentencing, some marijuana was found in a jacket she was wearing. She pleaded guilty to a drug possession charge and was given a two-year sentence to run concurrent with her other sentence.
The judge said she gave Starr a suspended sentence so she could care for Spottedcrow's children, who are now 10, 5, 3 and 2.A couple of thoughts:
- Should having kids in the home at the time of a drug deal justify a (much) harsher sentence? Our hunch is that in-home drug dealing is pretty common, and kids are bound to see it. If every sentence got enhanced for in-front-of-the-kids conduct, imagine the impact it would have on our already packed prisons.
- Should judges be required to give at least one caregiver a suspended sentence/probation in family drug conspiracies? Think of the savings to the state: no prison expenses for incarcerating the caregiver, the kids don't go to foster care, the long-term benefits of kids staying with at least some family. There are likely quite a few families engaged in drug trafficking -- should someone always get left behind to care for the kids of those who don't? How would the judge pick the caregiver? Should he be allowed to?