Jennifer Gist agreed to wear a sandwich sign board for an hour, asking if you know where your toddlers are at 3:25 AM. The punishment seems odd to some, but to her, it was better than jail.
Friday in Petersburg. A lot of sun, a lot of trucks, a lot of eyes staring at Jennifer Gist.
"Don't bother me," she says.
She walked outside the courthouse for an hour, wearing this sign asking 'Do you know where your toddlers are at 3:25 AM?' The back read, 'I should've followed the DCS safety plan.'
"I'm not embarrassed by it," Gist says about wearing the sign. "Yes, it hurts my ankle, but my kids are protected and that is what means the most to me."
It's part of her plea deal made for allowing her two boys to wander down Main Street before the sun came up last May.
"An hour out of her day, 10 weekends in jail, 128 hours of community service," says Pike Co. Prosecutor Darrin McDonald. She walked for 60 minutes, on a recently sprained ankle, to shorten her time in jail by thirty days. McDonald says gist was charged after she failed to put a chain lock on her door. He says this punishment made more sense.
"If it makes them more aware when they need to put a two dollar chain on the back door to keep their kids safe, maybe they'll look as they're driving by and say, 'Hey, I really do need to follow through with things', then it's worth it," he says.
As the eyes of the community gazed on her, Gist remained unfazed.
"I would do anything to protect my children, and this way, they don't get taken away from me for 30 days, and go through the withdrawals," she says.
McDonald says sentences for child neglect can run from six months to three years. He adds last may's incident was the second time Gist's kids were found far from home without adult supervision.