The Jackson sentence: Why are their children special?

The Nonprofiteeer doesn’t wish to be vengeful, but she must admit that it infuriates her to learn that the Jackson sentence allows Jesse Jr. and his wife Sandra to serve their prison terms one at a time so that one parent will always be free to take care of their children.

Oh, it’s a fine idea for the fate of children to be considered in the sentencing of parents, though as the judge told Mrs. Jackson, “The court did not put your children in this position.” Children shouldn’t be made to suffer for the sins of their parents, and a child with an incarcerated parent will suffer–there’s no doubt about it.

But the Jacksons are in the unusual position among felons of coming from a wealthy intact family: if both were in prison, the children’s grandparents could take care of them. So why the tender concern for the Jackson children when every day thousands of children are separated from their sole parent because Mom has been convicted of prostituting herself (probably to feed the kids) or Dad is being sent away for possession with intent to distribute?

Those children really will suffer–single-parent households are the rule rather than the exception among the poor, and the children of incarcerated parents often end up in the custody of the state for lack of anyone else to take them.

So the Nonprofiteer doesn’t actually advocate that the Jacksons be made to suffer more; their suffering doesn’t much concern her. What she advocates is that precisely the same concern for the welfare of children animate sentencing in all the rest of the felony convictions in Cook County.

The children of one set of felons are no less deserving of consideration than the children of any other set.

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  • I agree, most criminals probably have kids. Part of the punishment is that you don't get to see them and vice versa.

  • I thought the same thing. Everyday children are separated from their parents while they do prison, rehab, whatever. Often that is the sole parent in the house. I've also never been fond of how white collar felons are treated differently in general - all that time to get your affairs in order before being sent away.

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    To be fair, Andrew and Lea Fastow of Enron fame enjoyed the same deal. Once a white couple gets a break, seems wrong to withhold the same break from a black couple.

  • In reply to Unree Polnetz:

    True; but the Nonprofiteer is increasingly concerned about class distinctions and the Jackson sentence is a perfect example of those.

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    The Nonprofiteer is Kelly Kleiman, principal of NFP Consulting, which provides Board development, strategic planning and fund-raising services to charities and philanthropies. Through her consulting practice and in her guise as The Nonprofiteer, Kelly has spent the past 25-plus years helping small and mid-sized nonprofits organize themselves better and raise more money. These days she focuses especially on helping them use high-skill volunteers. Kelly is also a lawyer and freelance journalist whose reportage and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and other dailies; in magazines including In These Times and Chicago Philanthropy; in the alternative press; on websites including the Huffington Post; and on the radio, including the BBC and WBEZ Chicago Public Radio. She and her fellow "Dueling Critic" Jonathan Abarbanel present a weekly podcast of their reviews of Chicago theater at Earlier in her career she was dean of admissions of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and Executive Director of the Chicago Children’s Choir, and practiced real estate and zoning law with the firm of Rudnick & Wolfe. Kelly holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Chicago. She was a founding Board member of the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits and also served for 5 years on the Board of the Association for Women Journalists–Chicago. She can be reached ("Dear Nonprofiteer . . .") at

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