Jefferson County District Court Judge Peter Weir has sentenced Silvia Johnson, dubbed by the media as "the cool mom" to 30 years in the state penitentiary. The prosecutor says she will be eligible for parole in ten years. That doesn't mean she will be paroled in ten years, only that she may be considered for parole after serving that much time. Ms. Johnson pleaded guilty to nine felones and two misdemeanors. She admittted having sex with several boys , aged 14 to 17. There was no way Ms. Johnson was going to be spared jail time. But 30 years? She didn't murder anyone. She didn't rape a pre-pubescent child. Her lawyer said she suffers from a bi-polar disorder, the symptoms of which she masked by using illegal stimulant drugs. This is an outrageous sentence. The goals of sentencing are punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation. Deterrence, or sending a message to others that if they commit the same offense the punishment will be severe, probably is irrevelant in this case. How many mothers are likley to have sex with teenage boys to be cool? I can't think of a single one. That leaves punishment and rehabilitation. By throwing the book at Ms. Johnson, the judge has over-emphasized punishment and for all practical purposes declared she is not capable of being rehabilitated. He can't know that. While I'm not saying that no jail time was appropriate for Ms. Johnson, 30 years is excessive and seems to be a sentence fostered by the media attention and handy moniker of "cool mom" rather than the realities of the situation. People who are sick primarily need mental health treatment. Draconian prison sentences like the one handed down to "the cool mom" serve no one: Not the victims, the public and certainly not Ms. Johnson or her daughter. The judge will have the option to reconsider and reduce Ms. Johnson's sentence in 120 days. I hope he avails himself of it.
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