I guess every nurturing caring parent worries that their child will be involved in something that will cause them to be arrested. If “Junior” is arrested and convicted for a felony, it can derail educational and employment prospects for a life time.
In some home environments and some communities being arrested is almost a rite of passage and friends and family are not too shocked by “Junior’s” arrest, but for the majority of parents in the “mainstream” of society the arrest of a child or even an adult child is a devastating experience for the entire family.
In my own family, while there was dysfunction in some members, some members actually being psychopaths and committing offenses that had they been prosecuted would have resulted in long prison sentences, my son Patrick was the first member of the extended family to be arrested and sentenced to prison.
I felt totally “alone” at the time. Devastated that my son was a felon, a convict. Later I learned though that several of my friends who had children about his age had also been arrested and sent to prison for multiple felonies. I was not “alone” after all. “Good” families besides mine had the same problems with their offspring that I did. The same pain of “losing” “Junior” to a life of crime, repeated crime.
A study of the percentage of people in the US who have been arrested is very interesting. Here is an article about the percentages of people arrested by age 23. While the US has one of the lowest crime rates we h ave had in decades, the rate of arrests and incarcerations has skyrocketed with the US having more inmates incarcerated, and more former inmates on parole or probation than just about any country in the world. There are currently over two million Americans actually in jail or prison, and about seven million on parole or probation. Here are the results of this study.
Nearly half of black males and 40 percent of white males have been arrested by the age of 23, claims new survey
A third of Americans have been arrested by the time they are 23 according to a new study released in the Crime & Delinquency journal on Monday
By age 23, 49 percent of black males, 44 percent of Hispanic males and 38 percent of white males have been arrested
The research also looked at arrest rates amongst females, although unlike with their male counterparts there was little variation between races
By age 23, arrest rates were 20 percent for white females and 18 percent and 16 percent for Hispanic and black females, respectively
Getting arrested can have a negative impact on people’s ability to find work, go to school and participate fully in their communities
The study analyzed national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults and their arrest histories, which ranged from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses. Minor traffic violations were excluded.
Another study about recidivism over a 20 year period shows that about 80% of people who have been convicted of a felony crime and gone to prison, will, during the next 20 years after release, be convicted of another felony.
While prison has two stated objectives…the first being punishment and the second being “rehabilitation” it seems that the “rehabilitation” part is not working well. Studies also show that 25% of felony inmates qualify as full-blown psychopaths, without any remorse or conscience, which means there is little to nothing that can be done to “rehabilitate” them. The average score on the psychopath-check list revised, developed by Dr. Robert Hare and used as the “gold standard” to evaluate the traits of psychopathy in individuals in prison shows that the average inmate scores very high on the Psychopathic traits, averaging 22 on the check list, with 30 points (out of 40) being required for a full on diagnosis of psychopathy. So even the average inmate is not someone who is likely to be high in a desire to “reform.”
While these statistics are quite grim, to say the least, what to “do” about them is a question that is hotly debated among social scientists. The blame for crime is often laid on the shoulders of poverty, or gangs, or bad influence, but many criminals come from “good” homes who are not living in poverty, with parents who nurture them. It also isn’t a question of IQ and many criminals are in the average to higher ranges in intelligence. There is a great deal of mental illness that is to “blame” for some crimes, with people who should be treated for bi-polar, ADHD and other problems that can lead to impulsive behavior and our mental health system is in no way adequate to treat these people, and few receive treatment inside prison.
Then of course there are other influences that can steer a child in the wrong direction. Media is filled with violence and studies show that teenagers are much more concerned with “fitting in” with their peer group than following their parents’ rules. Media stars and sports stars are “hero worshiped” and many of these “stars” are not good role models. Look at O J Simpson, Lance Armstrong, and a host of others who engage in criminal behavior.
Prison itself is a brutal environment, and the social skills that must be learned in prison to even survive don’t “play well” on the outside when these people are released. In some cases the only friends these people have is people they have met in prison. That’s partly the case that, like my son, he had abandoned all his “good” friends by age 15 and only wanted to hang out with thugs.
Statistics show that “family support” for an inmate tend to make it less likely that an inmate will re-offend, however, statistics can be skewed and don’t always show causation. Some of my friends who have “supported” their sons, as I used to “support” mine, don’t have any better luck with their sons than I have with mine. No matter what they do for their sons when they return from prison it doesn’t help the young men change their ways, and they are quickly rearrested for another felony.
I wish I could tell you a solution to the problems of why some people decide to behave in criminal ways. Sometimes I think it is simply immaturity and they get caught up in something that they realize is “wrong” but don’t see it as a “big deal” and of course never expect to get caught. Sometimes it may start out as simply as getting drunk under age, or doing drugs, which causes their judgment to be poor and then they end up hurting someone and end up in “big boy prison.”
Lately the news has talked about a new “game” called “Knock out” where young men try to punch a complete stranger “out” and unconscious with a single punch. They will have a friend to record the act, then post it on the internet. Last year three young men got bored and decided to shoot a baseball player as he jogged on the side of the road, killing him because they wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. And of course there are the rapes of young women after getting them drunk or drugged which are filmed and posted on line. This kind of behavior doesn’t make much sense to most typical people. Why would someone behave in such a manner?
I’ve asked myself a “million” times why my son Patrick wanted to be a thug in the first place. I’ve also asked why he thought it was the “right” thing to do to kill Jessica because she “betrayed” him and “told” that he was using her grandfather’s credit card. I’ve wanted to know why he was actually proud of his crime. I can’t answer these questions except to say that my son is a psychopath. His score on the PCL-R is 38 out of a possible 40. Part of that has to do with DNA as both his grandfathers were also psychopathic, but even with that genetic tendency, he had choices. He could have gone to college, been anything he wanted, but he didn’t want that, he wanted to be a thief and a killer, and in that he succeeded. DNA is not destiny.
Each person who goes to prison has a family, or had a family at some time, has friends. Most I think have parents who care about them and wish they would not behave in a criminal way. While I think it may be helpful in some cases with young people who get into trouble once to be “supportive,” but if there are repeat crimes, and a pattern of criminal behavior, lack of remorse and no apparent conscience, I think the best thing for the family to do is to distance themselves from the offender. No matter how much we love someone we can’t force a behavior change. Hope for their reforming can sometimes become malignant and eat us like a cancer when it is repeatedly dashed by someone who isn’t going to change. Accepting reality is difficult, painful. In order to survive and be emotionally healthy ourselves, we must accept what is true, what is real, and sometimes that truth means our children didn’t choose to behave in a socially responsible manner.
My heart is with the caring parents of offending offspring. God bless us all.