There has got to be a better way…

My heart goes out to Russell Don Sneed.  Yours probably does, too. Sneed is the man who was just convicted for the 9th time for DWI.

He was sentenced yesterday to25 years to life in prison.

My heart goes out to him NOT because I think the jury should have gone easy on him, and not because I don’t think DWI is a serious problem.

My heart goes out to him because I would like to think there must be a better way to deal with this than to lock him up for the rest of his life.

My brother just posted about changing attitudes toward alcohol. This was not coordinated, but is related.

In Sneed’s case, according to the article, he has not hurt anyone.  He has, in fact, already served “four stints in state prison.”

I’ve got an alternative in mind, but before I share it, I’d like to hear from you: what are some other (better) ways to deal with Sneed and others in similar situations?

8 thoughts on “There has got to be a better way…

  1. I anticipate the suggested alternative will have something to do with not being allowed to drive at all. But, Sneed isn’t allowed to drive under the influence of alcohol, and that hasn’t stopped him at least nine times.

    However, that may not be the suggestion, and I would love to hear it. Prison sentences don’t help the sentenced, and I don’t understand how we justify the imbalance between the cost (money and personal toll) of prisons with the level of safety we think prisons offer us.

  2. People turn to drugs and alocohol for various reasons, but they ALL are built on underlying issues. If those issues aren’t dealt with, the addictions will continue. He may get control over Alcohol, but he’ll latch onto something else.

    I think a bigger effort needs to be made to help people deal with those underlying issues, but ultimately, you can not force any one to do so. Some people would rather continue in addiction and avoidance than deal with the hurt and anguish in their souls.

  3. Perpetrators of non-violent crimes such as this could be imprisoned, not in a crowded jail of steel bars and concrete with nothing to do but watch TV and play ping pong, but at a functioning farm/ranch that also offered a steady diet of therapeutic counseling sessions as well as opportunities for art, woodworking, cooking, literacy training, etc. Working with the earth, soil, seasons, animals, homemaking crafts, etc. has a grounding effect that, coupled with therapy and community living, can root out those dysfunctional drives to temporarily mask pain and fear and that ultimately end up harming self and others.

    Yes, it would be expensive, but probably not more so than locking someone up for a longer “25 years to life,” with little to no effort made to rehabilitate.

    And yes, I think similar opportunities should be available to all, not just to “criminals.” The benefits, I believe, would outweigh the costs.

    (But I wouldn’t give the same answer re: perpetrators of violent crime — farm tools in the hands of violent criminals: not such a good idea….)

  4. I was a juror on this trial. The defendant was not sentenced to “25 years to life”; he was sentenced to life. The jury did not make this decision lightly. Sneed has had 9 DWI convictions, in addition to several other offenses. The offenses are spread out fairly evenly over a 30 year period, indicating no change whatsoever in behavior patterns in all that time. Multiple attempts at rehabilitation have to this point all failed. I feel for this person, and I disagree strongly with any notion that his life is of no value, or that he should just be thrown away and forgotten. The jury’s overriding concern was to protect innocent people from a lifelong habitual drunk driver whose history overwhelmingly indicates that he would return to his criminal ways the moment he is released, as he has done so many times before. No normal person enjoys sending someone to prison, and the root causes of crime are always tragic. Mr. Sneed and his wife deserve and need all our prayers, for like us all, they are the objects of God’s everlasting love. Even so, I did not want to read the news a few years from now and find that Russell Sneed had killed someone (and that includes himself) while driving drunk when I could have done something to prevent it.

    • Scott,

      I really, really appreciate your comments. I find no fault in the jury’s decision. My wish, desire, hope that there must be some other way to deal with this kind of situation goes far beyond the current setting of our legal system.

  5. However …. don’t put too much confidence in our current abilities to rehabilitate people with such severe problems with drug and alcohol dependency. Ditto for our ability to rehabilitate people with other types of mental health issues that cause them to be a danger to others. Our therapeutic arsenal is getting better all the time, but it is a slow, incremental process. Certainly we do not yet know how to affect the wiring that is re-routed when someone becomes dependent on alcohol or other drugs.

    I disagree that drug/alcohol dependency is always indicative of (preexisting) underlying issues. Of course, long-term dependency will CREATE “issues” because it becomes your preferred method of coping and the other methods don’t develop or shrivel up and die. But for some people, the major issue really is just staying off the booze.

  6. If this is the Russell Sneed I know he should be locked up forever. He is a wife beater, drug abuser, dead beat father. He carried a bottle of Southern Comfort under his front seat and also a loaded 45. He is a danger to society and has no appreciation for life whatsoever. His father introduced alcohol to him when he was fourteen. Also his father allowed him to bring girls over for the night at fourteen yrs old. He has children he has not taken care of and has left them fatherless. Paid no child support and is a total LOSER! Glad to hear he’s going away for a very longtime.

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