“Stay tuned for our segment, ‘Dumb Criminals’, right after the break.” Yes, Clearly. These Are Not People With a Myriad of Knowledge and Options.
Why does the media insist on promoting segments of their antics by calling them “dumb criminals”?? I mean for redundancy’s sake! Clearly the guy who is holding up a 7-11 for the grand score of about $64.00 was not the former valedictorian of his graduating class. And aside from that .05% of criminals who are inherently evil, most all others are unwitting victims of circumstances not of their making. It’s actually quite sad. What we should be doing is not mock the resultant product, but focus our energies and resources into preventing it.
With rare aberration, criminality is symptomatic of persons afflicted with a severe lack of options. This is not a novel realization but has been a documented principle of human behavior for as long as humankind has existed. Rich people generally don’t steal. Why? Because they don’t need to. Similarly, people with options and something to lose usually don’t engage in behavior that is certain to be self-destructive. They both have cause for restraint, and other avenues by which to get what they want.
Now, take away these factors. What is the result? A person with stiflingly limited options, and little to no risk of loss acting as a deterrent. Where one really has nothing to lose (as they have nothing), the only direction they can go is up. Given this ostensible truth, resorting to crime as a means of acquiring the otherwise unattainable becomes overwhelmingly compelling when the potential for minimal loss is compared to the certainty of substantial benefit.
People are quick to judge and write off our law breaking population as “bad” or otherwise simply “immoral” people. But drawing such a conclusion reveals a serious lack of introspection and understanding of human nature. This naive ignorance is easily solved by asking the question: What would I do??
What would you do if you were 13, your dad was in jail, your mom was never home because she worked 3 jobs just to make ends meet, you could barely read, dinner was not always a guarantee, you risked serious harm on a daily basis just by walking the streets of your neighborhood to school and back, you are distinctly aware that you may not live to see 14, you aren’t of legal age to get a formal job, the only real family you have is your neighborhood friends, the only protection or guidance available to you is from the older boys in the neighborhood who are in a gang, your little sister needs new shoes as hers are already two sizes too small for her growing feet, your little brother just had his only pair of reading glasses stolen, and you’re offered $50.00 to watch a street corner one evening while a local gang member who as always looked out for you made some deals …What would you do?
To conclude and iterate my initial point, there should be no surprise that criminals are not usually the smartest, most worldly people. Lack of resources on the one hand, and a lack of education, marketable skills, and general know-how on the other are the causes of criminality — not coincidental to it. Just as obvious as the problem’s cause is the solution: Education, available resources, guidance, support, community, and hope.
If we just started spending even a fraction of the funds currently going to the penal system on meeting the basic needs of our youth and showing them that there is a world outside of their current plight, giving them the tools and the confidence to break through the glass ceiling they’ve always been assured is impenetrable, the individual and societal benefits alike would be exponential.
…And would you look who agrees with me: Alan Jackson, Deputy District Attorney. Team Jackson for L.A. District Attorney 2012!!!