Should high-school senior Tim McManus be serving a mandatory 18-month jail term for carrying a gun illegally in Boston? CommonWealth magazine raises that question. Some argue that many young minority males should not be put behind bars for minor crimes at an age when mistakes come easily and incarceration can have lasting negative effects. Dan Conley, Suffolk County, Ma., district attorney, disagrees. “My position has always been that the way we approach unlicensed carrying of firearms has had an impact on public safety,” he says. “I don’t make any apologies for strictly enforcing the law.”
Conley’s spokesman, Jake Wark, says McManus was with a known “impact player” when he was arrested and was also with a known gang member when stopped and questioned by police several months earlier. Wark says prosecutors worry about the message it would send to go easy on a defendant without a serious criminal background who could be holding a gun for someone with a long record. “He’s making very bad choices in terms of the company he’s keeping,” Wark says. McManus’ defenders point out that it took nearly a year and a half to get his case to trial, a period roughly equal to the minimum jail sentence he was facing, and he got into no trouble with the law while he was out on bail.