Saturday, December 21, 2013

five and a half years

I was going to wait for this to sink in before putting my thoughts out there, but...
I don't know if it's going to sink in, fully, ever.
I sat in court room number two all morning awaiting my brother's sentencing.
I heard all kinds of repellent stories...awful stuff.
A woman, who could have easily been the grandmother in line behind me at Target, high on heroin in court. High on heroin as she sat before the judge for driving under the influence of narcotics (multiple legal and illegal drugs) and striking another vehicle on a busy highway on a Saturday afternoon.
I watched her turn in her driver's license and ask the judge how is she supposed to get her methadone if she can't drive to the doctor. She'll detox in jail for 72 hours, serve a short sentence and be back on the streets by summertime.  
A fifty year-old man, a grandfather of nine grandchildren, who had drunkenly beaten his wife with a hammer.
Twenty-plus years of repeatedly beating his wife, resisting arrest, and assaulting police officers (he's been in and out of state prisons in the neighborhood of eight years total).
He begged the judge to help get him into an inpatient rehab because all the other programs he tried didn't "work for him."
He was sentenced to 18-24 months in a state facility specializing in alcohol rehabilitation.  

I could go on...really repellent, disturbing stuff.
We waited and waited for our turn...
Court broke for lunch.
We waited more.
At last, my brother was brought upstairs, shackled and chained, wearing a pressed dress shirt and tie.
What happened  next is equal parts blur and vivid.
I watched a sheriff shed tears during my dad's testimonial, imploring the judge to please consider all the good that my brother has done for the community over the past twenty years; to allow us, his family, to help him sustain a healthy, better lifestyle sooner rather than later.
Ultimately, it was in the judge's hands to decide what kind of sentence to impart on my brother for his multiple DUIs (4...I know, my god).
My brother stood before the judge, in tears, and assured him that nobody could possibly judge him harder than he is judging himself right now.
We knew my brother was facing two to four years all along, hoping hoping hoping that the judge would see his potential to change in two years, not four.
Instead, the judge sentenced him to five and a half years.
Five and a half.

Drinking and driving is so stupid, so inexcusable, so completely avoidable.
Driving drunk again...and again...
Driving with a bag of weed in your console, let alone in your system...(a small amount for personal use, but an illegal substance nonetheless)?
Come on. Stupid. Careless. I know, he knows, we all know.
Too little, too late.
In spite of the facts, I honestly don't understand why the sentence was so harsh, exceeding even what the DA was asking for.
I honestly don't understand why his license wasn't immediately suspended after the first...or second...or, jesus, third offense.
How did it get this far?
I'm doing my best to sort this out; asking his lawyer questions, educating myself and trying to figure out what happens next.
More importantly, most importantly, I'm talking to my brother every chance I get and trying to help him feel connected to us.
To stay connected to us.
How did it get this far?

This time of year is my brother's absolute favorite. He revels in the holidays and all our Christmas traditions more than anyone I know. Many friends have asked what they can do for him or what they can send him for Christmas; the short answer is, not much.
Not surprisingly, Rob has asked that if you feel compelled to do something, please donate a toy on his behalf to a child in need. Drop something off at Toys for Tots and enjoy the holidays, wholeheartedly, with your family.

1 comment:

Jill said...

My sweet friend--
I read this with tears in my eyes. The justice system fails so many, so often. From the "how did it get this far" to letting others with such horrible, atrocious offenses, off with such light sentences-- it makes absolutely no sense. (The abusive grandfather really hit home--I've sat in DV court and watched this more than once. Disgusting.) It makes no sense. I'm so, so sorry for the length of your brother's sentence. It is not proportional, not at all. It seems like from other posts, and this one, he is a changed man from all this. I'm so sad for your family that the judge refused to see this, chose to ignore the DA's recommendation, your father's testimony and the sheriff's reaction, and your brother's remorse. He could be doing so much good for himself, and continuing his work in the community--it sounds like your brother is the kind of man who would take what he's learned from this and use it for good. I hope eventually the judge will see this, if parole is a possibility. Keep on educating yourself and asking questions like you're doing, keep advocating for your brother and keep him connected. You will get him through this, and he will come out of this stronger than ever. I firmly believe this. You have love and strength and hope on your side--really, really powerful tools. Don't let go of that. So sorry for rambling--your post was so moving--you are so brave for sharing so openly. You never know who you might positively effect in sharing your family's story. Keeping you and your brother and your family in my thoughts. Hugs from Kansas.