You do realize that people who are "mortified" after killing, show genuine remose for their crime, get lighter sentences(unless you pre-plan a killing spree of say, a dozen people, then remorse won't get you anywhere). The problem with community service is the "community" part. You can't exactly trust a criminal, who is probably rather diseased, around the food supply, you can't trust rapists around women, pedophiles around children, murderers around people in general. That's the whole point of prison, to isolate people from the society that they harmed, and punish them for their actions.
Sometimes in cases of serial killers, there are back-room deals being made, don't take the system at face value. Perhaps a serial killer gave up some important information or is willing to help out cops on another case, as they sometimes do, and in exchange their sentence was cut down. Also, there are medical conditions and remorse of course, if Lotts, even at 14, showed no remorse, and perhaps a desire to do it again, people would favor giving him a harsher sentence.
Also there is some meat to the idea that many judges who try kids unfairly give them harsh sentences, from petty crime to murder, they receive disproportionate sentencing, this however, is often the fault of the judge, not the system, or perhaps the prosecutor.
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