In a way, Mary Lee is as much a victim as she is an offender. Married at seventeen, she quit high school and moved west with her husband who was in the army. By the time she was twenty, she had two children and was divorced. With babysitters to pay and skills that would command no more than minimum wage, Mary Lee turned to such income supplements as shoplifting, bad check writing, and occasionally prostitution. Her check-passing skills developed rapidly, and it was not long before she had amassed a series of convictions, not to mention several lesser offenses for petty larceny that were disposed of by the prosecutor’s declaration of nolle prosequi. To date, Mary Lee has not served a day in prison. Judge Longworth has used admonition, restitution, suspended sentence, and probation to rehabilitate Mary Lee. However, Mary Lee’s criminal conduct has persisted, as has her inability to stretch her food stamps, welfare payments, and part-time minimum-wage employment into a satisfactory existence for herself and her children. To complicate the matter, the welfare safety net that had helped keep Mary Lee and her children afloat would cease to exist for her within 24 months.

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