It almost sounds like justice is being served down in Texas this week where a stepmom got 85 years in prison for the dehydration death of her 10-year-old stepson. Tina Alberson denied little Jonathan James water for days on end during a streak of record high temperatures. This was supposed to be punishment for "bad behavior." But does Alberson's punishment really fit the crime here?
Sure, she was sentenced to 85 years for the horrendous treatment and killing of her stepson. But the lengthy prison term has less to do with the horror of the boy's death and more to do with Alberson's existing criminal record -- she once hit someone with her van ... on purpose.
And then there's this disturbing tidbit.
Alberson is expected to be eligible for parole in 20 years. Twenty years. That's less than a quarter of her sentence.
It changes things, doesn't it? We hear 85 years, and we see the amount of time likely stolen away from this little boy.
We hear 20 and we see what, exactly? The 44-year-old has the potential to get out and live a fairly normal life. She could still have a lot of "good" time left in her life, time little Jonathan never got, time his twin brother Joseph will have to spend without him.
We have a dead child here, and the sentence issued to his stepmother comes off as mere lip service to his grieving family when parole comes into play. And Jonathan James didn't just die, he was essentially tortured, denied the very building block of life by a woman who was supposed to care for him as a parent, as a sort of mother (his father, who testified against Alberson, is also facing criminal charges although his case has not yet been completed).
This case screams for some sort of change in the way criminal sentences are carried out in prisons. I don't care if they're afraid of overcrowding or trying to save the taxpayers a dime, a criminal sentence should mean something more than a few words on a piece of paper.
Put yourself in this family's shoes. Is the symbolism of an 85-year prison sentence enough if she can get out in 20?
Image via Dallas County Sheriff Department