Over the past few weeks and months, there has been story after story where people are unable to deal with the consequences of their actions, so the government or some official agency has decided to forego or reduce the penalties.
These are some of the examples:
We have already seen the reduction in criminal penalties, Prop 47, and the early release of prisoners with Prop 57. Both have had or will have an impact on our communities. Prop 47 has already had an impact. With felonies reduced to misdemeanors, District Attorneys are less likely to pursue tougher sentences.
Have any of these measures been proven to reduce crime? Does eliminating the consequences or penalty for committing a crime reduce the amount of crime? Not for the typical criminal. Does eliminating the consequences for any bad behavior reduce the bad behavior?
The impact of not having to face consequences goes beyond just crime though. It is becoming a way of life. No one wants to accept responsibility. In discussion after discussion on social media, the blame is placed elsewhere. If kids are behaving badly, you’re not allowed to blame the parents. We are told it is not their fault, some kids just can’t be controlled. There are always exceptions, but they are just that, exceptions. Kids are not being taught to respect others. When a 14 year old is out at midnight and is arrested for having a gun, something is wrong. When a 14 year old pulls a gun out on someone in public, where are the parents? How dare you judge the parents some people will say. As a parent, your job is to raise your children and teach them respect and right from wrong. They will make mistakes. Committing crimes is not a right of passage though. Interfering with a business and scaring off customers is not a right of passage.
Of course we can’t blame the kids either, you know, because they are kids. They don’t know any better. Actually they do and should know, if they were taught right from wrong. So instead we look to or blame the cities. Kids are bored, they need more to do. When kids take over local fast food restaurants, forcing some to actually lock their doors when school is out, then we have a parenting problem. This isn’t just kids being kids. This isn’t what those of us older than 25 did when we were in school. When a brawl breaks out at the Western Festival on opening night leading to injuries and police being called in, then we have a problem, and parents are part of that problem. Parents think they should be able to drop their kids off anywhere and they will looked after by someone. Hundreds of kids are dropped off at a large park, with no fenced in areas to keep people in or out, and minimal security. Is it a surprise that something happens? This isn’t school. Movie theaters in the area have had many late night incidents. Just about any place that is frequented by teens has had issues, even local trampoline businesses. Lots of stories about kids taking over parks, using foul language, smoking and drinking.
The topper for me was a discussion last week about the school lunch program when the Elk Grove School District announced it would no longer serve an alternative lunch to students whose parents didn’t pay for the regular meal. Before I go any farther, it needs to be clarified that this does not have to do with low income families. Those families are already getting free meals. This is for families who have the means to pay, but for one reason or another don’t. Whether they forget or just don’t care, or don’t want to. If buying a lunch costs too much, then you can always make lunch. The school has program in place where you can pay for the meals online. Once it gets below a set level, the parents will receive an email. Also the students are often warned too. You can choose to replenish the account automatically, but there is a fee. You can also pay by check. Since some parents can’t or won’t take the responsibility to make sure their child has lunch either from home or paid for, the school district will now take on that role. The kids shouldn’t be punished and it’s not their fault, but they can also be responsible if they are old enough. A ten year old is old enough to be able to write themselves a note to remind mom and dad their lunch account is low. Getting a cheese sandwich for one day is not going to hurt them and even if they missed lunch one day, it is not going to hurt. I know the argument is that kids might make fun of them for having a cheese sandwich. Some think all lunches should be “free”. Nothing is free. If you’re not paying for it, it may be free to you, but it is not free. Not all kids dress the same. Not all kids have phones. Should we give those out free too?
As a parent I don’t understand how reducing or eliminating consequences can reduce the incidents of bad or careless behavior. If your child breaks or loses their phone and you just keep replacing it, then what have they learned? If they break their phone and you don’t replace it or you give them a lesser phone or make them pay for it, then they will be more careful in the future. The same goes with adults. If you can commit a crime, not have to pay bail and get a lesser sentence, what reason is there to not commit more crimes? If you can get a ticket and not have to pay for it, what is the deterrent? Why not run red lights and stop signs?
No one wants to accept responsibility for their actions. There are always excuses. There’s a quote that sums it up. Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason is you’re stupid and make bad decisions. I don’t expect anyone else to be responsible for me. I have never blamed anyone else for bad things that happen to me as a result of my actions. If I forget to give my kids lunch money, and they get teased for a cheese sandwich, that is 100% my fault. No one else’s. Not the school. My fault. It’s my responsibility. If I forget, guess what, it’s still my fault. If I run a red light and get a ticket, that is my fault. I had to laugh at some of the comments on the topic about not being able to pay tickets. One person said, what if it was a single mom, and her baby was in the back seat crying and she tried to comfort the baby and ran a red light. Then she can’t afford the ticket and she loses her car and her job and has to be on welfare. Again, that’s an exception and no proof that ever happened. That’s still her fault and that’s a lame excuse. No kid ever died from crying for a minute in the back of the car. If necessary, pull over and take care of the situation. I raised two kids and spent many hours driving around with them and managed to figure it out.
Life is about consequences. Touch the stove, get burned. Throw rocks at the dog, you get bit. Ride without a helmet, get hurt. It’s how we learn. Sometimes we learn the easy way and sometimes the hard way. Some people never learn. There are mistakes and there are intentional acts or just stupid behavior. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes cost us. Sometimes they don’t. Committing a crime is not a mistake. It’s a choice. It’s a conscious decision. Most criminals in prison have made bad choices over and over. They are not first time criminals who smoked a joint or stole something from the store. They have multiple arrests, they don’t appear in court, they violate probation or parole, they keep making bad decisions. Eliminating the consequences for bad behavior will never change it.