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Survey of today’s violent youth
By Tracy E. Barnhart
Published: 04/07/2008

Tracy Barnhart is a Marine combat veteran of Desert Storm / Desert Shield. In 2000, he joined the Ohio Department of Youth Services at the Marion Juvenile Corrections Facility, a maximum security male correctional facility housing more than 320 offenders. Barnhart works with 16 to 21-year-old, male offenders with violent criminal convictions and aggressive natures. In his monthly column, he discusses everyday issues affecting corrections professionals.

I work in a juvenile correctional facility labeled as "super maximum close security." Think about that for a minute. Juveniles, male ages 16 to 21, locked down 23 hours of the day and out for an hour of recreation in a cage.

Their aggressiveness and past violence has shown that these youth are not amiable to any sort of treatment. These are the youth who root and scream for the criminal to get away when watching “COPS” on television.

They do not look at you as human, but just someone they can victimize. Respect is shown through fear and intimidation. If you do not represent a greater power, you get no respect. But you have to wonder, why they are so violent toward authority? Why are the youth of today so resistant to authority, and what makes my job so hard and violent working with them?

A 15-year-old boy was charged with murdering an 18-year-old man as he took out the trash. In December, a 14-year-old boy was convicted of shooting into a car and murdering a 22-year-old man four months earlier after someone in the car fired a shot into the air.

Young people are becoming more involved in crime, and community leaders are perplexed by how to stop the escalation of violence. They point to churches and schools helping in the absence of solid family structures in many homes. Guns were around when I was growing up, but people didn't settle their problems so easily with a bullet.

It seems that it’s not so much that guns are available. It's the violent mentality.

Kids nowadays don't mind picking up a gun and settling their problems and readily carrying them at all times. The moral compass can only point the direction to go; we must take the steps necessary to travel in that direction.

Single-mother households are a leading factor because often no father figure is around to help guide children and provide balance and discipline. I have to ask, “Where were the parents,” when a 14-year-old was on the streets and armed with a handgun at 2 a.m. attempting to gain street credibility.

One youth stated it best, “There is no conscious in the streets; if they’re not your friends, they’re your enemy.”

Where were the parents when 3,000 of Charleston County's 40,000 students didn't show up for school on the first day of class? When children are truant from school, they often become engaged in poor behavior. Left unchecked, this poor blatant behavior leads to criminal behavior, and we have to ask ourselves, “Where are the parents?”

As I speak to the incarcerated youth in my facility, it becomes clear that they were never told “no.” They did as they wished, easily manipulated adults growing up, and practically raised themselves.

They would say, “My mom is in prison, my dad was killed by the police, my brothers are in county. It is like I am expected to follow their footsteps.”

My question to you, “Are you afraid of your children? Do you have the ability to say no when your child throws a fit to get their way?” It seems we are breeding a lost generation of criminals, killers, predators, as well as inmates of the state, and it seems that we don’t even care, or know, how to stop them.

Editor’s note: In part two of two, next week, Barnhart discusses predisposition to violence and what it means to lead a “thug life.”

Other articles by Barnhart:
Leaders vs. managers, 2/24/08 How to tick people off, 1/28/08


  1. msvarucca on 04/11/2008:

    I currently work at a maximum custody prison as a nurse and I must agree with your article. The problem I have found with society today is the government is too quick to jump to conclusions when you try or do discipline your children. I have heard of many cases where the child has told their parents upon discipline, "I will call the law." What are they teaching these children in school? Why dont the government allow us to take the correct discipline measures to teach our children right from wrong. As a parent myself, I hesitate to pull out the switch or anything to the liking in fear I will have DCF knocking on my door. This is where the problem lies. I have had many inmates tell me, I had no discipline growing up. My father wasn't around or my mother didn't mind what I was doing. It's a sad fact of life that these young children are entering the prison system only to find that it is an easier way of life for them and dont mind returning. I believe let parents decide what discipline action should be taken and allow children to learn respect by such. Get these governmental agencies off our backs so we can do our jobs as parents and possibly keep our children from doing time!

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