Mother’s jailing receives wide publicity: Was it really necessary?

A recent news article about a criminal charge, namely shoplifting, likely has readers evidencing mixed reactions. In a nutshell, a Connecticut woman who was arrested and charged with theft of a pack of cigarettes back in 1991, when she was 18, spent several days recently in a Florida jail on an arrest warrant because she still owed court fees related to the charge.

Some people might find that comical in a dark sort of way, given the double take required to mentally come to grips with it. Put another way, it might seem so preposterous to some people that it is a bit funny.

For many others, it likely provokes empathy and outright sympathy. The woman was 22 years removed from a minor offense and was obviously unaware or had forgotten she had any outstanding duty left concerning it. She had just finished a sea cruise with her husband and children, and was greeted by authorities as she sought to disembark in Port Canaveral. She was pulled off the ship and arrested.

Ultimately, to a good many readers that might simply serve to cast the criminal justice system in a bad — even ridiculous — light, and underscore how misplaced law enforcement efforts and the attendant use of taxpayers’ money can be in singular instances.

Authorities say they were looking for terrorists, and the mother’s name just happened to be on their list. Despite the clear disconnect, her Florida jailers say they had no choice but to refuse bail and lock her up, given the out-of-county warrant.

Since the 1991 incident, the woman, now 41, has earned a degree in architecture and works for aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney designing jet engines.

Source: NBC News, “Woman jailed in Florida over 22-year-old warrant,” Josh Chapin, Jan. 22, 2013

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