« DOJ criminal division needs a new top prosecutor | Main | Examining prison costs in Michigan »

May 2, 2008

Ohio getting tough on no-snack-sharing rules

I can sleep a little sounder after reading this local article about how tough my state is on its miscreants:

He slept through a fire drill, had loose tobacco in his possession and didn't show up for kitchen duty.  Then Timothy E. Caudill shared a Little Debbie snack cake with another inmate at a correctional facility in southeastern Ohio.  That was the last straw.

The 21-year-old was kicked out of the residential community corrections program that was a requirement of his probation.  And he could go to prison.  That is absurd, said Caudill's attorney, Claire "Buzz" Ball. "Everybody talks about prison overcrowding.  My God, you have to send some guy to prison for sharing a snack?" Ball said.

Vinton County Prosecutor Timothy P. Gleeson has asked Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Simmons to revoke Caudill's probation and put him in prison.  Simmons is expected to rule soon on the request, which he considered at a hearing April 16.  The prosecutor wants Caudill put in prison for nine months.

With credit for 105 days served at the SEPTA Correctional Facility, he would serve nearly six more months.  Caudill's attorney has asked the judge to keep Caudill on probation or send him to the jail in Athens County, which costs $20 a day less than a state prison. Keeping Caudill out of prison would leave cell space for a more serious offender, Ball said. "My God, over a 50-cent cake, the state would spend $12,600 for six months," Ball said.

Caudill received a sentence of three years' probation Oct. 1, convicted last year of breaking and entering Krazy Katie's, a bar along Rt. 93 just south of McArthur, the Vinton County seat.  He was placed in SEPTA, a community corrections residential program in Nelsonville, on Oct. 10.  The 64-bed program, which offers drug treatment, work training and counseling, imposes strict rules.

Caudill bought the Little Debbie from the vending machine and then knowingly shared it with a fellow inmate who was on restriction and wasn't allowed access to the vending-machine snacks, said Bob Eaton, operations manager at SEPTA.

I wonder if Ohio parents and teachers realize that, when they encourage children to share at home and at school, they are preparing the kids for a life of crime.

May 2, 2008 at 08:44 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Ohio getting tough on no-snack-sharing rules:


Somebody stop the madness. Judges and prosecutors need to stop thinking everyone belongs in prison. People lives and freedom is so valuable and should not be wasted. Have we forgotten that incarceration is for people who would be considered dangerous if out in society? People are human beings and should not be treated this inhumanely. "America the land of the free" has become "The Land of Mass Incarceration," and "America, Criminal Records for All" If this nonsense continues our taxes will go directly toward new prisons, GPS, and supporting the people, we screwed up mentally, if or when their released. The Big wigs who have created the mess, will live comfortably on their tax deferred, grand pensions and unlimited health benefits. They will not loss a minute of sleep.

Posted by: America land of the free? | May 2, 2008 9:51:55 AM

Okay, so the State of Ohio, in its infinite wisdom, will spend $12,600 of my tax money to lock Mr. Caudill up. They will probably send him to Noble, where he can be surrounded by lots of other young, frequently druggy men who also cannot follow rules and who can teach him how to be a really good burglar. Then, in the future, the state can spend lots more of my tax dollars trying and locking up Mr. Caudill for his future crimes.

To me, the most important part of this story is that, at the moment, Mr. Caudill is holding down a job and paying taxes rather than spending them. Isn't that what we want him to do? Wouldn't it be more productive for him and the rest of us to keep him at that job and continue to work on his problems? Do the people in our legal system really believe it is worth sacrificing his future productivity and ensuring his future criminality in order to make absolutely sure he gets punished? Just for good measure, they'll probably succeed in making him resentful of what he perceives as unjust treatment. That will definitely motivate him to follow the rules in the future!

How, exactly, do situations like this foster respect for the law on the part of Mr. Caudill or anyone else?

Posted by: disillusioned layman | May 2, 2008 10:31:53 AM

These programs have carrots and sticks, and sometimes you need to use the stick. Rules need to be followed, and while this seems a little silly, what's the message sent to all the others--some of the rules don't need to be followed?

Posted by: federalist | May 2, 2008 10:37:16 AM

I ask this in all seriousness - how does prosecutor Timothy P. Gleeson sleep at night (assuming he's not a sociopath)? How does he look himself in the mirror? Does he really get by day to day by convincing himself he's "being tough on crime"? Really? Either he's a sociopath, delusional, or suicidal. It's got to be one of those three.

Posted by: bruce | May 2, 2008 10:37:54 AM

federalist, why does the "stick" always need to be imprisonment? In fact, isn't imprisonment in this situation counter-productive on a number of fronts?

First, it trivializes that sanction. "What are you in for?" Answer: "Sharing a snack with someone who shouldn't have had it."

Second, contrary to your assumption, imprisonment in this case diminishes respect for the law and does not teach the person that all rules must be followed. When the law says you will be imprisoned for six more months because you slept, you had tobacco, and you shared a snack, then the natural reaction is "our laws are ridiculous" not "I better follow these laws."

On a similar front, "all the others" (as you called them...maybe you are just a big Lost fan?) are not left with a feeling that the rules of their community corrections site must be followed, but rather that such rules are really set up for them to fail. I guarantee you that with this drastic reaction to violating minor rules, nobody else in the site is gaining respect for the site's rules.

Finally, consider the cost of imprisonment (not just economic costs, either). Consider the cost on the imprisoned individual and his life. Comparing that to the negligible (if any) benefits.

In essence, no purpose of incarceration is furthered here (respective to my points above: incapacitation, retribution, detergency, utilitarian).

Maybe some sanction is appropriate (i.e. another month in community corrections or the taking away of privileges). But six months imprisonment is not the correct "stick."

Posted by: DEJ | May 2, 2008 11:56:29 AM

"detergency" read "deterrence"

Posted by: DEJ | May 2, 2008 11:58:59 AM

If the action was no big deal, and the penalty so severe, then please tell me, for those who are outraged: Why did this guy do it? Why didn't he say, "No, I can't share this snack with you because you may or may not be under a conduct restriction, and the penalty for breaking the rule is that I would go to REAL prison." You can say "I don't have to follow this rule because it's silly," but you're still going to have to face the consequences. If that's his thinking, why were these consequences worth it to this individual? Did he not know the rule? (A valid defense, in my opinion.) Did he know the penalty? Was the penalty signficant TO HIM?

Please tell me. I'd really like to know. I can't imagine breaking this rule if the penalty could be so severe -- or even mild. If I knew the rule, I wouldn't break it. But maybe that's why I'm not in prison. What is the thinking process of people who are, or have been, in prison? If it is different from mine, which I believe it is, WHY is it so different?

Aside from the knee-jerk reactions of some (That's an outrage! Can you believe that!), I really would like some punishment experts to tell me what these people are thinking. You've been convicted, for God's sake, and you've got the chance to avoid a real penalty, why, oh why, are you willing to screw it up? Over a friggin' snack?

Posted by: Mark | May 2, 2008 12:35:18 PM

Can't call myself a punishment expert, but my thoughts are:

- He forgot the rule applied. Given how odd the rule may appear, it's reasonable to think that it just didn't occur to him that obliging the request was forbidden. However, I'm guessing that they drill the rules into you, so I doubt this was the case.

- He didn't think he'd get caught. Why do otherwise law-abiding people drink and drive so frequently? Or dabble in drugs? Or fudge on their tax returns? It's not only the "criminals" that suffer this thinking.

- Poorly developed "interpersonal" skills. He could have succumbed to pressure in a way that you or I would not.

- Distorted thinking. Somehow rationalizing that the rules shouldn't apply to him, or some other means of justifying improper behavior.

I'm sure others could add more.

I think the second item is common to both the convicted and not. It's the latter two that I expect are far more common among the convicted/incarcerated, and are deficits that likely contributed to their crimes in the first place. Hopefully whatever sentences are imposed can help remedy such deficits ...

Posted by: | May 2, 2008 2:05:13 PM

Though DEJ tries to whitewash with his "detergency" argument, just kidding, couldn't pass that up, he makes some excellent points. Why would this guy do it? There need be no more reason than the other inmate was hungry.

Compare entrapment, which is not to suggest that Caudill could argue entrapment. In Sherman v. United States, 356 U.S. 369, the informant played on sympathy to entrap.

The irony here is is that Caudill is sentenced for having empathy. Since empathy supposedly separates the social from the anti-social, which is which here?

Again, I think the differences of opinion here are fundamentally Bentham v. Blackstone, namely that the government has rules and determines what is best, period, or, on the other hand, there is some sense of justice and natural rights, here, that being empathy. Which brings us back to entrapment, though not legally speaking. It can be argued though that zero tolerance itself is law to entrap and most everyone could be caught up in it eventually.

In 1940 United States Attorney General, and later Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson said that the most dangerous power of a prosecutor is that:

he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted. With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him. It is in this realm in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to, or in the way of, the prosecutor himself.


There are so many regulatory and penal laws that just about anyone is already de facto entrapped simply by being alive if someone with the power to enforce them decides to do so. We are born entrapped and it is far worse today than it was in 1940.

Posted by: George | May 2, 2008 4:26:19 PM

Okay, these places must have a number of ridiculous regulations. Because the goal is kind of to treat prisoners like soldiers, right? Highly regulated lives. Bootcamp for the duly convicted.

But...let us examine his other crimes:

He slept through a fire drill. Damn. Fry 'em.

Didn't show up for kitchen duty. Loose tobacco. And of course, the straw that broke the camel's back, the hostess cake.

But it wasn't even that, really: It was KNOWINGLY sharing said cupcake with an inmate who was restricted from it. After all, even in this highly regulated setting, Mr. Caudill was entitled to his sugar rush.

Nurse Ratched would be proud of this institution indeed. They are set up for failure, because the rules have no purpose, apart from being there. Why can't the guy give the other guy a cupcake? Because the other guy is restricted, it is against the rules. Why is the other guy restricted? Because he probably gave another restricted guy a cupcake. They just need to learn to follow rules, no matter how arbitrary, senseless or perverse those rules may be. Or else the little punk will be sent to prison to be gang raped at the behest of sadistic guards on the government payroll. Come on.

"My God, over a 50-cent cake, the state would spend $12,600 for six months."

Good thing he didn't say that to the Ninth Circuit. According to that (beloved "activist" court for conservatives), judges couldn't even consider that (highly relevant fact for a taxpayer) if they wanted to.

That we are even debating the absurdity of this strikes me. If I pulled some random person off the street, explained the situation, and did it 100 times, I fully expect that 90 percent of the people would be puzzled, if not outraged. This "violation" wasn't worth the time wasted on the judicial hearing.

The drug warriors and their pro-prison accomplices are playing a dangerous PR game these days, and they don't even recognize the changed landscape. Were I well-funded and slightly more ambitious, I would take note of the initiative system and begin designing model initiatives to cut off state spending for possession crimes, eliminate prison for any nonviolent crime that did not involve a firearm, etc. Then I would round up every sympathetic example of government overreach I could find and shove it down the throats of the voting public with issue ads, coupled with estimates of what each state (and taxpayer) spends on these petty, failed projects. What makes this example even worse is that "good intentions," i.e., aversion to punishment for non-violent offenders, undoubtedly played a role in the creation of this center, just not in its administration. But as we all know, the road to hell...

Posted by: Alec | May 2, 2008 4:43:35 PM

Oh Puhleeeeze - you really want to make a cause out of THIS guy? Let's see, we've got someone who's convicted of BREAKING AND ENTERING - not a (supposedly) victimless drug crime. He catches a BIG break - he gets probation, where all he's got to do is hold down a job 40 hours a week, spend the rest of the time at a group house, where all he's got to do is FOLLOW THE RULES. Is it highly regimented? You're damn right it is - these folks are there because they've already demonstrated their inability to live by the MAJOR rules to whcih we're all subject (i.e., don't take other people's property. Don't attck other people). Let's review his FOUR infractions - he slept through as fire drill - the previous poster seems to imply he was maybe tired, or didn't hear the blaring alarm. I suggest that he decided his own damn comformt was more important than following the rules of the halfway house. He possessed tobacco - apparently a prohibited item (i.e. contraband) in this house. He failed to show up for kitchen duty, because apparently whatever else he was doing, or not doing, was more important to him than his obligation to his fellow halfway house residents (whom I'm willing to bet are all required to help with upkeep/running of the place). And finally, apparently deciding again that the rules don't apply to him, he give food to someone he KNOWS is on restriction. There are pain in the ass rules we ALL have to follow in life. Yeah, sometimes we break them, and the consequences are not as severe as they are for this guy, but we didn't BREAK AND ENTER into someone else's property before roliing through that stop sign, or eating on the subway. You want to know the purpose of the rules in the halfway house? It's to teach people who've ALREADY violated the laws we all live under that there ARE rules, and that they DO apply to these guys. Rant over.

Posted by: anonymous | May 2, 2008 6:46:18 PM

Bruce, Have you ever gotten a ticket? For speeding or whatever. If so, then you should be locked up for not following rules then, right? I mean, I am just asking, because people break rules everyday of their lives, whether conscious or not. So does that mean that every person that breaks rules she be sent to prison?

Posted by: jubria | May 2, 2008 8:10:36 PM

"I wonder if Ohio parents and teachers realize that, when they encourage children to share at home and at school, they are preparing the kids for a life of crime."

Oh, Bravo, Professor. How wonderfully glib - especially from the person who had a hissy fit when the AG made a lame attempt at humor about terrorists, sadists, and masochists. Maybe the lesson Ohioans ought to be teaching their children is that when they tell them not to share their ice cream with Little Timmy they really mean it, because Timmy is seriously allergic to ice cream. Or maybe they should tell their children that if the kid got caught playing hooky, and got off with a warning, they shouldn't show up late for school the next four days in a row. Or maybe they should teach them that although it's good to share, you're not supposed to HELP the kid in the next desk to copy your test answers. Can anyone else weigh in with another of the dozens of more apposite examples?

Posted by: | May 2, 2008 11:27:13 PM

Cooks' Cottage (also known as Captain Cook's Cottage) is located in the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, Australia. The cottage was constructed in 1755 in the English village of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, by the parents of Captain James Cook, James and Grace Cook. It is a point of conjecture among historians whether James Cook, the famous navigator, ever lived in the house, but almost certainly he visited his parents at the house.
keno game
alyssa milano xxx

Posted by: Jeff | May 3, 2008 7:25:21 AM

This case provides lots of opportunities for sarcastic comments. But what we should be paying attention to is a very serious matter. What is the purpose of whatever sanction Mr. Caudill receives?

He was placed on probation for the latest in a series of infractions. It is apparent that he has difficulty following rules. Was the purpose of putting him on probation and in a program to teach him how to follow rules, or was it to set him up to fail and pounce on him when he failed to follow the rules--which, based on his past behavior, was almost a foregone conclusion?

I am approaching this matter from the very practical (as opposed to idealistic or moralistic) standpoint of a citizen who wants my tax money spent in the most effective way possible and, in addition, wants to be safe. So I ask, is spending all this money to incarcerate Mr. Caudill now and in the future going to make me more or less safe when he is eventually released? Might keeping him out of prison and working intensively with him to attempt to change his behavior be a less expensive option which could decrease the chances of Mr. Caudill being a threat to me and others in the future? Isn't this what the criminal justice system is supposed to be about? Or, as I asked before, is the purpose just to make absolutely sure everyone who breaks a rule gets thoroughly punished and to hell with the consequences for the rest of us?

Posted by: disillusioned layman | May 3, 2008 9:22:17 AM

Instead of imprisonment, he should be made to give some of those snacks to EVERYONE! That will teach him not to share.

Posted by: S.cotus | May 3, 2008 9:49:32 AM

This article is astonishing.

Posted by: structured settlement company | May 4, 2008 2:06:15 AM

A few notable pieces of the story.

First, it is worth noting that the prisoner disputed that he is guilty of the last violation:

"Caudill said he bought a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie to share with someone who was allowed snack privileges, but a "boy who was always messing with" Caudill and was restricted from snacks swiped part of it."

From 30,000 feet, the truth may be impossible to know, but it is certainly a plausible explanation.

Also, no one would doubt that the probation violations in this case are "technical", i.e. they would not be a crime in the case of someone not on probation, and unlike failure to show up for a drug test or extended AWAL situations, do not go to the possibility that he may be committing new crimes while on probation.

Second, Caudill is neither an angel nor terribly serious offender:

"Caudill racked up a string of about eight misdemeanor offenses before breaking into Krazy Katie's and getting his first felony conviction[.]" The nature of the felony offense suggests that he was either homeless and seeking shelter, or broke in but was caught before stealing anything, otherwise it would have been a burglarly offense.

Third, the probation status quo is just what we want people who have the potential to straighten up to do:

"The probationer lives next door to his family and works at Standard Hardware in downtown McArthur, bagging livestock feed, loading trucks and waiting on customers."

Putting him in jail or prison puts him out of the work force and breaks family ties (particularly if prison is involved) that may be helping to keep him honest.

Why intermediate sanctions (e.g. denial of privileged at the facility, or monetary fines) aren't sufficient to address this issue is unclear. People don't go from being messed up to straight in one go, minor slips are the norm, not an exception in that process.

Fourth, since he gets day for day credit for time served while in the halfway house, and the prosecutor is asking for nine months of prison (in lieu of a three year probation), imprisonment actually puts Caudill into a totally unsupervised situation 27 months sooner in the original sentence. It is counterintuitive that the people who can't follow the rules return to the community free of judicial supervision soonest, while the people who do follow the rules stay there longest. (With day for day credit for time served, presumably, rule violators in the second or third year of probation would simply get immediate release and owe a fine). This irony is what moved Colorado to a system of mandatory parole for all ex-felons following a determinate sentence, rather than parole as a form of early release.

Posted by: ohwilleke | May 5, 2008 3:31:01 PM

I guess I'm a little late on these comments but I was getting aggravated reading through until I came to the post from Alec.

From what I've read from most people and have been hearing from this case is what Ball said, my God this kids goin to prison over a snack cake. but ppl come on. if you're going to complain look at the whole case and not just one part.
What I have taken from this is I am going to start breaking into your houses (not really, just making a point, don't freak out).. but I figure if I do this I won't get in much trouble. I mean the majority of people feel that this kid should not go to prison. which sounds good to me because this kid has been in trouble atleast 8 times before this. so if i do get caught and charged for a B&E i will hopefully end up in a halfway house. now if i end up in this halfway house they will have a set of rules, maybe a "four strikes your out", and remember this will be the HOUSES rules NOT THE COURTS. but say i'm in this house and i'm not liking it.. so according to the smart folks on here sharing cakes and over sleeping aren't that bad even if it is against house rules.. so i'm going to break these rules 4 times so the HOUSE kicks me out. Now if you're still able to follow me heres what I'm hoping for.. 1. one of you smart folks on here is the prosecutor.. 2. you still feel the same way that you do when you posted your smart remarks.. And this will be my outcome. I will have committed a Felony level B&E (Breaking and Entering) AND I will have continuously broken the halfway houses rules 4 times (but what the hell, they're not that big of deal). and if one of you smart ppl is the prosecutor like i hoped for, you won't revoke my probation.. yea that sounds good.. f*ck the law and the halfway houses rules, there not for me. can't wait to commit my B&E and know i don't have to spend time in that halfway house if i don't want to. when i go to the halfway house i'm telling everyone, "sleep in for a week and we're getting outta here"...

now obviously there was some sarcasm in the last paragraph. i've done enough rambling so i'm gonna wrap this up.. remember the deal here is not sharing a snack cake.. its a kid that CHOOSES not to follow the rules

Posted by: billyj | May 15, 2008 12:41:08 AM

Someone needs to investigate why these men at septa center complain of being hungry so much,why are they only allowed 2000 calories aday?hy are so many of them loosing weight? sounds to me they are not being fed enough,My understanding,many, many complaints from residents there,have complained they are not getting enough to eat,why!

Posted by: parent of resident | Sep 9, 2008 12:55:35 PM

Someone needs to investigate why these men at septa center complain of being hungry so much,why are they only allowed 2000 calories aday?hy are so many of them loosing weight? sounds to me they are not being fed enough,My understanding,many, many complaints from residents there,have complained they are not getting enough to eat,why!

Posted by: parent of resident | Sep 9, 2008 1:00:21 PM

Someone needs to investigate why these men at septa center complain of being hungry so much,why are they only allowed 2000 calories aday?hy are so many of them loosing weight? sounds to me they are not being fed enough,My understanding,many, many complaints from residents there,have complained they are not getting enough to eat,why!

Posted by: parent of resident | Sep 9, 2008 1:01:33 PM


I have had the chance to visit this facility and have heard about this story. SEPTA works with a sort of strike system. This particular inmate had stayed just under the amount of strikes needed to be thrown out, breaking various rules. This incident was the one that pushed him over the edge. It is very unfair to say that he is going to jail over sharing a snack, or that by teaching kids to share we are breeding criminals. Come on! If you cant abide by the rules in a facility that is meant to keep you out of prison, then off to prison you go.

Posted by: Anne | Feb 10, 2009 6:02:58 PM

This is my first visit to this page. Its amazing. Great thoughts.

Posted by: GHD Pink | Aug 4, 2009 11:44:01 PM

I have a concern with a sentence. I feel that it is way to excessive according to other cases of the same kind. If you have the time or interest I could really use some help. Im a recent widow and dont have much but I will do whatever i can to help my brother. You can e- mail or call me at 608-921-1788. Thank you so much , I dont know where else to turn.

Posted by: Tammy Robson | Mar 19, 2013 7:57:25 PM

I really could you some help with a excessive sentence case. If you have any time or interest I would love to talk to you. I do not know where else I can turn, I feel so helpless. please if you can help me e-mail me back or contact me at 608-921-1788. Thank you so much.

Posted by: Tammy Robson | Mar 19, 2013 8:00:56 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB