The Incredible Cruelty
of Dumping Permissively Raised Children into the USA's Brutal Legal Environment
The Mother of all Bait and Switch Routines!
There is a diabolical twist to American society that has, strangely, received
little attention. On the one hand, we raise children with little discipline
and we allow them the freedom to be virtually as wild and unruly as they please.
Then when they become adults we suddenly require rigid adherence to a mountain
of harsh laws with very severe penalties for the most trivial of indiscretions.
It is like training for tight-rope walking by crawling through a sandbox!
After the provision of security, food, and shelter, the primary function
of parents is to prepare their children for the adult environment. That's
what other animals do and that is what we should do. But we totally miss
the mark in preparing our children for being adults in the harsh legal
environment we have today.
The American criminal justice system that we prepare our children to live in is probably the cruelest, most
unfair, and least compassionate of any of the major countries of the world
today (we have at least 6
times the incarceration rate of the other "Free World" countries!).
While our system may not match some of the totalitarian regimes of the
past for torture and the taking of life, it is certainly among the worst
for harshness of sentences for minor crimes and the extended length of
In this essay, I will examine the current legal swamp of
horrors our adult society has drifted into and then look at how this same society prepares its children to live in it. I will follow that with my recommendations for how we could get out of
this mess by maybe just following the examples set by our leaders (with just a tad of cynicism!).
Let us start with identifying some of the really monstrous characteristics
of our so-called "Criminal Justice System":
· True justice is very hard to come by
If any justice whatsoever is to be received by an accused in the US today,
it has to be purchased. There are countless barricades thrown up by the
prosecuting and judicial agencies which insure that, without a major expenditure
of funds, the determination of a persons guilt by some legitimate and fair
process just isn't going to happen.
With enough money, the system may be forced to provide a minimal set
of judicial operatives. With enough money, you can force the system to
give you a trial. Once that is done, the probability of a successful defense
is roughly proportional to the amount of money a person is willing to invest.
Some particular reasons why real justice in the USA is scarce as hen's teeth are:
Picture a society where the government employs thousands
of its citizens to inform on their friends, family members, and business
associates; where tens of millions of dollars in government funds are spent
annually paying those who inform; where police obtain warrants to search
and seize private property based on reports from hidden sources; where
the only way to win early release from prison is to tell stories about
That about says it all, but if you really want your blood
to boil, see the PBS film, Snitch, available at "Shop
Imagine this scenario in a classroom: The teacher says to Johnny, "John,
this paper you wrote is long and no doubt boring. In any case, I don't
feel like reading it. But let me make you a deal: if I don't have to read
the damn thing, I will give you a "C". However, if you force me to read
it and determine its real merit, my judgment will likely be clouded by your imposition and I doubt that the paper will justify more than an "F". What should Johnny
-- who really thought it was of "A+" quality -- do?
The described method, called "plea bargaining", is used in over 90% of all criminal convictions, according to Bruce Jackson, in his book Law and Disorder.
"Prosecutors, with rare exceptions, are concerned with winning, not with
justice", according to Jackson. The adversarial method has the inherent risk of
sending some innocent people to prison for most of their lives and even the execution of an innocent now and then (see "Fatal
Flaws: Innocence and the Death Penalty") as has been well documented
by the news media and the movies (a good online reference is the series,
"Win at all Costs", by Bill
Moushey and Bob Martinson, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazett).
· While the Crime Rate goes Down, The Incarceration Rate Continues to Climb!
(See Note 3)
There are several reasons for this but the primary one is economic pressures
and opportunities. One of the hottest investment items on the market today
is private police and prisons (see the ABC News Special Report, "Profit and Punishment", online). The private prisons are growing at a
rapid rate and their profits are most lucrative.
But, the main economic pressure comes from the self promotion of government
agencies themselves (including their sub-contractors). There are thousands
of well-paid jobs in the criminal justice system, spread over hundreds
of federal as well as state agencies (DOD, DOJ, DEA, FBI, BATF, etc., etc.,
and their state equivalents). It is said that the next day after the Olympic Park
bombing in Atlanta, there were over 50 different policing agencies on site! (and the
bomber was never found!).
All these agencies have extensive support from their sub-contractors
that are constantly promoting their own utilization. Plus there are the
technologically based companies frantically promoting the purchase of ever
and ever more sophisticated and expensive technology for crime control.
A result of all this pressure is that the system constantly craves new
"criminals" just like a hungry pack of wolves constantly craves new meat.
· The System is Driven by Political Opportunism
"Criminal punishments are fixed for political, not psychological,
sociological, criminological -- or even moral -- reasons" Bruce Jackson, Law and Disorder
The reality is that politicians promote harsh sentencing so as not to appear soft on crime because to do so might endanger their chance for re-election. That is the driving force. Nothing more.
The end result of all this is a very hard and cruel system of justice for
the adults and young adults in the US. If a young person makes a slight
error in judgment they can easily find themselves facing 15, 20, 30 years
in prison or even life -- without any opportunity for parole. There is
virtually no way out except to snitch on someone else (see the above mentioned
PBS series, "Snitch").
So How have we been Preparing Our Children for this Brutal Legal System?
Strangely, we have been doing just the opposite of what would be reasonably expected.
Instead of making life somewhat strict for our youth, we have gone the
opposite direction and become extremely permissive with them! It is as
if we were intentionally enticing them into a behavior mode that will insure
disaster for them later when they are dumped into the adult legal environment at age 21 (or thereabout -- see Note 2 below).
Let us look at how we actually raise our children and then how they are treated as adults:
Punishments are largely imaginary. Threats are made but are rarely followed
This is absolutely not true in the Justice system. Once an infraction
is triggered, there is little chance that the hard consequences dictated
by law can be avoided.
There is a great tolerance for minor infractions. Parents tend to look
the other way, if at all possible. In fact, action will often be taken
only when there is no other option.
Just the opposite in the Justice system. The system pursues minor infractions because a legal defense is so expensive and will probably not be pursued.
There is much forgiveness.
In the Justice system there is no real forgiveness - just deals (see "plea bargaining" above).
Parents have great leeway in their punishments.
Judges have none to almost none (as a result of the many "mandatory sentencing" laws passed by Congress).
There is usually no physical punishment or extended periods of confinement.
In the adult "justice system", there is a strong economic incentive to keep as many people locked up for as long as possible. And physical punishment is routinely meted out in the form of "jailhouse rape".
Children have control over their own upbringing. Let us face it, in many homes
today, the children really run the show. To be fair, with all the social
pressures that come from the external environment that the child is in,
the parent really has few options about how the child should be raised.
This is definitely not be true in the adult environment. Congress and the judiciary totally decide the laws we live by with little input from the population. Note for example the several laws the public has voted for in California, only to be disallowed by the political power structure.
Children are usually in a loving and compassionate environment
In the "Justice" system, love and compassion are extremely impractical and just as rare.
What can We do About This Mess?
This whole process is a big "bait and switch" routine, just like some of
the big department stores used to practice. And just like for the department stores, there are large economic rewards for the perpetrators. That
is, by raising children permissively and then suddenly laying hard justice
on them as soon as they are legal adults, there will be a large and steady
crop of prisoners. This in turn results in jobs for lots of folks, management
positions for fat bureaucrats and large profits to be made by the associated
So, what can we do? Well, we can either attack the adult hard justice side
of the problem or the child raising side of the problem or both.
As far as doing anything about correcting the corrupt "justice" system
we have, there is little hope. I know this is a hard pill to swallow but
we have just waited too long and it is now highly unlikely that any significant
effort can be mounted to thwart the incredibly powerful forces that want
to perpetuate the status quo. The "justice problem" is really just an extension
of the notorious "Drug War", and in spite of major criticism of that monstrous
and destructive boondoggle, I see no real progress being made there. It
is a disaster, big time.
So let us backup and see if we do something about the "child raising"
side of the equation.
Here we have a dilemma. From all indications, it appears that the majority in our society believe that permissive child raising is best. Yet, in that same society, the government believes that a hard line is best for adults. We have a major contradiction and something has to give. It seems obvious that we would have a better chance to change our ways of raising children than we would in changing the ways of the government!
In view of that, the obvious thing to do is follow the example of our
exalted government, adopt their techniques, and bring hard discipline back
into the home. We need to:
· Put the kids to work.
Make them pay you at least half their earnings. Let them know that what
they get to keep is a gift from you and they ought to be thankful to get
· Establish a gazillion rules.
Make so many rules that they cannot get through a single day without breaking
several. This will give you the power to invoke punishment any time you
want. This gives you a lot of control.
· Make serious infractions out of many inconsequential personal activities .
This would include such things as picking your nose, eating junk food,
wearing weird clothes, and masturbation.
· Make sure the rules are incomprehensible.
Use plenty of obfuscation, vagueness and contradictions
· Periodically inform the victim (your child) that they have been accused
of a major infraction by an unidentified person.
Do not tell them who this accuser is or the details of the accusation.
Just tell them they will be severely punished and that their only way out
is to accuse one of your other children of something worse. (If you don't
have any other children, maybe you could get a neighbor to cooperate on
· Finally, Three Strikes and They're Out!
You will need to break your list of rules into two categories: major and minor. For example,
under minor you might include "no lying", "no bad grades", and "no masturbating".
Under major you might include "no drugs", "no cheating on tests", and "no
sex with others". With major rules, you then establish the super rule that
if there are infractions of more than two times, then off the infractee goes to reform
school (or whatever it is called these days!). Rehabilitation can be very
expensive, so you would pay for their tenure there with the "taxes" you
have collected from them previously. Don't worry if there is not enough -- just borrow.
Borrow with a long term payback, long enough that the little trouble-makers will actually
have the pleasure of paying off the loans.
All right, I got a little carried away. But I was only half jesting. If we
must have this cruel and corrupt legal system that every child must move
into at maturity, then surely it would be far more compassionate to give them a little preparation for things to come -- while they are still children.
Notes and References:
1. An excellent reference on the American Criminal Justice system: Bruce Jackson, Law and Disorder, University of Illinois
2. "Little or no effort has been made to teach children responsibility
for their acts, for this is supposed to come automatically on the stroke
of [age] twenty-one", per Scott Simkins in "The
Pursuit of Happiness"
3. Russia and the U.S. have been competing for the honor of having the
highest incarceration rate for the last several years. Both now have rates
above 600 per 100,000 population. Other advanced nations, like England
and France, have around 100 per 100,000 population. See the "AMERICANS
BEHIND BARS" report.