Some of the things we do in the name of justice don't make a lot of sense. I was marginally involved several years ago in a case that serves to illustrate my point. A man who had fraudulently used a credit card for several hundred dollars was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in jail.

The reason behind his use of the credit card made it impossible for him to make amends or make a deal. (He was flat broke.) His wife and two children became the responsibility of others. (She was pregnant with their third child.) And the year in jail both made the marriage harder to hold together and did nothing to repay the fellow whose card he had misused. (I don't know if the poor guy ever got his money back or his credit score cleaned up.)

Why don't we do more things like the Hebrew justice system required? A man who stole a neighbor's sheep, for example, didn't go to jail for a year. He had to restore four sheep for every one he took. If he took an ox, it was a five-for-one restitution that was required. Get the picture? The community didn't house and feed him in jail for a year. The thief worked, sacrificed, and lived with the community's awareness of his sin. Stiff punishment and victim compensation. (For a quick glance at this subject, check out and search on restitution.)

This concept of making restitution is what makes me appreciate the thing Adrian and Tiffany McKinnon did a few months back. They had been gone from their home near Montgomery, Alabama, for a week. When they got back, the surprise awaiting them was that a burglar had looted the place.

They entered their home, Mrs. McKinnon saw a practically empty house, and she burst into tears. Not only were her possessions gone but her new house had been ransacked. "Tears just rolled down my face," she said, "as I walked in and saw everything gone and piles of trash all over my house."

Mr. McKinnon dashed through the house to investigate – and caught the thief red-handed. He had apparently freelanced the operation and done it solo. He was making one more trip to the house to pick up a few remaining items of value and walked into the homeowner – wearing Mr. McKinnon's hat, no less!

He made the crook clean up the house.
Adrian McKinnon took charge. He held the thief at gunpoint, while Tiffany called the police. Then he decided there was no need for him and his wife to have to undo all the chaos the 33-year-old bungling burglar had wreaked. So he forced him to pick up trash, put broken and discarded items back in place, and clean up the house he had wrecked in their absence.

When the police arrived, the thief had the gall to complain about being forced to clean up the mess he had made. The policeman laughed and told him that somebody else might have shot him dead. The whining stopped.

Maybe the McKinnon's could make a lecture tour to law schools across the country to explain the basics of restitution. I think they're onto something.