Everything we do has ramifications. We ask kids seven and even younger to be accountable for their actions yet as a society we are oblivious to what repercussions the movements we make towards these children have days, weeks or decades later.
The “Super Predator” movement that was going to occur never did. Incarceration levels have reduced as well as crime rates. How did this happen? Perhaps, just perhaps, the kids I interview offer some clue. Their ages? Mostly 15-17. These are the children and grandchildren of people born into poverty and privation. These are not the privileged. These are kids that have limited success in school are frequently from dysfunctional families, limited economic opportunity and limited upward mobility. When a child who is 14 holds a picture of her 2 year old and references the baby’s great-great-great grandmother who is living and active today, she is citing a world of children repeatedly having children — with no opportunity for educational or economic advancement. These kids exist. The lack of upward mobility is most significant in the south and mid-west. What facts correlate with these admittedly anecdotal recordings of kids all over the country? What might be some influences? Unwanted pregnancies are the results of lack of access to family planning. When Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land, the number of unplanned families was deterred. Perhaps there were less children born into families that could not provide for them. Children that are born to families with limited maturity, education and economic opportunity have more incentive to resort to unacceptable behavior as defined by society.
When states limit family planning resources and put strident limits on clinics that provide choice there has to be a rise in unwanted pregnancies. This increase in population to those least prepared to provide for their children may indeed prove the impetus to create more kids subject to the juvenile justice system.
The war on drugs, legalization of marijuana, family planning policy all have a ripple effect down the line. I wonder if the politicians voting on issues today are understanding what their actions do to shape the face of the future a decade or two from the present. Just our language of violence — War on Drugs, War on Crime, War on Terrorism — doesn’t that send a message to our culture, the children of our whole society?
Are we prepared for the consequences of our actions?