By Hollis Wormsby
We all see the end res ult of youth left to discard efforts at a proper education, and wander our community without direction or supervision. Each time a horrific crime is committed by a youth we all go into a tizzy about what can be done to reduce youth crime, and then a week later we move on without having taking any action. There is no simple answer to how to address crimes committed by 16-20 year olds who have essentially not been raised and who do not share the values of most of the community, but there may and probably are ways to address producing fewer of these individuals in the future.
Let’s begin with enforcing truancy laws and providing adequate resources to make enforcement real. One of the biggest challenges to this community and to urban communities across America is children being born into homes not willing and or able to provide adequate supervision and educational support. We know this, but I am not aware of any solution that is being implemented. But two steps that will help will be holding parents more accountable and implementing consequences that are meaningful for failing to adequately raise and supervise your children, and secondly to increase the number of truant officers to whatever number we need to adequately patrol our communities and ensure that no child has the opportunity to ignore their responsibility to get an adequate education, and that there are programs in place to address and support children who are not getting adequate educational support at home. There is a role for the government in this, but there is also a role for every church and non-profit that claims to care about the community.
Another thing we need to do is to stop giving bad parenting a pass. I think that parenting classes should be required for folks who are receiving public benefits and their children are not making adequate progress in school. We are often told it is because in many cases they do not know better, then we must require that they learn better.
Finally I believe that every child should be given a chance and as many resources to help ensure a successful transition from youth to adulthood as possible. But when you are 16 and terrorizing the neighborhood with a gun, and denying the rest of the community the right to the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of what they worked for, then I don’t think we need to be looking at you as a child or a youthful offender. I think given what is going on in our community, until we get this madness under control, when you attack someone with a gun, when you enter someone’s home without their position, then you have done a man’s crime and you deserve a man’s punishment. Or at least that is the way I see it.
Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 20 years. He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM, and the current host of Real Talk at 3:00 on Saturday afternoons on 610 am, where you will find informed discussion and an opportunity to discuss issues of importance to the African American community here in Birmingham. You can also pick up Real Talk on the World Wide Web by going to: www.610wagg.com and clicking on the Listen Live button.