He was 19 year old, married barely a year and working hard to save to buy a house for his new family. He had a near spotless driving record until one night, after drinking a six-pack of beer, he hit another car on a dark Montgomery County road and killed the driver.
Charged with manslaughter, the young man could have spent the next five years in jail.
Instead, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Stanley B. Frosh yesterday described to a conference on alternatives to prison how he fashioned a sentence to fit the crime - including regular attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous and weekly volunteer work in a hospital emergency room for three years.
"I wanted him to see first-hand the results of people like him," Frosh told the conference. "As long as the sentence lasted, I wanted him to remember what he did. Every minute he was in the emergency room I wanted him to remember he was responsible for someone else's death."
Frosh was one of about a dozen trial judges from around the country who related how they use alternatives to prison to punish offenders. According to Washington attorney Ira Lowe, who founded the organization, Creative Alternatives to Prison, they are part of small but growing movement in the criminal justice field.
U. S. Assistant Attorney General Patricia Wald told the Conference that the White House and Justice Department are studying the movement because it could save money. Studies show that it costs as much as $26,000 a year to keep a person in prison and that fewer than one in three federal prisoners have committed crimes of violences.
Lowe proposed in 1974 that former White House aide John D. Eurlichman do public service legal work for Pueble Indians instead of going to prison for his Watergate crimes. While Judge John J. Sirica rejected the proposal, Lowe said, "Ehrichman was the catalst" for getting people to talk other forms of punishment than prisons.
In Massachusetts, for instance, a group of judges is developing a handbook that lists cases - all nonviolent crimes and usually those of first offenders - in which alternative sentences are useful, and gives examples of different types of nonprison punishments.
"It's something that's on the rise in Massachusetts," said Newton District Judge Paul A. Chernoff, who was a public defender in Washington from 1963 to 1972.
As an example, he cited a teacher who forged a prescription for sleeping polls who was sentenced to six months of volunteer work as a tutor in a home for handicapped children. Similarly. Quincy District Judge Albert I. Kramer told how a gang that broke windows was sentenced to cleaning up yards and replacing 10 times the number of windows they broke.
"They are beginning to come to human terms with what their offense was," said Kramer.
In Montgomery County, Frosh said if he had sentenced the driver in the fatal accident to jail, "automically I was destroyed his job and probably destroying his marriage. His wife and children would go to welfare and society would probably have to support them the rest of their lives."
But not everyone approved of the sentence. The state's attorney objected as did the family of the accident victim - who was a young father himself, a lawyer who supposed to be on the brink of a brillant career.
"They were up in arms," said Frosh, "because they thought the punishment didn't take into account the seriousness of the offense and the life that was destroyed. I tried to explain to the family I couldn't restore a life, and it is probably a much better memorial that the guy who committed the offense is not going to be driving drunk again."