Archive for Thursday, July 2, 1992


July 2, 1992


Is it time for a review of our system of sentencing for various types of crimes and criminals?

For example, Jean Harris, a former head mistress of a girls school, was found guilty of murdering a well-known doctor who had been her one-time lover. The 69-year-old woman was sentenced in 1981 to a term of 15 years to life. However, if she had been found guilty of manslaughter, rather than murder, and had a sentence of 8 -25 years, she would have been eligible for an earlier parole date, with a record of good behavior in prison.

According to various reports, the former teacher and school administrator has been a model prisoner and has been working with fellow inmates in their schooling programs.

Think how much more good Harris could be doing if placed on some kind of release program to work with inner-city children or others, rather than to spend her remaining productive years in a prison cell. Also, consider the cost to the state to keep her as a prisoner.

What about Jim Hershberger? The former Wichita oilman and athlete is serving a 9-year, 9-month, prison sentence in Leavenworth after being found guilty of 25 charges of fraud.

Hershberger has suffered the humiliation of being convicted of commiting a crime, and he has served a good amount of time in prison. What good can be accomplished by keeping him in prison any longer when he could be directed to use his talents and efforts to work in so many positive ways with young people in the inner city? Is there anything more to prove by keeping him any longer in a jail cell?

And why would a Hershberger be placed in Leavenworth, while others convicted of similar crimes have been placed in so-called "country club" prisons?

If a person breaks a law, he or she should expect to be punished. Both Harris and Hershberger were found guilty of breaking various laws, and both were sentenced to prison. This is the proper course.

But in both cases, particularly in the Hershberger situation, it would seem they could be released from their prison and accomplish far more on the outside for the betterment of society than they are while rotting in prison.

Granted, the type of crime and type of individual should be of top consideration, but there are bound to be many individuals now in jail or prison who could be monitored upon release from their prisons and who could be making a positive contribution in various segments of our society.

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