This letter is in response to the Aug. 24 Post and Courier article “Is he really the ‘Felons’ Friend’?” in which Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hughston Jr. was characterized as being overly lenient in his sentencing of criminal defendants.
While the author cites opinions on both sides of the issue, the inclusion of harsh comments by anonymous critics of Judge Hughston assaults the reputation of a dedicated and well-respected jurist and perpetuates popular ignorance of judges’ responsibilities within the criminal justice system.
The more inflammatory comments by Judge Hughston’s critics reflect lack of understanding of the goals of sentencing in the modern criminal justice system.
Victims, families and all citizens understandably want to see perpetrators punished.
It is perhaps precisely for this reason that, while the Constitution holds inviolate the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers, sentencing of the convicted is left to the sound discretion of judges.
In addition to exacting retribution on behalf of the victim, judges must also balance larger societal interests, including rehabilitation of the wrongdoer. Each case is unique, and it takes wisdom and experience to balance the diverse interests at stake.
Judge Hughston has many years of experience and is known and respected throughout the legal community as a firm but compassionate jurist. He, and several knowledgeable observers interviewed for the story, explained his philosophy regarding sentencing — one that takes all facts of each case into account and encourages a better lifestyle for those capable of achieving such.
At a time when jails and prisons are overburdened with non-violent inmates and incarceration does too little to promote rehabilitation, Judge Hughston demonstrates both compassion and reason in his approach.
Isolated statistics and anecdotes about sentences he has imposed cannot possibly adequately describe the body of work of Judge Hughston or of any other judge.
Alice F. Paylor
South Carolina Bar
M. Dawes Cooke Jr.
Commission on Judicial
Independence and Impartiality South Carolina Bar
Exit exam fails
I am writing in hopes of bringing public attention to a serious problem.
South Carolina public schools require students to pass the HSAP test (also known as the exit exam) before they can receive their high school diploma.
Students are required to pass this exam regardless of the fact that they have gone through 12 long years of study, passed every required exam and test in the classroom, received passing grades in every subject required and been promoted grade by grade, year by year, all the way through the 12th grade.
And in the graduation ceremony that I attended last year, the superintendent of the school district stood before a crowd of 7,000, called the students’ names and certified each one as a graduate who has earned a South Carolina high school diploma.
Yet, when the affected student opened his folder, there was no diploma (because of the HSAP Test). In other words, the superintendent misled these students, at least in our eyes.
The HSAP testing system is as unfair and unjust as anything I have ever heard of in government, especially to the students who are handicapped and/or disabled.
Currently, there are almost 4,000 South Carolina students who have been denied their diplomas because of this gross injustice.
We need to think of the millions of dollars spent on this utterly stupid bureaucratic device that denies deserving students even though they have earned their diploma. This money could be diverted to increase the pay of hard-working teachers who deserve to be compensated appropriately.
It is my understanding that a bill eliminating the HSAP test requirement has passed the S.C. House of Representatives and is now in the Education Committee of the Senate.
South Carolinians need to get in touch with their senators and urge them to get this bill out of committee, approve it on the floor to do away with the wrong that is now imposed on South Carolina students.
This needs to be done on the first day of the legislative session which begins in January.
Rev. J.T. Williams
Lighthouse Baptist Church
I’ve read with interest several letters concerning the demolition of the public library at 404 King Street.
There’s an adage, “You can’t tell a book by its cover,” which applies in this case.
Employees usually entered via the “back door.”
The first person you would see, Clara Neuman, was a devoted volunteer for Friends of the Library for over 20 years.
The first floor contained the circulation, children’s and reference departments.
The technical services, offices of the director and other managers, were located upstairs.
After Hurricane Hugo struck in the fall of 1989, we were contacted and told when to report.
Of course, the sturdy old building had survived the storm and welcomed us back.
We worked like Trojans in the first days, cleaning, re-shelving and updating records and giving thanks for our jobs.
The ancient air-conditioning system was temporarily out of order, but Tom Raines made sure that repairing it was a top priority.
I worked at Charleston County Public Library for nearly nine years.
Most days we could hear beautiful music from St. Matthews Lutheran Church across the street. Sometimes The Citadel would conduct marches in Marion Square.
During my time, the famous old card catalog system was replaced by CD ROMS, and four regional branches began operating.
I remember filing out for fire drills and seeing the dignified dalmatian riding the truck.
So criticize the architecture, but remember: It’s what was inside those doors that provided many happy hours of pleasure and learning for patrons young and old, wealthy and homeless.
I’m glad to have been a part of its history.
Miriam K. Davis
Monday’s Post and Courier contained the most loathsome editorial decision I have witnessed in any paper ever in my lifetime.
That is the decision, on Labor Day, to run a large cartoon ridiculing low-wage fast-food workers who dare to advocate for a livable wage.
While it certainly has proven to be na´ve for workers to expect corporations to share their skyrocketing profits with their employees, or to honor the promises made when hiring them, to mock them as clowns for expecting fair treatment is beyond any acceptable standard, even in a state where the chief executive calls a news conference to trumpet her intent to conspire against all her state’s citizens who work for an hourly wage.
Just as on the Fourth of July and Memorial Day we honor those who organized and died to gain our freedom from tyranny, so on Labor Day we honor those who organized and died to gain freedom from enslavement by corporate tyrants.
This gross insult by the cartoonist and The Post and Courier should serve as a reminder to all working Americans that the only gains that have ever been achieved against those who wield power have come, not by asking for justice, but by organizing and demanding it.