Ronda Kaysen: I knew that a lack of childcare could keep a mom from doing a lot of things, but until now I didn't know it also could keep a girl from doing time. A federal judge delayed a mom's prison sentence for three years because she has no adequate childcare alternative for her three young kids.
Janira Bueno was sentenced to two years in prison for tax fraud conspiracy. The case involved 10 other defendants -- including Bueno's husband, Rafael Castillo -- who were all charged with seeking $18 million in tax refunds using other people's names.
The judge decided that, because Bueno's kids -- the youngest is 2 -- have nowhere else to go and would likely end up wards of the state in foster care, he would delay the sentence.
"While family members are often affected when a relative is to be incarcerated, this case presents a fairly unique situation," said Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District Court of New York. "Unfortunately, there is no readily apparent individual available [for the] critical task [of caring for the children]," the judge wrote.
The judge noted that he had received numerous letters in support of the 32-year-old mom, all saying that she was an involved mother who was active in her older kids' education.
"It is the fate of these children and their future well-being that influenced the nature of my sentencing decision," Baer added. Bueno's husband was sentenced to five years in the case.
On one hand, this woman clearly committed a serious crime (she pled guilty in January). But if Bueno were behind bars, her kids would suffer tremendously. Obviously, Bueno and Castillo should have thought about this before they got involved in criminal behavior. But if both parents -- who are nonviolent -- were incarcerated at the same time, the end result would be a lifetime of damage for these kids. Baer did the right thing by buying these kids a few more years with their mom.
What do you think? Was the judge right to delay the sentence, or should he have thrown the book at this irresponsible mama?