A group of local teenagers convicted of vandalism were given the option this week to join the military rather than face an extended jail sentence. Bad idea.
This assumes that military service is a punishment. It isn't and shouldn't be. In fact, military positions in every branch are highly specialized and require intense discipline and training. We need not only the best people for the job, but also ones who choose to be there. It's the guiding principle of the all-volunteer army.
I once worked a job where, on three occasions, I had to supervise guys who were doing community service. Basically, they were doing my job as punishment for committing misdemeanors. They were nice guys - two of whom I already knew - and all did well enough. But that really made me question why the hell I had this job, and whether or not it was really safe to trust guys who had been involved in fights and/or thefts with hammers and power drills. In some cases, that might not have been the best solution. And this wasn't even a position where lives were at stake.
The debate on this sentence is pretty cut-and-dry. Armchair warriors love it, military recruiters hate it. While the latter group decries the use of the armed forces as a baby-sitter for truants, the former speaks in vagaries about building character and making a man out of you yet. It's not hard for me to pick a side on this one.