Why do we send people to prison? One reason is punishment for committing a crime. Another is to rehabilitate those who committed the wrongdoing. What good is locking someone up if they're just going to come out and commit the same or worse crimes? And so, that leads me to this report from ABC News 10 San Diego:
The part that interests me is the rehabilitation part of incarceration. If someone does time and then gets out of the slammer and commits another crime, then their initial stay behind bars was a failure in my eyes. We paid to feed, clothe and house them. Then we send them out to re-commit those crimes or maybe worse, new crimes they learned about while behind bars. In that case, we got nothing in return but more crime. So we didn't do our job.
Now you take Judy Lynn Hayman. She was 23 years old when she escaped from a Midwestern prison 37 years ago. Yesterday she was captured in San Diego where she lived a crime free life for THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS.
Hayman pleaded guilty in June 1976 to a larceny charge in Wayne County, Mich., and was sentenced to serve between 16 months and two years in custody, according to prison officials there.
Ten months later, she escaped from the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility. She remained a fugitive until this week, using various aliases.
Let's consider whatever she did was wrong, non-violent, but wrong. She pleaded guilty and served 10 months time -- perhaps enough for her particular non-violent crime of larceny. Unfortunately, her sentence was for a minimum of 16 months, so her early departure wasn't condoned.
Prison was too barbaric and cruel to her. She felt she was ready to reintegrate into society as a law abiding citizen. She couldn't take it any longer and she took a huge chance and broke out. We may think she was free, but think again.
She lived not only the remainder of her sentence but the ensuing 35 or so years constantly looking over her shoulder, the fear of being discovered and re-apprehended for who she really was, an escaped con. That's a hefty weight to bear. Living in fear can be even more of a punishment than a physical prison.
During that time she gave birth to, raised and supported a son -- he's living crime free so obviously she was a good and strong influence on him and his character or he'd be doing time in a cell like his mom once did.
The point is not whether this woman was right in escaping, but what to do with her now? Should she be charged with unlawful escape and add that onto her prior sentence or should we look at what the purpose was in incarcerating her to start with? She was to be punished, granted. And she did serve 10 months, basically 2/3's of her minimum sentence. But hasn't she proved by her exemplary existence after her escape that she had learned her lesson? Aren't those 30 plus years living in fear worth some credit?
I hope the Michigan justice system will take into consideration what for and why they sentence people to jail. I'd prefer a woman or man who's rehabilitated be back on the streets than someone who's served their term and reverts to recidivism. Prison isn't a good environment under any circumstances. Yet it does serve a purpose. But sometimes correctional institutions (notice the word correctional and not punishment) don't do their job. Maybe they did with Judy Lynn Hayman. She's proven she's learned the lesson of her bad ways. I'm hoping Michigan can see that and take it into consideration. We'll see.