I hate the phrase “think outside the box” but am enamored with judges who are open to considering sentencing alternatives. I’m struggling to accept a Mississippi judge’s approach to fashioning a sentencing alternative in underage drinking cases. Part of me wants to applaud the guy while part of me wants to scream about the separation between church and state. Where do you come down on this one??
Dozens of tickets are written every month in South Mississippi for minors in possession of alcohol. It is an offense that could not only cost the offender hundreds of dollars, it could also cause them to lose their license for up to 90 days, and even worse; it can follow them the rest of their lives. “If you enter a plea of guilty, it’s on your record,” Harrison County Justice Court Judge Albert Fountain said.
Judge Fountain knows everyone makes mistakes, and instead of letting one mistake follow a young person for the rest of their life, the judge has come up with an alternative way to sentence children charged with minor in possession of alcohol. “A 1,000 word essay on The Book of Revelations and also the effects from drinking alcohol,” Fountain said. “I don’t force them to do that. It’s their choice. That’s just my recommendation. They can write it on anything they want to.” He also takes their license for 10 days and places them on a 90 day non-reporting probation with conditions of good behavior. “It just felt like I had to do something different,” Fountain said. “There is more to it than just sentencing someone, and I felt I needed to make a difference.”
While he knows it can be considered controversial, Fountain feels it is right. “Separation of church and state is a big topic, and I understand some people have their beliefs, but I think what’s wrong with the country today is that we’ve taken Christ and God out of everything,” Fountain said. The judge has been sentencing children this way for the past eight to 10 years. He said about one in every 20 children choose to write an essay on something other than The Book of Revelations.