THE BLOG
12/24/2014 10:44 am ET Updated Feb 23, 2015

A Tale of Another Three Young Lives

Marilyn Nieves via Getty Images

In response to the Dec. 21, 2014 story regarding the sentencing of Noah Kleinman (Defendant rolls the dice on pot penalty,The Los Angeles Times), while I do not condone Mr. Kleinman's behavior, I support Judge Wright's decision to put this young father behind bars for nearly 18 years, leaving his two young children without a father and creating a single mother, EVEN LESS.

Please explain to me the fiscal and empirical data, as well as logic behind Judge Wright's decision? Rather than formulating any alternatives or even confiscating a chunk of the hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Kleinman accumulated for the "sale of medical marijuana," an offense which NEARLY HALF THE NATION now permits, Judge Wright thinks it's in the best interest of us, the tax paying public, to instead pay over ONE MILLION DOLLARS to support Mr. Kleinman's existence in prison?

Is anyone running these figures when these judgments are rendered especially when this is a non-violent, non-serious dated War on Drug case? Judge Wright's comment "I can't make rulings against a political backdrop" is callous, pompous and borders ignorant. Study after study, including a special report from Harvard University, re-affirms Americans prefer rehabilitation over incarceration so his logic is completely incorrect and quite honestly, shocking. Are we really allowing judges to make decisions that don't at least in part reflect what we the American taxpayer would like to see happen with the funding we provide? While every statistical citing states that it is Americans that have this seemingly insatiable need to incarcerate as the United States has the largest prison population in the world, why are we not examining the fact that it's actually judges like U.S. District Judge Otis D. Cartwright making these decisions for us and more importantly, why on earth are we allowing this to continue to happen today?

In fact, it will actually cost our society FAR LESS to set up college education funds that take these two children through law school at Harvard if they so wish at $243,000, place Mr. Kleinman under house arrest (and allow him to incur his cost of living charges), and allow Voula, the mother in this family, to continue working and support this family as Mr. Kleinman will not be able to do so for years because of his criminal record. All that incarceration does is delay the inevitable mess that comes at the end of most inmate sentences: the prisoner is released, given a whopping $187 in which to sustain him or herself and a criminal record which near guarantees lifetime unemployment. Moreover, data demonstrates that alternatives such as education actually REDUCE recidivism. With this alternative option, Mr. Kleinman can at least stay home and tend to the children which I personally can tell you, as a single mother, would be a tremendous burden to lift as childcare costs are exorbitant today. In cases like this, we have not even factored all the mental health issue costs society incurs, as 95 percent of our imprisoned will absolutely be released back into society. For decades, mental health advocates such as the American Psychological Association have confirmed that prisons are becoming the new asylums. Incarceration is not working. When are senseless cases, such as Mr. Kleinman's, which also cost us money, going to stop?

Rather than burdening our system with the cost of paying for the mistakes of people such as Mr. Kleinman, we must devise alternatives such as seizing the cash from offenses like this one, utilizing the money to create jobs for rehabilitation programs for example, and/or allowing a parent to serve his commitment to his family which benefits all of us as a society. The War on Drug, "get tough on crime" message has never worked and it will continue to fail and compound the flaws of a system that is already defective. Judge Wright's decision simply solidifies a grim future for the lives of not one, but three innocent people who in an increasingly expensive world absolutely need the presence of another parent/contributor in order to survive. And all in the name of "righting a wrong" that's actually not even considered a crime in nearly half of the United States? It's completely upsurd not to mention borders unconstitutional.

If we are going to start task forces and the like to correct/oversee these system flaws, we should consider requiring that a breakdown of costs be provided with every single judgment rendered. There should be transparency regarding the use of our tax dollars not to fund astronomically expensive, ineffective sentencing determinations that ultimately penalize we the people, but more importantly, permanently tear apart families and hurt innocent children, the most.