It was all too tempting to start this reflection with some quip, making light of the conviction of a Deerfield, Illinois, couple found guilty of allowing their son’s friends to drink in their basement one night last October. How easy it is sitting on this side of the monitor to mock, to ridicule, or to cry self-righteous.

One night last October

That’s when it happened. And I’ll bet everyone involved is crying to go back, to undo what was done, to bring back the two who were lost:

Killed were Daniel Bell of Bannockburn, and a passenger, Ross Trace of Riverwoods, both 18.

That’s the one line in tonight’s story in the Chicago Tribune that resonates more than any other on the page.

With my personal involvement with youth through the years, I’ve heard of too many incidents where young people report that parents buy alcohol sometimes for their parties. Or parents permit drinking in the house because, “they’re going to do it anyway, so they may as well do it here where we can watch them.” The so-called “chaperoned drinking” is the adults’ way of pretending that they actually still have some measure of control in the lives of their children.

Perhaps. The story gives the cold facts:

As the debate continues in courtrooms, at high schools and around kitchen tables across the country on who ultimately bears responsibility for underage drinking, a jury in Lake County weighed in with its own opinion Saturday, finding a Deerfield couple guilty of allowing their son’s friends to drink in their basement one night last October.

Two teenage guests were killed in a car crash shortly after leaving the Deerfield home of Jeffrey and Sara Hutsell. According to testimony given during the five-day trial against the couple last week, the 18-year-old driver had consumed alcohol at the party.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated seven hours before reaching its decision at about 7:40 p.m. They also convicted the Hutsells of one count of endangerment of a child and one count of obstruction of justice for lying to police officers on the night of the accident. The jury acquitted the couple of another obstruction charge for destroying evidence. The Hutsells showed no emotion as the verdicts were read.

Perhaps it’s an admission they no longer have control. Or perhaps they just want to be their kids’ friends. I really don’t know. I can’t analyze. I don’t know them. Many were expecting prison time for the couple. “They” should be punished, after all.

We will preach and analyze and throw this headline around for a while. We will yell at our kids, stand on street corners, carry signs, cry, and get angry. We will talk about “those parents” who let kids do those things. We will want to even further tighten our absurdly punitive laws in Illinois even further, put “them” in prison, take away the kids’ driving licenses, do something more to convince ourselves that we’re really in control.

We’re so fucking good at punishment, after all. We must know what we’re doing. Look at all of our prisons. We can’t build them fast enough. And now we’re sending two more away. Good for us!

But in the midst of finger-pointing, in the midst of our tears for two young lives snuffed out “one night last October,” we need to simply pause and let it all sink in:

Killed were Daniel Bell of Bannockburn, and a passenger, Ross Trace of Riverwoods, both 18.

And that can’t be undone, ever. No matter how many people we put in prison. If the possibility of death from driving drunk doesn’t stop people from driving drunk, is more prison time going to do it? Will these convictions stop the next idiot parents from winking at the kids in the basement as they hide their beers, “checking on the party,” and then return upstairs?

No. Parents have been convicted before of such things.

So the real question is, how do we really prevent the next senseless deaths?