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Even the most noble of societies can’t escape crime. Most choose to ignore the fallacies of urban youth be it in the ghetto or the suburbs, our children are becoming victims of their own ignorance. The lure of “street” life out weighs the yearning for a competent education. The media, audio and visual glorify a lifestyle that average people lust for. Most children compare the lifestyle of entertainers to their own creating a yearning for riches, and begin to emulate the behaviorism of their favorite wrestler, rapper, or movie actor unfortunately these characters are not all positive roll models. Society stands by; few do anything to stop our innocent children become victims as well as offenders.
The number of children arrested and convicted of capital offenses such as: armed robbery, rape, and murder are shocking nevertheless real. Children are committing homicides with intent as young as nine years old, and the penal system fails to rehabilitate anyone in most cases they train the youth to become career criminals by trying these children as adults.
“Children Who Kill” will discuss a few headline murder cases, media coverage, the court system, entertainment industries, and how society and the entertainment industry plays a major part when analyzing a child’s deviant behavior. It is my belief the entertainment as well as society is responsible for the decline of moral an ethics in inner city youth.
The news industry has the majority of society believing that the inner city’s children, gang members, the homeless, and the mentally ill are the only ones capable of committing brutal crimes; however children reared in seemingly normal conditions are committing murder as well. Suburban areas are experiencing the same rise in crimes committed by minors, the media just reports it differently if at all.
Take for instance a white teenage girl from Long Island, NY had her baby in the bathroom at her prom. She pushed out the infant wrapped it up in toilet tissue and put the baby in the garbage. It was reported by the local media that the baby slipped out the garbage can as she was leaving the stall. To save face of the girl the media reported that the fetus was born dead, along with the many experts to back up the story. What was not reported was the fact that she had no pre-natal care and she knew she didn’t want the baby and purposely pushed the infant out by herself so that she could dispose of it.
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Taking a life is committing murder. A report that the child was born dead is just another way of the media cleaning up certain people’s crimes. More than color lines, economic status also plays a big role. A Manhattan couple put their breathing newborn in the garbage and the baby eventually died, the law would classify that as homicide, but it wasn’t to the part of society that didn’t convict them. Reason being wealthy, the cream of society it appears that riches make you above the law. The media has a responsibility to report news without biases but producers hide behind corporate sponsorship and opinions. A news editor will not write against a corporation that pay a mass amount of money for advertising in the publication, no matter what the corporation has been accused of.
Convicts In training
Lionel Tate, who was tried as an adult, was 12 at the time of the killing. He faces life in prison without parole after a jury refused to accept the boy's defense that he accidentally murdered his mother’s best friend’s four-year-old little girl while imitating wrestling moves he had been watching on television. The judge would not allow psychologists and experts who studied the impact of TV violence on children, testimony according to his attorney Jim Lewis, who promise to appeal. When this story broke it was reported as if the child was a serial killer, and had most of America wanting justice. As the case continued more began to realize that the initial impulse to judge without hearing all the facts is our way of life, but the media made it so much easier to influence the publics opinion
The mass media has become an important organizational contributor to informal social control. The media helps define and control informal deviance in three import ways: co-optation:
• Symbols and signs associated with a deviant group are commercialized
• Selective coverage, stereotyping
Cage them: The court system Statistics
The court system has definitely been, over whelmed with the increase of “the deviant youth” their answer was to build correction facility for juveniles with the hopes it would detour criminal activity amongst the youth. Unfortunately, it did no such thing. Children are still committing violent crimes. According to the Federal Justice System, During 1995 --
• 468 juveniles were referred to Federal prosecutors for investigation - 49% of these cases were declined for further action.
• 122 juveniles were adjudicated as delinquent in the Federal courts - 47% for either a violent or drug offense.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
• In 1998 in 40 of the largest urban counties, approximately 7,100 juvenile felony defendants were adjudicated in adult criminal court.
• Of the 7,135 juvenile felony defendants, 62% were black, 20% were white, 96% were male, and at the time of arrest 55% were within 1 year of adulthood as defined by their State.
• In criminal court juveniles (64%) were more likely than adults (24%) to be charged with a violent felony.
Where do most murders by juveniles occur?
Based on data from the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Reports, nearly 1 in 4 homicides by juveniles occurred in eight counties. The major cities in these counties (beginning with the city in the county with the greatest number of identified juvenile homicide offenders) are Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Dallas. As these counties contain just 12% of the U.S. population, it is clear that homicide by juveniles is concentrated in a small portion of the U.S. geographic area.
This should be a signal to our lawmakers that their system is not working, to add insult to injury; children are being tried as adults as well as being housed with them. Aside from the knowledge of “how I can execute my crime more efficiently”, the children are at high risk for being abused sexually by their fellow inmates, resulting in more instability one of many reasons the youthful offenders continue their delinquent behavior.
What is the purpose of having a court system whose main function is to separate whom society deems undesirables from normalcy? Before a youth can even make a mark in society prejudice consumes his fate.
The Entertainment Business
As a consumer we all have our favorite television programs that we watch faithfully or our favorite author. The reason they stand out is because, it’s to our liking what we see and read. Our children are bombarded with violent movies; their favorite rapper is glorifying being a gangster, a drug dealer obtaining riches by depriving someone else of a normal life. These are our children’s role models. It goes without saying, parents are responsible for providing positive role models for their children along with reinforcement however, and the entertainment business has a responsibility too. They rate these movies to alert concerned parents of the content but in the urban areas these rules are left to discretion.
Movie theaters are not responsible in assuring that children will not get to sneak in to adult rated movies. The music videos that are so sexually explicit, should be for a more mature audience. Parents can forbid their children from watching certain programs and ban certain reading material; however it won’t solve the problem.
Throughout human history, punishments, especially corporal and capital, have often been offered in answer to antisocial behavior. Public hangings, floggings, mutilation, branding, banishment, the stocks and pillory, and many other physical penalties have been utilized to “punish the culprit and be a lesson to others.” (Eighteenth Century, at the Walnut Street prison in Philadelphia) Eventually, the use of probation came into being as a substitute for imprisonment through the efforts of John Augustus, a Boston Shoemaker and other benevolent reformers.
(Skidmore, Thackeray, Farley 2000)
The role society plays is far greater than those of the media, entertainment business, or the music industry. Those who rule are those with the means to make change, “money” Throughout history, laws were made to accommodate the rich. From the ridiculous to the complex their need to feel in power has overshadowed our legal system.
The poor have been victimized so severely, they too are convinced of their unworthiness. If for generations you are told you are nobody, a menace it is inevitable that you’re going to act in this manner. Now to be fair, there are many who have come from meager dwellings and changed their destiny of poverty but not enough to change the thinking of the rich. As with everything, control is not absolute.
Juveniles who are of another race are called youth offenders indicating their crimes are not as harsh, demeaning, or sever as those of the poorer children. “Good Kids” don’t do drugs, steal, rob and kill. The fact is anyone is capable of committing an act of deviance. Children from all walks of life are susceptible to the lure of criminal behavior. Society, whom ever they are, should know children share information and experiment a great deal. It does not matter today, whether your parents are together or if you’re wealthy.
There is a great deal of information left out of this paper such as the rise in female offenders, and the new Juvenile gun court. I was overwhelmed at the number of youths being incarcerated. Society would rather put more money into building more jails rather than give money to the educational, recreational, occupational, facilities to perhaps turn these children around. All children have problems that prosecutors deem irreversible, and inevitable. Society should focus more on empowering these children with the knowledge of knowing nothing is worth taking a life or ending their own. Their life is over once they enter a juvenile or correctional facility, if not in body than in soul.
If we adapted a real “no child is left behind” policy, perhaps we would be more successful in protecting our children. Give seminars to children who are headed in the wrong direction but changed due to: A counselor, teacher, religious figure, Give parents back their rights to discipline their children with better guidelines, offer more services to parents and children with “Home life problems” Good Counseling is not obtainable by the poor.
Far and foremost, help our children learn to trust, the way it is now, children only trust themselves. For those already in the system, make it mandatory that they complete school. Most of the inner city youth population are functional illiterates and some cases their parents are too. Our future is in their hands, if we don’t take the time to try our best to turn the children population around, we will only have failed ourselves.
Heitzeg, N. Deviance Rule makers & Rule breakers 1996 (p. 12)
The Burial of Justice Statistics Juvenile Felony defendants in Criminal Courts Survey of 40 Counties, 1998
The Federal Justice Department2000, 8/02. ...
Skidmore R.A. Thackeray, M.G, Farley, W.O. Smith, L.L., Boyle S.W. Introduction to Social Work 2002 (p. 239)
The National Center for Juvenile Justice Crime Statistics 2000 http://www.ncjfcj.unr.edu/homepage/ncjj/ncjj2/faq/crimestats.htm