Following is an open letter submitted to the sentencing judge in the case of Jennifer Fichter, the Lakeland teacher who had sex with students. This was submitted by an FAC member



August 10, 2015

Your honor,

I am writing to convey, on behalf of myself and many others, overwhelming sadness and an acute sense of injustice at the sentence delivered to Jennifer Fichter on July 2, and to urge you and all subsequently responsible judicial officials to reconsider the case and issue a sentence that is truly proportional to the offense.

At a time when our nation’s burgeoning prison population has become a major public concern and financial drain—a time when public leaders across the political spectrum have vowed to undertake sentencing reform, with wide public support—a time that we lead the world in imprisoning our own citizens, often under inhumane conditions—we should not cruelly punish a young woman for having sexual relations with boys on the cusp of adulthood.

To say that this punishment “does not fit the crime” is far too weak a statement to be apt. Let’s consider the victims in this case—strong young men who will spend the next two decades of their lives building families, working productive jobs, loving their parents and friends, and pursuing their happiness unobstructed. Concerning their intimate relations with Jennifer, it is well known that most males in our society look back on their early sexual experiences with fondness and nostalgia. Whether the boys in this circumstance will is uncertain. They may or may not, but unless they have totally identified with their legal status as victims, I suspect they will. But even if they do not—even if they experience confusion or regret—they will have moved on. They will not be locked inside a cage. They will not be separated from those they care about. They will not be in an alien, potentially dangerous environment. Indeed, if there is any danger to them at all, it may be feelings of guilt, down the road, as they come to visualize the sort of life Jennifer is leading because of their mutual trysts.

For these reasons, I believe it has to be said plainly that not only does the punishment not fit the crime in this case; but that the punishment is, morally, more of a crime than the crime. For decades there have been effective ways to supervise non-violent offenders in the community for a fraction of the cost of incarceration. We don’t use them much, because we are addicted, as a nation, to a form of sadism. It does not raise us all that substantially above the Taliban or ISIS that we condemn our people to a living death rather than stoning them or slitting their throats. Incarceration ought to be reserved as a last resort for the worst of the worst: offenders who cannot live among us without endangering our physical security—or, to quote a common phrase, “people we’re afraid of, not people we’re mad at.”

There is no advantage to the people of Florida in incarcerating Jennifer Fichter that could not be had by merely banning her from teaching and similar professions. And if nothing is gained by it, it should not be done. Justice begs for a full and immediate reconsideration of this matter, and I humbly ask you and other responsible Florida judges to work toward that end.

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