Nights in Jail Aren't Harsh Enough

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 29, 1995

The lenient sentence given to a member of the Christian Brothers order for sodomizing an 11-year-old boy raises strong questions about whether justice has been done. For a crime that shattered bonds of trust and traumatized a boy who needed to be counseled, not taken advantage of, Brother Felix Bland has been sentenced only to serve nights in a St. Louis County jail facility for a year. A harsher penalty would have been more appropriate.

The victim in the case is a boy who was sexually molested at the order's LaSalle Institute in St. Louis County, where Bland was counseling him. After the attack, the youth went to another juvenile facility in Ohio, where he told authorities Bland had molested him. At the time, Bland had been sent to do missionary work in Africa, but he later returned to the St. Louis area and applied for another counseling job, with the juvenile court in St. Charles County.

Bland at first pleaded innocent to the charge but later pleaded guilty. Authorities said that when he met with the youth he later admitted molesting, a tape of the conversation showed that Bland tried to coach the teen-ager on what he should and should not say to police.

On Monday, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Bernhardt C. Drumm sentenced Bland to 15 years in prison; he suspended all but one year of the sentence and said that year could be spent on a work-release program. During the day, Bland may do manual labor at his order's headquarters in Glencoe. At night, he must return to jail. Judge Drumm said Bland's age - he is 63 - and his expression of remorse and the fact that other brothers have counseled him and promised to keep him away from children led him to the lenient sentence.

Such gentleness helps Bland but insults his victims. The father of five boys who said Bland had molested them told the judge in a letter how his younger sons are afraid to go to school. The father questioned why he should have to stay at home to teach his children while Bland is free to go to work, asking: "Is that justice?" The answer is no.


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