This is an excellent judgement. Make the kid work for the jail instead of putting him into the jail. Very enlightened given the nature crime and the age of its offender.
Many people think of anyone capable of defacing a website some sort of master villain... but of course the truth is that many of these people are clueless and without the aid of available software would be totally uncapable of any similar action.
Yeah, well, so are many people drawing high salaries in the industry, relatively speaking. What's the big deal? He has to help, not rewrite tcp. Presumably he has some experience with software and knows where the keyboard is so, at the very least, he can be used to type and/or test.
Who knows, he may come out of this with a sense of responsibility and some learned programming skills. Frankly, the judge sounds smarter than you give him credit for.
You're losing sight of the issue because of sensationalist journalism copy (Teen Hacker sentenced ...) and the "offensive" misuse of hacker for cracker. Neither of these things were in the judges radar, or at least shouldnt have been.
To me the mainstream media has often misunderstood the whole issue of technology.
To me technologists often misunderstand their role and importance in society. Good karma all around :-)