A better way?

My last post, about Russell Don Sneed, who was sentenced to life in prison for a 9th DUI, stirred a good bit of discussion.  I appreciate your thoughts and interaction!

My “better way” involves a deeper understanding of community; for our refusal to set Mr. Sneed apart from the rest of “us” as having problems for which he must be punished.

He is a man with problems; which of us isn’t? Though few of the rest of us have problems that have taken us a low as his, if we get honest with ourselves we must admit there is within  us something that helps us empathize with such a depth of challenge.

What if our sense of community took Mr. Sneed’s burden upon ourselves and thus we collectively refused to abandon him to the loneliness of the bottle or to the need to drive after drinking?

One thought on “A better way?

  1. It’s the “need to drive after drinking” phrase that I have trouble with. Nine DWIs and “four stints in state prison” didn’t seem to influence Mr. Sneed’s decision to get behind the wheel. He may not have actually killed or maimed anyone through his driving under the influence — but the whole point of it being illegal is that you are taking an unacceptable risk with other people’s lives when you drink and drive. He had ample opportunity to take preventive measures while sober so that he didn’t have access to a car. Such as rearranging his life so that he could function without a vehicle, or drinking at home instead of in a bar. Previous posts indicated that his DWIs were spread out over 30 years or so. Plenty of time to figure out what he needed to do to avoid what eventually happened. It’s not rocket science.

    Just because somebody is sent to prison doesn’t mean that the community has to abandon them. The Kairos ministry is just one example that I know of, of people that don’t abandon prisoners. Didn’t Jesus say that, at the separation of the sheep and the goats, to the sheep, “I was in prison and you visited me”? Does that have to ONLY apply to people who are in prison unjustly? Why doesn’t it also apply to people in prison for a just reason?

    And, to get on my own soapbox, typically people in our state hospitals are abandoned by their communities too. Many of these people are there on forensic commitments … either to regain competency to stand trial, or have been determined not guilty by reason of insanity. When I was working at BIg Spring, the hospital chaplain even had trouble going on vacation because he didn’t have back-up. I am not suggesting unlocking the wards and letting all of those imprisoned on state hospital units to go … the lowest functioning of them all would be the first ones bolting through the doors (and out onto the middle of the interstate). Likewise, people who are a persistent and long-term danger to others (although mentally competent) may need to have a locked door between them and the rest of society.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as attacking your compassionate stance. If you can describe (or develop) ideas that will prevent people from getting to the point of having to be locked up, I’m open to listening. This goes for many other societal problems besides alcoholism — what about pedophilia? Domestic violence?

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