For as long as there have been laws there have been criminals. In fact, as long as there have been humans on this planet, I’m sure there have been those who found it easier to steal a meal than to hunt for it. And so ancient civilizations established laws as well as means of enforcing them to help discourage such behavior. To an extent these rules have helped us to support an orderly and civilized existence, because most people abide by them. But still there are those who choose not to and who never will and these few are our subject here. I’m not talking about people who have a few mistakes and learned from them, I’m talking about career criminals, drug dealers, hardcore addicts, thieves, gang members, sexual predators, child molesters, murders, professional con artists, and other assorted vermin.
In America these people have become a burden on our society and or personal safety and that of our families. There are predators among us just as dangerous as any wild animal. They are always looking for the next opportunity, the next victim. And once these people finally do get caught, offenders get placed into a system that will soon spit them right back out on the street to continue on the pattern of violence and thievery. If we could “cure” or reform these people into safe productive members of society this would be great but unfortunately for most of these people there is no such hope. The only thing most of them will learn in jail or prison is how to avoid getting caught next time or how to get out of it more easily when they do get caught. And of course they will learn a few new tricks from their cell mates, new ways to con, steal, or a new recipe for their favorite narcotic.
From what I have seen most the time these criminals have a brood of offspring that will soon follow in their footsteps, just as many of them have followed in the footsteps of their parents. I have worked in a detention facility for over 20 years and yes this has made me a little bias. It has also opened up my eyes to the problems that surround us every day, problems that many of the good people of the world seldom notice or choose to ignore. I live in a small town in the south and I had no idea of the level of crime that was occurring all around me until I came to work in law enforcement. I remember the first thing that shocked me was the rights and privileges these people had, and the hordes of lawyers there were just waiting for you to violate one of them. These guys sat around all day smoking cigarettes and watching TV. They got 3 hot meals a day, and better medical attention than most of the free population and all for free! I soon came to realize that in addition to paying for their room and board most of the guys had families on the outside that were getting some type of government aid so we were paying for them too. Most of the criminals also received government checks of some sort when they were not occupying a jail cell. I never knew there were so many seemingly able-bodied people who were on disability. And who ends up ultimately paying for all this? The honest and hardworking tax payers of course, yet another way these people take advantage of us every day. We have to pay for the Police to try to keep their dirty deeds down to a dull roar, the prisons and jails that house them, the lawyers that defend them, the doctors that treat them, and in many cases their multiple children whose mothers either don’t work or don’t make enough money to support them.
And over the years I have noticed several patterns. The first is that someone arrested for an offense, like say shoplifting, is highly likely to commit the same offense repeatedly or to move on to more serious offenses in the future. They all say “you’ll never see me again” but this rarely happens. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and that definitely holds true here. The second and more disturbing pattern is a lot of the people I see being arrested now are second or third generations of the same people who were committing the same offenses years ago. The little 5-year-old I saw visiting his father with his mother 14 years ago is now following in his father’s footsteps. And why not? This is the way of life he learned when he was growing up and it’s the only thing he knows. I think one of the biggest influences on the way a person acts as an adult is what they observe as a child and what kind of role models are available. That’s why it really saddens me to see these mothers drag their children out to the jail twice a week to see their fathers. What kind of message is this sending to them? In most cases the message intentional or not is its okay to break the law, just don’t get caught. These kids learn to distrust and despise law enforcement and see them as the enemy and thus creating another criminal. One of the hardest things for me to understand is the mothers involved here. Do they not see the damage they are doing to their children by allowing this influence?
I am constantly amazed at why women choose to stick by these guys no matter what they do. I have seen women beat by a man and had their children abused by these men in every way imaginable and the next day they are begging and pleading to get them back. I have seem women work two or three jobs to support the children of some criminal and still find time to come visit them every time the door is open and send them cards and love letters every day. And of course to bring them money so they can buy snacks, cigarettes, and other goodies. And what do these women get in return? They get a man with little or no source on income that will usually cheat on and lie to them at every available opportunity. With this kind of support why would any of these guys want to change their ways? Most offenders receive support from a network of enablers like their mothers, baby’s mothers, mistresses, lawyers and of course other criminals.
So what is the answer, how can we break the cycle, and is it even possible? Law enforcement is not really to blame here as I truly believe they are trying to do the best they can with the tools and resources at their disposal. Most agencies are severely underfunded and understaffed, jails and prisons everywhere are already overcrowded and all they can do is keep the pot from boiling over. The only solution at hand now is for everyone to look for and end this pattern in their lives. If you are enabling a person who is a career criminal it’s time for some tough love. It is hard to do this with someone you care about. Think about it next time they want you to come bail them out or bring money to put on their books. In most cases you’re not helping them you are simply making it easier to make the same mistakes again. And parents or relatives of children whose fathers or mothers are bad influences find ways to bring positive influences into their lives, and lessen the impact of the bad decisions and lifestyle of that parent.
What can everyone else do to stop this cycle? We can look for ways to help end it, like maybe being a positive role model for children who lack one. There are a lot of organizations out there like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America or Boy Scouts as well as a variety of local organizations that can really help these kids to learn that there is another way of life and break the cycle.