I once had a very good friend, I will call him Jake, that was the son of a Fortune 500 executive. Jake lived alone in his parents’ pent house in a very exclusive part of the California Coast Line. Both parents were professionals who were away from home most of the year. Jake was nursed through infancy by a nanny, who also continued to see that he was nurtured through his early school years. When she left, Jake was sent to a bordering school. Jake would have bombed out of college if it wasn’t for the fact that his family contributed “much” to the school he attended. When I met Jake he was 24 years old, mostly camping out on various beaches, selling drugs, and clinging to whoever would pay any attention to him. After an “incident” that embarrassed the family, Jake’s dad found him a place in the family business, an assistant was hired just to “oversee” Jake’s behavior 24/7.
As a counselor, I hear many first-hand stories that add validity to my theory above: no bad children, just bad parenting. One story is about a nine year old boy that had been born into a family that believed “everyone” did drugs and that “alcohol was healthier to drink than tap water”. He probably received his first traumatic brain injury by the age of two by being thrown against a wall by a family “friend”. He remembers getting beat a lot, but doesn’t remember getting a lot of hugs or being held by a parent when he cried. He entered our “justice” system by the age of nine;
I met him when he was in his early thirties, he had been out of prison for a month—the first full month of not being in prison since the age of nine. He wanted was to get his driver’s license and never return to prison. After ten years a drug infested community, and an unforgiving society recently became his downfall.
Both of these examples of “bad parenting”, on either end of the socio-economic spectrum, are examples of how, as a society, we are creating a penal population of children.
The 2014 National Research Council’s report on “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States..” reports that the rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. A 2013 Washington Post article indicated that “….about 70,000 (children and teenagers) are detained on any given day..”
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) works to build awareness of the root causes of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline and trends that incarcerate our youth. (www.childrensdefense.org) “States spend about three times as much money per prisoner as per public school pupil. Unless we focus our efforts on early intervention and prevention, rather than punishment, we are robbing thousands of youth each year of their futures and our country of vital human resources.”
Get involved. Let’s stop paying to further abuse our children through a justice system that is broken. Healthy children equal a healthy society.
Glad we talked about this. Of course, it is just my opinion.
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“Ask MAx” is published weekly in the Springfield Times, Springfield, OR. You can subscribe to the Springfield Times at http://www.springfieldtimes.net/.