Mark Grace's Work Release: Does It Violate the Spirit of the Program?

Jeff Gross

Community benefit in coaching at spring training seems like a stretch. So thinks Michael Bates, one of SBN's Designated Columnists. Here's his take on Mark Grace's situation.

I don't know Mark Grace. He could legitimately be the nicest guy in the world, sincere in his dedication to never driving drunk again. Further, I'm incredibly glad that the Diamondbacks are willing to extend themselves to help him, to provide a structure to support the former first baseman and keep him away from bad decisions. Presumably, however, that support structure will still be there in four months, when his actual sentence is up. If there's one guy in the history of work release who should probably be forced to sit around all day and think about what he did, it's Mark Grace.

Work release is a tremendous program. It allows non-violent, trustworthy inmates the opportunity to continue to hold down their jobs or to seek new ones that they can transition into after their sentences are up. It's a vital tool to keep offenders from repeating their past mistakes and to allow struggling families to stay in their homes and schools while a parent is locked up. It ensures that the community continues to benefit from the skills of inmates whose jobs benefit the community at large. It does exactly what we want our correctional programs to do, which is correct and reform offenders and make our communities safer, better places.

Mark Grace may very well qualify as a trusted, non-violent offender, and he does have a job to go to, but I'm struggling to understand why Mark Grace needs work release in his life. By all accounts, he's a wealthy man whose family is not in any kind of jeopardy while he's away. I don't mean this in a, "Hey, let's get the rich guy," kind of way, but let's be honest with ourselves: His kids are cared for and everybody will still have a roof over their heads, three squares a day, and the electricity on without him there. Grace made $46 million in his playing career. If he needs to keep working to bring money in at this point, that's almost as significant a problem as his terrible drunken decision-making.

It's not as though Grace is using this opportunity to give back to the Phoenix community. Rather, he's using his days out to help run a fantasy camp (where he is the judge of the kangaroo court) and to be a special instructor at spring training. Look, I get that the Diamondbacks are the pride of Phoenix and all that, but I don't see how helping Paul Goldschmidt with his footwork or Didi Gregorius to fix a hole in his swing is benefiting the community in any way.

Aside from having one less guy for guards to watch on the grounds of Joe Arpaio's tent city, I don't see what purpose it serves to have Grace "stuff[ing] himself full of clubhouse food during the afternoon (thereby avoiding the prison grub)" or "chain smok[ing] before leaving the facility, filling up on nicotine" as Dan Bickley reports for The Arizona Republic. I mean, I take Grace at his word that, "It sucks. It really sucks," and that it's cold at night in his tent, and he doesn't have a lot of layers to wear. I'm sure that's something he and his cadre of DUI offenders talk about during the long hours between when Grace reports to camp (at 6:00 PM) and when "guys start fading around 8 or 8:30."

Look, I don't mean to make light of jail, even the relatively light jail that Grace seems to be experiencing. Having never been to jail, I'm not able to speak to the difficulties that Grace may or may not be experiencing. Yet, as an outsider, I can't help wanting to see a man with nothing productive to do, who not only was busted for drunk driving once, but who willfully and maliciously violated his sentence to have an Interlock in his vehicle and drove drunk a second time, spend some more time reflecting on what he did wrong and remembering why he doesn't want to do it again. Save work release for somebody who really needs it, and make Mark Grace really do his time.

Michael Bates is one of SBN's Designated Columnists and one of the minds behind The Platoon Advantage. Follow him at @commnman and the Designated Columnists at @SBNMLBDCers.

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