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12-18-06, 08:29 AM #1
Judge’s gift to 23 convicts: Christmas behind bars
Monday, December 18, 2006
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Holbrook hopes holiday sentences discourage repeat offenses.
The judge calls it a "Holbrook holiday," but for 23 people convicted in his court, it means spending Christmas in jail.
As part of their plea agreements to avoid prison terms, the 23 men and women agreed to spend four days including Christmas in the Franklin County jail every year they are on probation.
The idea is to give them a taste of prison to keep them from going there, said Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael J. Holbrook.
If they play by the rules, they might not have to go back for a second, third, fourth or fifth Christmas, said Brian Stein, a senior probation officer.
If they break the rules, they could go to prison.
"He gives us the discretion to decide," Stein said. "It’s an alternative to prison, so I’ve never had anybody really complain."
Holbrook, who was elected in 2004, said he got the idea from a federal prison program in which convicts on probation serve national holidays in lockup.
"I wanted to send a message to those who were borderline and may have a chance to go to prison. If they’re not Christian in nature, I can use some other day, like their birthday," Holbrook said.
"It’s a reminder of where they could be going, if nothing else."
His sentencing program has been successful. Only two of 15 people failed to appear last year, and five of those who spent last Christmas behind bars have earned a pass this year.
Probation officers look at convicts’ conduct every year. William Peck and Shelly Caudill are serving Holbrook holidays.
Peck was a tow-truck driver whose winch pulley flew free, crashed into the windshield of an oncoming car and killed its driver.
He was found guilty of reckless homicide, but Holbrook decided against prison and told Peck to serve five Holbrook holidays to remind him of the pain he has caused the victim’s family.
He also was ordered to serve 40 hours of community service.
Caudill, who was convicted of permitting abuse of her children, avoided a 15-year prison sentence in a plea deal. Her husband, Jeffrey, went to prison for 10 years.
She was sentenced to perform 200 hours of community service and spend five Christmases behind bars.
Neither could be reached for comment. Caudill’s former attorney, Gerald Sunbury, said the sentence was unique. "In all of the 30 years I’ve been doing this, I think that he’s the only judge to do that," Sunbury said. Those given the deal must report to the Jackson Pike jail at 9 a.m. on Dec. 22. They will be released at 9 a.m. on Dec. 26. "They’re not given any special treatment," Stein said. "It’s an effective tool because they all have families." Holbrook’s bailiff, Lorena Lacey, took some credit for the catchy nickname. "He’s into solutions, so I think that’s a pretty hot idea," she said.
"Stupid should hurt."
12-19-06, 01:36 AM #2Officer First Class
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That's pretty cool! Sounds like a good idea to me.
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