I heard a blurb on talk radio the other day that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. It was referring to those found committing graffiti acts being charged with felonies. This really has had me thinking about the ramifications of such charges.
I understand that graffiti is not a good thing. It is property damage and many times gang related. I get that. And I do feel it is most certainly a punishable crime. But the thought of felony charges for a victimless crime makes me sick. These kids do these stupid things with no real understanding of what the consequences mean. When those consequences are big time fines, hard work and jail time – then that is a good and acceptable wake up call. But a felony charge they will have to carry around for the rest of their lives? How is that going to put them on the right track? At 16, 17, even 18 years old – we do stupid things. We all do. Sure they may differ in severity. No, I never spray painted on the side of a building. But I did PLENTY of stupid stuff.
I am not quite sure if the average person understands what it means to have a conviction of any kind of their record, let a lone a felony. I have a misdemeanor on my record. And because of that particular charge, I can never – NEVER, have the types of positions I have always wanted. It has even lost basic customer service jobs for me – positions where the charge has no affect whatsoever. What makes my misdemeanor worse is that is was pled down from a felony. Because I was initially (and ridiculously) charged with a felony, my misdemeanor will remain on public record via internet for the rest of my life. Typical misdemeanors fall off CCAP after so many years, usually 7. Mine will not.
Now, the reason I pled to a lesser charge was because I was petrified of being convicted of a felony. Juries are unpredictable and even though I knew my case and know in my heart that I was not guilty of which I was accused – doesn’t matter. A jury can dislike you because of your hair for Pete’s sake. I couldn’t take that chance. The thought of having a felony on my record was a devastating possibility I could not risk. Little did I know that simply being CHARGED with a felony still keeps one in shackles to some degree for the remainder of one’s life.
This is coming from a white, 30 something, fairly fortunate female with absolutely no criminal history whatsoever. The only thing in my record is one speeding ticket in 30 some years. Imagine being faced with a felony with the defendant is a minority from a less fortunate background with the odds already stacked against him. And yes, I realize that in this country everyone has the opportunity to advance and become a success. But let’s face it – for some it is MUCH easier. With a felony charge – or even worse, conviction – what chances does that person have to develop a successful future? Do you know how hard it would be to even get a job? For me alone, I have been so disappointed and have had such feelings of defeat – that I basically did give up. Thankfully I was not in the position where I HAD to work. In fact, it was best that I didn’t for a while. But for someone who does need that. A young person who needs to begin their adult life in the right direction would find it extremely difficult to persevere and not give up due to all the hurdles this one charge has placed in his path. This will only lead to more crime, more joblessness and more desperation. And for what? Some spray paint on a wall. Drunk drivers who are basically threatening the lives of others do not get nearly that kind of consequence. How does that make any sense? Punishments need to fit the crimes. And I feel that we are so ass backwards in this state and country and no one seems to realize it.
One more point I would like to make. When children commit these acts, parents DO need to be held responsible to some degree. Depending on the age, it is the parents’ responsibility to know where your kids are and what they are doing. If your child is out at 11pm on a Monday night tagging the side of a truck…that parent needs to pay for all damages. And the kid needs to have mandatory community service. Perhaps if parents are held more responsible for their children’s behaviors they will wake up and start parenting these kids.
People are so quick to judge our police departments, our schools, and our lack of community programs. While there may be some validity to that – the one factor here that can actually change our society significantly is better parenting. Parents need to stop being friends with their kids. They have friends, they NEED parents. Parents need to start paying attention and stop going to the bars, watching Springer and hanging with their friends. Parents need to stop working 80 hours a week to pay for cars and homes they cannot afford. You do not need a Lexus. And people need to stop having kids they cannot afford. Birth control is easy to get and very inexpensive. Use it.
And when parents do at least TRY to teach and discipline their kids, perhaps we should not be so judgmental and let them do their jobs. A kid standing on a street corner with some embarrassment for their bad behavior is not abuse. And while it may not be ideal, at least this parent is paying attention and taking action. If a parent tries to stop her 14 year old from leaving the house at 2am by holding her down because she is so out of control, do not charge the woman with child abuse. Every kid in this country now knows exactly how to control their parent. ‘You piss me off and I will say you hit me’. It happens EVERY day. Let us have some clear definitions of child abuse and leave the parenting up to the parents.
We have polar opposites here. Parents who do nothing, stick their heads in the sand or simply do not care. Then we have parents who try to do what they know best and are punished for it.
Thus to put an end to my rant…I beg of you…lets make sense of our laws and punishments. And lets put the responsibility back on the parents – where is should be!!