Kari Atkinson, a 28-year-old former middle school teacher will spend at least two years in prison for having sex with her 14-year-old student.  To protect the boy, the court also ordered that she not have any contact with him for eighteen years.  The sentence includes two years fixed time – that is time that must be served before Atkinson is eligible for parole – and sixteen indeterminate years.  The indeterminate time runs after the fixed time.  

This case illustrates the Idaho sentencing scheme.  A person sentenced to the Idaho Board of Corrections may be eligible for parole, but never be released.  Release depends on performance in prison.  If Ms. Atkinson is released, her life will be "managed" by a Parole officer assigned to her case.  

We often hear that women and men receive different treatment from the courts when it comes to sex crimes.  Perhaps that is true, perhaps not.  Still, the system takes a very dim view of sex with minors and will continue to punish those who violate the law.  The two years of "fixed" time may not seem like much, but even a few days in jail serves to remind most folks of the value of their liberty.  And if Ms. Atkinson thinks that prison is tough – on release she will still have to face a parole officer who may keep her away from minors and family members, and who will decide where she can live, what she can do and how she can do it.  Parole is not freedom.  Sometimes it can be an opportunity to really change your life, but often it is not.

The high cost of a criminal conviction includes the loss of freedom over your life and the limitation on your liberty.  It also includes the lost opportunities for careers and relationships.  

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