The Law: Better Than Prison

Though the sentences for many crimes are prescribed by law, judges often have enough leeway to offer a choice between prison and other punishments—with all sorts of strange conditions attached. It is not clear whether or not those conditions are always legal, but defendants faced with a recent spate of such unusual choices have consistently rejected prison.

In Miami, Mrs. Mary Louise Patterson, 38, mother of six, was being sentenced in a misdemeanor assault case. She explained that at 315 Ibs. she was too fat to work. The judge put her on probation for...

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