DEAR SUN SPOTS: This has been nagging me for a while: Why suspended sentences for someone who has a rap sheet as long as my inseam? Does the judge, defense or the prosecution believe a person convicted of violent crimes and other felonies over several years and appears to be a career criminal has some redeeming qualities? — Charles via email
ANSWER: The best explanation Sun Spots found online was at criminal.lawyers.com, which offered this:
“A suspended sentence is one that’s imposed but not carried out. If you stay out of trouble, you don’t have to serve the sentence. Judges often give first time offenders suspended sentences as an incentive for keeping out of trouble. It also frees up scarce jail space for more serious offenders. At the end of the suspension period, the judge lifts the sentence if you haven’t gotten into trouble. But if you re-offend during your suspension period, you’ll likely be sent to jail to serve the original sentence.”
From this, Sun Spots gets the idea that it’s mostly about cost. Incarceration is expensive. Keeping criminals on probation saves money and gives them a chance to straighten out their lives.
Suspended sentences may also be part of a plea bargain, which saves the expense of a trial as well as incarceration.
Sun Spots emailed the Maine Attorney General’s Office for a comment, but did not get a response. Over the years she has had very little luck getting lawyers to comment, although there is a lawyer who sometimes writes to the column. Perhaps she will offer her thoughts on this topic.
DEAR SUN SPOTS: Can anyone tell me how I can stop receiving mail from a church in Oklahoma?
I have sent their material back to them in their postage-paid envelope four times, asking them to remove my address from their mailing list. But they continue to send it to me.
The last one I sent back was Nov. 20. I received another one Nov. 22. Thank you. — No Name, No Town
ANSWER: It can be difficult to get removed from mailing lists, as many organizations subcontract out their mailings, which can mean months for your request to be honored.
You can reduce the amount of junk mail you receive overall. The following appears on the Federal Trade Commission’s website:
“The Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years. When you register with this service, your name will be put on a ‘delete’ file and made available to direct-mail marketers and organizations. This will reduce most of your unsolicited mail.
“However, your registration will not stop mailings from organizations that do not use the DMA’s Mail Preference Service.
“To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to www.dmachoice.org, or mail your request with a $1 processing fee to DMAchoice, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512.”
Even if you notify them, however, some groups are persistent and ignore all requests.
Many years ago, when Sun Spots was young and impetuous, she had a similar problem with mailings from a group she found offensive. So she put a few rocks in a small box along with their propaganda, her name and address clearly displayed. On top of that she put in a note that said “The next time I get another mailing from you, I will send you a bigger box of rocks.”
Then she firmly taped the postage-paid envelope to the top of the box and dropped it off at the post office. Apparently her message was received, because the mailings stopped immediately.
This technique probably wouldn’t work today. Anti-terrorism regulations require identification of the sender for any package that weighs more than 13 ounces, so the box of rocks might be refused and returned by the recipient — even if the post office accepts it initially — and you might get stuck paying postage for those rocks.
If readers know of any legitimate way of forcing mailings to stop, please write.
This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.