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Any parent who has lost a child can attest to the sense of loss and sadness that occurs. A parent who loses two children plus six young relatives in a house fire would suffer grief beyond compare. Personal suffering, however, hardly seems appropriate punishment for a mother who leaves her children and other young relatives to go drinking in a bar while the house burns and kills eight youngsters.

Camellia Foulks of Carbondale has been sentenced to 360 days in jail in the wake of eight tragic deaths following a three-hour drinking spree during which she left nine children unsupervised at her home. One of her children managed to escape the fire that struck during those three hours.

At first, Foulks was charged with eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. Had she been convicted, she could have received a much stiffer penalty. But the Jackson County, Ill., prosecutor reduced the charge to a misdemeanor, endangering the life or health of a child, and she pleaded guilty.

Officials say Foulks must serve all 360 days in jail with no chance of parole. She has begun serving the term and will be behind bars until March of next year. But there will be many residents in and near Carbondale who will always wonder why she was let off so lightly after eight children perished in flames.