While most judges dole out general sentences to criminals based on what the law allows, such as probation, jail, or prison time, Judge Michael Cicconetti from Painesville, Ohio tends to give out creative sentences that are similar to the accused person’s crime.
Though they are not always a direct fit because you can’t punish a person by making them a direct victim of their own crime, Cicconetti tries his hardest to replicate the damage that the defendant has done and makes them endure that same feeling in the most humane way.
There are several examples to choose from. A woman caught pepper-spraying a fast-food employee was told she would be doused with the same spray as a form of punishment for her act. Since the judge cannot lawfully force anyone to endure this, he simply made the woman believe that she would be sprayed as a method of scaring her instead. The spray was not pepper spray, but the intention was to make her feel what her victim did and to cause her to rethink the next time she uses her spray as a weapon.
Another woman, 19-year-old Victoria Bascom, was caught leaving a taxi without paying the $100 fare after a 30-mile ride. Judge Cicconetti made Bascom choose between walking 30 miles in 48 hours or going to jail for 30 days. The woman chose to walk and was upset because she thought she would only have to pay the fine and didn’t know the sentence would be so heavy.
Yet another woman abandoned 35 kittens, 9 of which later died from upper respiratory infections because it was in freezing in November, and was forced to endure a lonely night in the woods. Before handing out the sentence, the judge said to the woman, Michelle M. Murray,
“How would you like to be dumped off at a metro park late at night, spend the night listening to the coyotes… listening to the raccoons around you in the dark night, and sit out there in the cold not knowing where you’re going to get your next meal, not knowing when you are going to be rescued?”
Murray chose the night alone over several other options she was given (one of which was donating over $3000 to the Humane Society) and was allowed to build a fire as temperatures plummeted. If only the kittens were extended this same courtesy as they froze that November night before park rangers found them.
Unfortunately, these creative sentences can only be handed out to first-time offenders because they’re meant to help those who have strayed from the right path to find their way again. For second, third and beyond offenders, they are often beyond help and cannot be swayed by equal sentencing because their crimes are already so severe.
One criminal that Cicconetti oversaw was a young man who threw a puppy out of a window to fall six stories to his death after the puppy peed on his bed. The puppy was found in a trash compactor and traced back to Michael Sutton, who had a record of domestic abuse and misusing firearms, and Cicconetti admitted that Sutton was beyond help. After calling Sutton “vicious,” Cicconetti told him,
“I’d like to give you one of those creative sentences, but that’s for people who can be rehabilitated, people who are first offenders. You are not. You are not one of those people. You are just brutal and savage, and that’s all there is to it.”
Cicconetti does, however, boast a recidivism rate of just 10%. This means that approximately 10% of the first-time offenders he hands sentences out to wind up returning to jail for another offense. In comparison, the national recidivism is 75%. Though Judge Cicconetti knows he can’t save every person that he sees, he hopes to rehabilitate as many as he can to reduce crime and lessen the amount of victims affected by criminals in the area.