MARCH 21, 2007

I'm scared of parents, not to mention the law

       As a kid I was terrified to do something bad because I didn’t want my parents mad at me. But what happens when children aren’t afraid of a parental figure and, worse yet, legal authorities (read: cops)? Well, we get the problem that is all too common in Canada – astonishing juvenile crime rates.
       Growing up I couldn’t imagine telling my parents ‘where to go’ or betraying them. Not because I’d be beaten or harshly disciplined but I was just petrified to have them mad at me. For me, there was nothing worse than knowing I’d done something that upset my parents.
       Kids are fearless these days. Cops are nothing, courts are nothing, jail is nothing. Now that I’m an adult, in all honesty, those things still kind of frighten me.
       I didn’t grow up with the mentality that, “Hey, I can steal a car and I’ll only be in jail for a few hours.” My train of thought was: “I don’t want to steal a car because I’ll go to jail.”  Again, not to mention how terrified I’d be of ticking off my folks.
       Sure, it’s a different world that we’re living in now. Newer generations aren’t going to be the same as previous ones. But the reason Canada had the Young Offenders Act (now the Youth Criminal Justice Act) is because the crime rate among children has increased dramatically.
       However, at the same time, most people – and those underage hooligans breaking the law – don’t just feel, but know that the rules are a joke. Again, that’s why kids want to steal cars because they know nothing too terribly bad will result from the bad behaviour.
       I’m not suggesting locking these kids up for the rest of their lives and throwing away the key. But some sort of punishment where these offenders don’t have the same freedoms as the general public is one possible solution.
       How often do we hear the phrase, “Released on a promise to appear in court”? If the child’s parents wouldn’t believe a promise their own kid makes, why would our legal system?  How often do these “promisers” go missing? It’s more than is reported in the news.
       While we don’t treat everybody as being dishonest, perhaps that assumption can be made about people who’ve broken the law. After all, they’ve already given reason not to trust them when committing a crime. And why the courts will take that person’s word is beyond me.
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