(Long Island, NY) A Nassau County Judge sentenced Tyreek Williams to 21 years in prison for his part in a home invasion gun battle that blinded a ten year old boy in one eye and left him partially paralyzed.
In an unrelated case, a Central Islip man received a five-to-15 year prison sentence for a drunk driving incident that killed two people last December.
In both cases, the guilty verdict and prison time are more than justified, but the question remains. Why did one man get 21 years in a case where there were no deaths, while the drunk driver who killed two gets off considerably lighter with a five-to-fifteen year stint?
The cost of a human life can’t really be measured in terms of how long either of these two people spend rotting in prison, but the thought occurs that we need a better way of assigning punishment in cases like these. Drunk driving and home invasion are about as far apart as you can get in terms of the offense itself. The end result is the same though, people get hurt or killed because of the uncaring actions of the offender.
The drunk driver clearly needs to do far more prison time for taking two lives. Ditto for the home invasion case. But is sending these people to a holding cell really enough? In the words of the infamous Thomas Harris character, Hannibal Lecter from the “Silence Of The Lambs” movies, a sane society would either kill these two idiots,or put them to some use.
How do we use an armed robber and a drunk driver? For a start, we can put them to work -actual work- building technology for the people their offenses have disabled. Talking computers for the blind, wheelchair assembly, all sorts of technology. The two offenders in question may not have maimed everyone on Long Island, but their crimes represent a multitude of handicaps, crippling injuries, otherwise healthy people who have had their lives forever altered by guns, drunk driving, and other misdeeds.
Unfortunately, unless the government hears from a large number of these very people on this issue, chances are it’s not going to change. Ever. Remember the example of the Brady Bill? It took a high-profile debilitating injury to change the gun laws in this country, to enact a seven-day waiting period, and at least TRY to change things for the better. High profile is the way to get things done, folks. Numbers. As in, lots and lots of people getting in the face of the justice system on a daily basis to initiate change.
And what is that needed change? The criminal justice system needs to modify the punishments to make them more appropriate for the crimes, to have the lawbreakers pay back society directly. To force those who commit these crimes to become actively involved in the aftermath of those crimes. Sure, it’s cliched, sure it’s idealist. Pie-in-the-sky. But we’ve been ignoring this for far too long, maybe some idealism is what’s needed here. It’s going to be very difficult for a half-blind young boy to summon up much idealism about the fact that one of the men who put his eye out is going to spend his days pumping iron and eating powdered mashed potatoes.
That doesn’t sound like much of a rehabilitation to me.