The Broadway musical West Side Story first appeared in 1957. It dealt with members of teenage gangs, at that time called “juvenile delinquents.” In the song “Gee, Officer Krupke” the gang mocks the then current practice of finding social and psychological expiation for the gang members’ criminal behavior, blaming their ‘bringin’ upke’ and other causes. They claim to need, not prison, but ‘an analyst’s care’ because they are ‘sociologically disturbed’ and ‘sick’ and that a job is for a ‘slob.’
The term “juvenile delinquent” isn’t heard often in 2014, but excuses for unspeakable behavior abound, and today’s excuses continue to be astonishingly illogical, from poor upbringing, to poverty, to lack of opportunity and a litany of psychobabble theories for the social malfunction of large numbers of criminal adolescents. But in 2014, unlike 1957, a great deal of money exists to throw at the problem. And worse, because decades have proven that social remedies do not work to curb crime among young people, the dominant liberal culture now makes a massive, stumbling rush to downgrade the real issues involved in criminal behavior. Today’s social engineers, using the pernicious doctrine of political correctness, now put into place legal mechanisms that not only foul up the justice system, but corrupt education by ignoring the immorality of crime and teach the young that society at large and not the criminals are at fault, thus, that crime is not committed by criminals, but by their environment, by others, even by their victims.
Upbringing, poverty, sociological displacement, culture and bad home life are all used as excuses. An excuse, remember, is not an explanation. it mitigates what it excuses. But, while some of these may be factors in someone’s psychological and social development, they are not excuses for crime. Moreover, ineffective measures put in place to redress social grievances, such as generational welfare that discourages productive work, come at a very high cost for taxpayers who are often victims of the very problem they are paying to redress. Generational welfare has not reduced, but encouraged, rampant crime in poor neighborhoods, where drugs are sold openly and people are robbed and beaten up with predictable certainty.
It has been proven for decades that excuses for criminal behavior do not discourage crime. In the real world, the purpose of punishment is rehabilitation. When a person is punished for a certain behavior, his natural tendency is to avoid the behavior for which he was punished. In fact, excusing behavior does the opposite. It encourages criminals to believe, indeed to realize, the probability that they will not be punished at all, or that their punishment will be mitigated by what excuses they can make for having committed crimes.
Diluted replacements for “punishment” do not work, but cause young criminals to ignore the law and the immorality of crime, because they know that they will not suffer retribution. In fact, they disdain the value of “going straight” gainful employment. Combine this casual attitude toward crime with the supply of welfare money available under the liberal aegis and you have a recipe for total social collapse.
Crime should be punished, not by violence, but by incarceration of violent criminals, even young ones, and perhaps the re-estabishment of reform schools for those still young enough to be rehabilitated, in which they are benevolently but firmly treated, but are separated from the criminal elements that might usher into irreversible cycles of adult crime. There, students would be educated in behaviors and would be given skills on which to build a productive, law abiding life.
In addition, a true education in social morality must be restored to our schoolrooms. From elementary school through high school, every student must be taught that committing egregious crimes for “fun” or on a “dare” or as an initiation rite into a criminal enterprise, such as a street gang, will be punished. Children must be taught that “knockouts” and flash mobs are evil and no longer be tolerated, that good behavior is indeed not “uncool” but a matter of survival in a free society.
Since the decade of the late 50s, when West Side Story appeared, street crime committed by young people, especially by young men, has increased geometrically and has gotten more violent and vicious. The liberals’ tendency to excuse it or explain it away make prospects for reducing it less hopeful and likely. Our only hope is the rational application of punishment, in combination with traditional education. We should abandon the jargonesque sociological theories which bring in grant money for fancy sounding theories that do nothing to solve the societal problem of youth crime. In schools where crime is already commonplace, I say, “Come Back, Officer Krupke, and bring your handcuffs and your nightstick with you!”
FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse.