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Judge rules for rehabilitation
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Judge rules for rehabilitation

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I read on Oct. 23 about Judge McKeon of Eastern Montana who has caused some outrage over a “lenient sentence” of a man who raped a 12 year old girl. The Montana statute requires a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for anyone convicted of rape, incest or sexual abuse of a child twelve years or younger.

Judges are allowed to “dole” out less severe punishment in a case where a court-appointed evaluator determines that the person so convicted is “afforded a better opportunity for rehabilitation and for the ultimate protection of the victim and society.” The judge cited this exception when he gave the man a 30 year suspended sentence with sixty days in jail, followed by sex offender treatment and probation with many restrictions. The victim’s mother and grandmother wrote letters in support of community-based treatment in order that the offender and his family better heal.

This decision, while fully within the purview of the judge’s responsibilities, has engendered an online petition for McKeon’s impeachment.

Outrage at this crime, while understandable, does not justify this level of vigilante reaction. Do we as a people embrace the concept of restorative justice, or are we still in the rut of punitive revenge? Looking at our exceptionally high rate of incarceration, relative to the rest of developed countries, can one but wonder about our previously chosen path and maybe other possibilities? Perhaps instead of castigation Judge McKeon should be celebrated for a sane and even courageous decision.

                                                                       Tim Crawford

                                                                       Belgrade

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