Years ago I was watching the news and they had a clip about two 18 years old girls who had been drinking and driving. They had swerved off the road and hit a tree. The girl who was riding passenger was killed. The girl who had been driving survived.
The parents of the girl who passed away were devastated. Clearly angry at the girl who had been driving. Knowing their little girl was now gone from this world.
When the judge (or jury) finally announced the verdict, they sentenced the girl to life in prison. Upon hearing this the girl screamed out and began flailing her arms about crying out loud “no, no!!” as the police officers grabbed her. At that moment she realized that she was about to spend the rest of her life (or at least the rest of her prime life) behind bars. She was only 18. She had just barely become an adult and suddenly her life was being taken away from her.
I remember the video clip and something about the way she reacted to the sentence that was being give to her. It struck me hard. It was powerful and frightening. It was the first time I had ever seen a female given a life sentence and especially one that was so young and so average everyday middle class. It hit me and it scared the shit out of me. I had seen plenty of clips about some young guys that were sentenced for something awful. I think I had become desensitized to that over the years. But seeing this young average girl sentenced like this was new and really drove the point home.
I’m sure that girl probably wished she would have also been killed in that accident.
Now I’m not trying to take away from the loss of the other family when I tell this story. It’s a horrible thing. It really is. But it’s a scary thought to think that in an instance one wrong move and your entire life can change.
I also sort of wonder if the punishment was too harsh. I debate in my head sometimes what the roll of our prison system should be, especially going forward into the future. Do we continue onward toward a future where we embrace punishment and revenge through imprisonment? In my head there is a difference between an 18 year old girl who gets drunk one night and crashes a car into a tree killing a passenger and someone who goes out and murders someone on purpose. The goal of putting the murderer behind bars is to prevent them from murdering again. But how much would you bet that girl would never drink and drive again? Obviously it’s devastating enough to lose her friend and know she is responsible. Obviously the parents are wrought with anger and sadness over the loss of their daughter. So is putting her behind bars for the rest of her life the right choice? Or is it more about the parents (and/or state) getting some twisted form of revenge? Eye for an eye kind of thing.
I also question how much responsibility should be placed on the person who gets into a car with a drunk driver.
I don’t know. Just some thoughts.