Sunday, May 28, 2006

Lock People Up Only When It Would Help

This article in the New York Times makes some good points about solving problems:

Taking his cues from family therapy as well as from social ecology, which emphasizes that behavior is shaped by multiple aspects of the environment, Henggeler studies the ecosystem composed by family, neighborhood, schools, peer groups and the broader community. Instead of removing children from that ecosystem, he tries to change it: solve the drug problems and the legal problems, get kids away from delinquent peers and encourage academic success.

A central idea is to focus on the parents. "We want the therapist to build the competency of the parents, because the parents are going to be there after the therapist leaves," he says. If the parents can't handle the job, he might ask an uncle, aunt or grandparent to fill in.

This is a much better approach than breaking up families, locking various members up for their obvious failures, and then hoping that things get better. It is no surprise that the traditional lock-em-up tactics fail. The chronically criminal have lives rife with lack of support, motivation, and good role models. The solution is to help, not to punish those who lack the skills to learn what to do better. And sadly, when home life is really bad, jail is rarely a deterrent. I mean, if home is in an awful situation with nothing to do, no food, dangerous streets, angry parents who can't maintain themselves, jail isn't that bad.

Not that I want to promote jail, but can you think where a jail term might serve a better motivation to stop criminal behavior? How about Ken Lay, maybe Karl Rove, and even our president, if it comes to that.

Impeachment is not enough if George W. Bush or Dick Cheney are found to have violated the laws in his singleminded pursuit of power. Regardless if his good intentions, I have clients all the time who violate the law with the intention that what they did was OK. I don't think he needs to spend much time in jail, but after Bush or Cheney are impeached and removed from office, they shouldn't get off like Nixon with just disbarrment. Clinton got that for his equivocations alone, Bush/Cheney would be impeached because of his lies and/or willfull blindness that has led to countless deaths and squandered our nation's reputation in the world as a force for good. If either of our leaders are found to be complicit, they deserve to serve at least a few months in jail. It should be good for them. They might even change their stripes. After all, I read somewhere recently that if a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, a liberal is a conservative that has been arrested.

To end on a lighter note, Ken had some funny videos on his site. Also, is it just me that thinks that Ne-Yo's "When You're Mad" kinda glorifies domestic violence? Now, maybe he gets all hot when his girl puts his hands on him, but here in domestic violence court, she's looking at jail time if he complains, and he's looking at the same if he puts his hands on her back! Maybe I'm getting too old, and I don't want to denigrate the good work of Talib Kweli, Common, The Roots, etc., but what happened to lyrics from Marvin like What's Going On hitting the top of the charts? Even Sexual Healing and Let's Get it On aren't misogynistic, and are a lot more subtle than the Thong Song, for example.


Blogger Anonymous Law Student said...

If the republicans lose the house, then investigations into the various ethical screwups that have been ignored for the last few years will begin.

If those investigations uncover violations of the law, there may very well be a move for impeachment. It probably wouldn't make it through the senate, but I think it would make the point. The damage to the republicans would be pretty severe.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

I loved your jail story - I was trying to explain to my in-laws that this isn't "recidvism" per se. A lot of my clients (I'm a public defender also) prefer jail because they get food, shelter, some support and in some cases, an education and medical care that they would never have gotten while they're out. And then I try to say "Well maybe that means that the kinds of support that our society and government offer on the outside should change if we want people to stop committing crimes and ending up in jail or prison." And they look at me like I have three heads.

7:09 AM  
Blogger ACS said...

ALS, yeah, I don't think they should waste time (unlike the GOP) with a show trial in the Senate with a foregone conclusion. But if they uncover some really bad stuff, then the GOP 'moderate' senators, and the so-called law and order conservative will either vote as they should, or lose their next election.

Melissa, for kids living in bad environments, I'm astounded that when you make it clear that some kids sadly enough don't really mind jail because their home is so bad, some people will actually suggest that we should make jail worse. Hmm. How about making home move inviting?

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If people taking care of dogs, cats, horses, or livestock, showed a proclivity for locking their wards in cages, society would turn on them.

Why do we tolerate such a proclivity among humans for caging humans?

5:05 PM  

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