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February 22, 2007

The virtues of throwing a book at the defendant

From the Cincinnati Enquirer comes this encouraging story, entitled "Book report ends jail term: Defendant says he learned from Anne Frank's diary," of a creative sentence that seemed to work well.  Here are the highlights:

A man ordered to read "The Diary of Anne Frank" as part of his sentence for threatening a Jewish attorney told a judge Wednesday he learned a lot from the story of the 13-year-old Jewish girl and her family who were forced into hiding by the Nazis during World War II.  Kevin Wisby said he and Frank were both imprisoned — although unlike her, his came as a result of his own actions.

Wisby, 39, apologized to attorney Edward Felson, saying his comments were inappropriate. Hamilton County Municipal Judge John Burlew was impressed with Wisby's remorse and released him early from the year-long jail term he was serving. "It was one of the few cases where I've seen a person gain insight," Burlew said. "Maybe some of the hate will be cut off with his generation."

Felson was not in court Wednesday, but has read Wisby's 18-page book report. "When dealing with ethnic slurs, normal sentences don't work," Felson said. "Education is the best solution. "The judge had a lot of insight," he added.  "As unusual as it was, it might be the only thing that would make him understand what he said and did."

February 22, 2007 at 01:53 PM | Permalink


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One of our drug court judges in Texas advocates requiring book reports from probationers under his charge, and also reports success with the approach. The article where he talked about it is linked in this post:


When my daughter was a teenager, we would require her to read and write a book report as basically a time requirment on her being grounded - she was off grounding when we were convinced she'd read, understood, and thoroughly written up her thoughts on a book of our choosing. It was one of the more effective punishments we ever tried after she was no longer small enough to reaonably resort to corporal punishment. And to this day (she's now 22), she remembers several of those "punishment books" in minute detail. IOW, it made an impression beyond what we'd have expected.

Given that experience, I like the idea of judges requiring it of defendants. It can't hurt.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 23, 2007 1:29:25 PM

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