Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fighting Crime Takes More Than Building Jails

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fighting Crime Takes More Than Building Jails

Article excerpt

THE ADAGE about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure comes to mind when I consider the country's No. 1 concern: crime.

Americans are calling for the construction of new prisons and the imposition of tougher sentences. Last week, Missouri voters approved a $250 million bond issue that will, among other things, finance new prisons for men and women.

The crime bill now going through Congress calls for stiffer sentences and would provide more than $10 billion to build new prisons.

The public's call for more jails and tougher sentences isn't surprising, of course. Many jails have become revolving doors for criminals, as more and more are released early because of overcrowding.

If a doctor treats a patient who is bleeding excessively, the doctor will first stop the bleeding and then try to treat the cause of that bleeding so it won't happen again.

But crime - a disease that's plaguing more and more Americans these days in cities, suburbs and even small towns - isn't being handled the same way. While the construction of jails may provide some relief, it will only treat the symptom of crime, not necessarily the disease. For many, jail ends up being graduate school for felons, who become better criminals than when they went in.

To treat the disease of crime, we need to give serious attention to solutions that can be applied before the "patient" is picked up in handcuffs.

In fact, many of those solutions should come from the home. It's what my own parents used to call "home training." Without home training - learning to treat other people and their property with respect, learning morals and values, learning basic societal skills, - many children who are becoming adults wouldn't know right from wrong if the words were branded on their arms.

Part of the fault lies with the parents. Many of them had their children when they were little more than children themselves, before they could learn the difference between right and wrong, before they could learn that life is much more than seeing what you can get away with.

Without knowing it, those parents have cheated their own kids. …

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