Parking lotI wrote previously about the case of a father who left their child in the car by accident, only to discover his tragic error when he left for home after work. At the time, I argued that such events call for empathy, not judgement. Sadly, this topic is cropping up again as a Virginia mother was sentenced to serve six years of probation and to perform 400 hours of community service on account of leaving her son in the car one morning. Janice D'Arcy over at the Washington Post writes about the futility of using the law to "punish" parents who are suffering unimaginable trauma already, and she cites a separate case to prove her point:
"Just look at the case of Kevin C. Kelly, another Virginia parent convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with his baby's hot-car death in 2002. Kelly, who lives in Manassas, was ordered to serve one day in jail every year for seven years and to perform community service around the date of his daughter's birthday.
"Did we really need our criminal justice system to remind a father of his daughter's death, a death he caused, on the anniversary of her birthday? More importantly, did Kelly's prosecution prevent more hot car deaths?"
D'Arcy's commentary strikes at the heart of the issue. Is the primary purpose of the law to make an example of wrong doers, or is it there to prevent such incidents occurring again? Much like the grieving mother given jail time for her son's memorial tattoo, it seems to me that the law should be applied with very careful moderation when it comes to families who have suffered such losses.
Yes, we should all look out for our kids. Yes, parents should be careful not to put their children in danger. But when mistakes happen - judgement and criminal prosecution should be a last resort. Much better to talk about how to prevent any more tragedies from happening in the first place.
Judge not is the first rule of parenting. Maybe it should apply to judges too.
This post was written by Sami Grover.
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