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Offender: We Do Not Care About Ourselves Or Others
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 01/20/2020

Children A Parenting To Prison Pipeline

The story below from the Kansas City Star is about foster care and it’s connection to crime.

Foster care dovetails with the ongoing problem of child abuse and neglect. There are many of us who believe that child abuse is “the” correlate when it comes to crime.

It’s not a school to prison pipeline. It’s not an arrest to prison pipeline. It’s a parenting to prison pipeline. When you add the violence many young people experience either directly or indirectly, it’s a community to prison pipeline.

Cops, schools and the justice system are endlessly blamed for the ills of maladjusted kids and mentally and emotionally troubled offenders when the real culprit is terrible parenting and community disfunction.

Child Abuse and Future Criminal Activity

There are many who believe that child abuse and neglect is the heart of the violent crime problem in the United States. We endlessly debate root causes or correlates of crime with little mention of child abuse. The collective data indicate that many children in the United States are either victims of child abuse or neglect or are exposed to violence.

Between 75 and 93 percent of youth entering the juvenile justice system annually in this country are estimated to have experienced some degree of trauma, Children and Trauma

There is self-report data from the Department of Justice that 55 percent of offenders claim mental health issues, Crime in America-Mental Health

Most of the criminal offenders I interviewed throughout my career were neglected or abused.

Most of the female offenders I interviewed were sexually abused or terribly mistreated with horrific consequences for themselves and their children.

When I interviewed professionals working with domestic violence offenders, it was startling to be told that men harming their significant others were convinced that they did nothing wrong.

The same observation applied to child abuse. There are some people so damaged by their own upbringings or substance abuse that neglect of their children was common.

How Many Children are Abused or Neglected?

The National Incidence of Child Abuse and Neglect provides an overview of the correlates (connections) of abused and neglected children and demographics. It’s still considered to be the definitive study of child abuse and neglect exploring correlates.

It states that one child in every 58 in the United States is mistreated.

Please note that other, more recent reports estimate that, “One child in every 25 in the United States is abused or neglected.” See Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report, at Juvenile Offenders and Victims. Beyond citing definitional issues, the document doesn’t explain the differences between the “1 in 58” and the “1 in 25” findings.

Another 2014 Department of Justice study shows that 60 percent of children nationwide are exposed to violence, crime, or abuse; consequences include poor school performance, drug and alcohol abuse, long-term physical and psychological harm, and risk of future victimization and suicide, Exposure to Violence.

The literature continues with examples of massive substance abuse, physical disabilities, brain injuries, PTSD and additional maladies. A Johns Hopkins University sociologist discovered that the consequences of neighborhood violence reach further than previously known, even spilling over to students who come from safe neighborhoods, the Washington Post reports.

Using data from Chicago, Julia Burdick-Will linked exposure to neighborhood violence to a drop in test scores, an effect that extended to students coming from communities that experienced little or no violence.

The Kanas City Star-Foster Care (direct quotes)

The Kanas City Star, as part of a yearlong investigation into the long-term outcomes of foster children, surveyed nearly 6,000 inmates in a dozen states. The surveys contained 15 questions that asked inmates about their criminal histories and childhoods.

Experts said the survey results provide a rare look at how early trauma and foster care have scarred some children for a lifetime.

Of those who responded, 1 in 4 offenders said they had been in state care. Fifteen percent said they had been convicted of murder or attempted murder.

Marshall, Inmate #999489 in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system, is facing execution for killing an employee of a fast-food restaurant in Houston during an attempted robbery in 2003. He was 20 and out of foster care less than three years when he was charged with the murder of a mentally disabled man who worked at Whataburger.

And while he doesn’t blame foster care for his incarceration, Marshall said growing up in an environment that lacked trust and compassion put him “on a path to destruction for myself and others.”

“I did not love myself, so I was living a very reckless life,” he said from the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, which houses the state’s death row inmates. “I was drinking, doing drugs, committing crimes, just doing things that did not have a positive effect on my life.

“I think for a lot of us, we don’t realize how we become dangerous to other humans because we do not care about ourselves, nor do we care about others,” The Kansas City Star.

So Why Isn’t More Being Done To Protect Children?

A focus on child abuse would require an examination of parental and community values rather than looking at the education or justice system. We believe that it’s not politically expedient to hold parents responsible. It’s the same with distressed communities.

Yet we cry out in frustration as to why schools are failing (school to prison pipeline) because it’s easier to pressure bureaucrats. It’s the same with the justice system. But the focus on schools and the justice system is like addressing a fire that started many years ago.

Many children go throughout their lives unfed, unloved, unmotivated, uninspired and growing up in communities where exploitation and violence are common. Then, per the Kansas City Star, too many end in foster care.

Our crime problem exists because young people see violence and abuse of women as commonplace. Only when we break that cycle through programs targeting dysfunctional families will we end the family to prison pipeline. See effective youth-family programs at CrimeSolutions.Gov.

Reprinted with permission from https://www.crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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