Christmas Stories: "The Gift " (About a Drug Addict and His Dying Mother) and a Judge 's Gamble

It never fails. Every year around this time I find myself surfing around, looking for something different, something with a human touch to read. I always find it. Here's this year's story, The Gift, from Sunday's New York Times.

As a former drug addict cares for his dying mother, an unexpected bond is formed from their sometimes tortured relationship.

Very poignant, very sad, but touching.

Update: I found another story, about a judge who took a gamble on a teen who killed a neighbor who had insulted his mother. He put him in a juvenile facility for 7 years rather than sentencing him as an adult. The gamble paid off.


The article begins with a description of the crime and the juvenile who committed it, a 14 year old named Kareem. It explains the judge's options and ultimate decision and describes Kareem's progress and the treatment programs he participated in during the next seven years in the juvenile facility. Then, at last, Kareem turns 21.
Not long before his 21st birthday this past June, Kareem returned to [Judge]Biehn's courtroom. Batty read his final report, and the judge deemed the case closed. Then Biehn stepped down from the bench and gave Kareem a hug.

He was free free to go, and as free of his past as a court and treatment could make him. Today, Kareem works as a counselor assistant at ARC, helping troubled kids like himself. He was appointed by the governor's office to sit on a state juvenile justice and delinquency prevention committee.

Judge Biehn retired but the story doesn't end there.
Biehn retired not long after Kareem's case was closed, but he saw the young man again in November, when he visited ARC to accept an award for all his years of service. The judge and his wife had lunch with the once-scrawny boy who now stands tall and self-assured. "He's got a beautiful smile," says Biehn.

While some question second-chance gambles like Biehn's, Kareem's former lawyer, Fink, called the decision courageous, and correct. In adult prison, Kareem "would've been the youngest, smallest person on the cell block. He would've rotted away," Fink says. "But I want to tell you, Kareem was fixed. This boy really turned his life around."

If only we had more judges like Judge Biehn, and more state legislators willing to be smart, rather than just tough on crime.

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