Saturday, May 17, 2008

Drug dealers are always bad!

Or are they?

If some 14 yr old kid gets arrested for slingin’ crank… he’s bad, right?

But let’s take a walk in the shoes of this hypothetical youngster.

Meet "Dukie"

A 14 yr old kid, Dukie, grows up in inner city foster homes. He moves from home to home… never feeling loved by any adults... never even getting his clothes washed at home. In fact, some may argue that he was taken into various homes not because of any desire to care for a child… but rather someone wanted to collect a check from the state. So Dukie grows up feeling no love… but not necessarily with no sense of right and wrong… in fact, let’s say he fully understands the difference between right and wrong.

Now one day Dukie comes home from school to find his belongings on the street and an eviction notice on the padlocked front door. In his mind, it’s yet another foster home that’s deserted him. So he’s standing on the street and needs to figure out what to do?

To me, the two most likely choices would be:

1) to return to the Social Services Department (perhaps via his school) and to walk into a place that he feels has perpetually let him down, his whole life... and now he's 14 and growing up... so he's not completely naive. Or

2) he could go see his friends who are already on “the corner.”

But what if Dukie recognizes that dealing drugs is not the best route to take, while returning to social services feels like asking someone to punch him in the gut?

Being a creative, entrepreneurial young kid… he leaves his neighborhood… goes downtown and finds an athletic shop. In the store, he finds an old friend… another kid… a few years older than him… a kid who used to deal.

Dukie says “hi” to the older kid and asks what he’s doing in the store. The older kid says that he was sick of the violence, so he got a straight job. Then Dukie tells him he feels the same way… he doesn’t like the violence… and he asks for help getting a job at the store.

The older kid says “sorry youngin’. Come back when you’re 16. Until then, you gotta go back to the corner.

Real life or just a story?

For what it’s worth, this is a storyline that played out in one of my favorite TV shows, The Wire. And yes, it is a TV show. I recognize that. But I also don’t find it that hard of a story line to believe. Without having researched it, I suspect this storyline was based on reality (much of The Wire is based on reality.) And for a more detailed storyline, see Duquan's Wikipedia page here... and for a dose of reality, it even brings in No Child Left Behind... and how some schools will do things to "juke the stats."

Anyway... for reasons such as this, I do feel that our current system of “crime and punishment” (along with social services) probably should be revisited… and some crimes may get stiffer penalties, while others may get reduced penalties.

But I still believe that if you repeatedly commit violent crimes… then from my perspective, it’s not even a matter of punishing someone. I simply don’t want repeat violent offenders on the streets. And to me, “3 strikes” is enough opportunities for anyone.

Tim White

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