Meet Chelsea Eileen Steiniger, a 31-year-old Buckingham County woman who, according to The Daily Progress, may have accomplished the feat of having been arrested more often — 63 times — than anyone else in Central Virginia.
One reason she has been arrested so frequently, it appears, is the leniency of judges who are reluctant to sentence her to jail time.
“It’s become a philosophy that you don’t want to put someone in prison for a low-level, low-dollar-amount crime,” Charlottesville lawyer Scott Goodman told the newspaper. “It’s basically treated as a sickness as much as it is a crime these days. If you show any kind of an effort that you’re trying to overcome your addiction, that goes a long way with the courts.”
General District Court Judge Matthew Quatrara recently found her guilty of numerous offenses in Albemarle County, including contempt and check larceny, but he imposed suspended sentences. He did sentence her for 30 days on a charge of driving under the influence, however.
In 2012 she claimed that she had been abducted and raped by a local man who gave her a ride. He served more than two years in jail before his defense produced evidence portraying Steiniger as a fabulist who concocted a tale to anger a boyfriend. She was never charged with perjury. In another case, she stole a nurse’s scooter at the University of Virginia Medical Center. She served no time for that either, although she was ordered to pay restitution.
Steiniger currently faces another 20 charges in Buckingham County relating to identity theft, trading in stolen goods and entering a house to commit assault and battery. Many of her current and past charges also involve drugs.
“Ms. Steiniger,” asked Quatrara at her recent hearing, “what is the longest period you’ve been drug-free?”
“Six months,” she answered.
“I’m happy to see you alive,” said the judge. “When I didn’t see you for a long time, I was concerned that your issues had gotten the best of you and that I was going to read your obituary in the newspaper.”
For purposes of argument, let us grant that Ms. Steiniger has a drug problem and that she needs “help.” How many chances should she be given to redeem herself?
We don’t know from the article how many opportunities she has had to get clean. Did she ever conclude that, given the lack of legal consequences, it was just easier to continue committing petty crimes for easy money than to do the hard work of kicking her addiction? Did society’s “compassion” become a crutch that enabled her to continue her self-destructive ways?
We often hear that jail is a terrible, wasteful place to house drug addicts, alcoholics, and the mentally ill. Really? Sixty-three crimes implies 63 victims along the way — not including an innocent man who spent two years in jail.
How many people does Steiniger have to rob or defraud before society says “enough”?
Published at baconsrebellion.com