The Associated Press has an article out comparing the sentences handed down in prosecutions involving those awful cases where a parent or other caregiver accidentally leaves a small child behind in a hot car leading to the child’s death. There are some startling statistics — for one thing, women tend to be sentenced much more harshly than men.
My question though is more basic: why file charges at all in cases where the act was clearly unintentional? What do we hope to accomplish by punishing a grieving and guilt-ridden parent even more?
There’s a harshness that’s settled into our culture in recent decades — one that celebrates toughness for toughness’ sake, treats forgiveness and mercy as sucker bets and tends to view throwing the book at someone as the only legitimate response to any mistake. But sometimes tragedies are best just treated as tragedies — situations where it’s better for the law to just walk away.
Surely that should be true in most of these cases.
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