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Creative Sentencing

April 2, 2008

Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr. has sentenced three Spanish-speaking defendants who plead guilty to criminal conspiracy to commit robbery to . . . learning to read and write English, earning their GEDs, and working full time.  The defendants, who had already spent at least four months in jail, were immediately paroled.

I think the defendants will benefit from Judge Olszewski’s sentence, far more so than spending time in prison.  I am sure some will have problems with Judge Olszewski’s creative sentencing, but we should think about the purpose of our court system – to punish or to reform?

It would be interesting to see feedback from the prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys out there!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2008 1:35 pm

    As a former Assistant District Attorney I must comment on this unusual departure from a proper punishment for a serious crime. First off, Robbery is the taking of property from another by force or the threat of force, an act that society should not and does not condone. Usually robbery victims are persons who appear weak and defenseless, and as a prosecutor we must stand up for these victims of crime.

    As a former prosecutor, I would agree and request that as a condition of their sentence these Defendants learn to read and write English, earn their GEDs, and after release while on parole and/or probation obtain full time employment. However, given the serious nature of robbery (not a mere theft) I would not depart from the sentencing guidelines and would hope that these Defendants serve the appropriate time in prison. While in prison they can earn GEDs and learn English as many Defendants currently do on a daily basis in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

  2. April 2, 2008 1:43 pm

    As for the purpose of our court system, it is, in my opinion, to (1) punish the guilty appropriately given the nature of the offense, (2) attempt to reform the offender, and (3) to protect victims of crime.

    All three of these can be achieved by a combination of incarceration, education, and job training.

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