I've been a county jail volunteer for more than 10...

I've been a county jail volunteer for more than 10 years on Long Island, and I can tell you that educational services are long overdue. Credit: iStock

On Wednesday, Lacey Spears was sentenced to 20 years to life for killing her 5-year-old son. Spears tortured the little boy for most of his existence by force feeding him high concentrations of salt through a tube. His murder took thought, time and determination. The judge, state Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary, called Spears's crime "unfathomable in its cruelty."

Spears will be eligible for parole in 19 years when she is 46.

On the same day, a 43-year-old Bronx man by the name of Karriem Barrow was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Karas to 16 terms of life in prison -- plus two 20-year terms, which somehow seem redundant. Barrow's crimes were a series of armed bank robberies in Westchester and Putnam counties during a two-month stretch of 2010, and a restaurant robbery in the Bronx earlier that year. No one was injured during the robberies, which were inarguably serious crimes. In fact, Barrow and his partner in crime, Carl Farrington, were dubbed "the polite bandits" for thanking their victims and bidding them a good day as they headed out the door with the loot.

Former New York City police officer Justin Volpe got 30 years without parole for the horrific broomstick sodomy of Abner Louima in 1997. Kevin Mitchell, who was just convicted of first-degree rape of a Murray Hill woman in her home in 2013 -- he threatened to cut her throat if she screamed -- got 14 years, which Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance called "lengthy." Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley then postponed Mitchell's transfer to an upstate prison so that he could get married.

A Tennessee man named Edward Young is serving a 15-year mandatory sentence -- a year more than the convicted New York rapist -- for having seven shotgun shells in his home. Young didn't have a shotgun, or any gun for that matter, just the shells which he was given as part of a neighbor's estate. He had agreed to help sell the neighbor's items for the widow of the deceased. Young had reportedly turned his life around after committing burglaries in his youth, but as an ex-con he got hit with the decade-and-a-half minimum sentence.

A Delaware man was sentenced to probation last year after being convicted of raping his 3-year-old daughter. The state Superior Court judge who sentenced him reasoned that the man, who happened to be an heir to the du Pont family chemical fortune, would not "fare well" in prison. Meanwhile, a Sandy Springs, Georgia, sanitation worker was sentenced to jail time last month for picking up trash too early. The early riser was nabbed for beginning his rounds shortly after 5 a.m. instead of at 7 a.m. as prescribed by Sandy Springs law.

I remember reading a newspaper in the bathroom of a Hanoi hotel in 2002 -- yes, too much information -- and seeing that a convicted embezzler had been given the death penalty, plus 10 years of hard labor. I thought, what kind of crazy country would issue sentences like that.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.