The Outstater

January 4, 2022

Juvenile Crime: Getting Back to the Basics

THE DIRECTOR of “the Bail Project” makes a convincing case that his group is not responsible for the revolving door that is returning violent criminals to the streets of Indianapolis. His self-description in a letter last week to the Indianapolis Star, however, is of the fox-in-the-hen-house variety:

“After all, we are only a charity that helps the poor, and our larger objective is to ensure the presumption of innocence applies equally to all regardless of race or wealth. It’s a worthy goal. Moreover, it is not The Bail Project who sets bail. Judges do.”

So, the Bail Project is not the problem. It is merely a well-financed group of social-justice jackasses attempting to destroy our society by turning it against itself. The fault, implies the director of the jackasses, is the criminal justice system itself.

I couldn’t agree more. For if you have a crime problem you have a prosecutor problem. It is the single elected office that can lead a community-wide campaign to do what is necessary to preserve rule of law and protect life and property — and that includes whatever changes are needed outside the office’s immediate purview, whether that is more jails, more discerning judges, more efficient legal staff or improved police tactics.

Blaming the Bail Project, then, is a diversion. The focus should be on a process that has become dysfunctional. Having a few years behind me, I may be able to help get us back to the basics. 

I always wanted to be a juvenile delinquent but never got the chance. At first, things were promising. Our town of 25,000 had the highest per-capita juvenile crime rate in the nation. The Hispanic gangs fought both each other and the Germanic gangs, contrariwise and vice versa. The pool tables at our recreation center (built with city tax dollars to “keep the kids out of trouble”) were covered with gang signs, racist threats and other impudence carved out with switchblade knives.

The summer of my 7th-grade year, however, a new prosecutor and juvenile-court judge took office. The worst of the boys in muscle shirts and ducktails smoking hand-rolled cigarettes around the pinball machines were “sent away” to juvenile detention. (Have I sufficiently dated myself or should I mention that the Wurlitzer in the corner played Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins incessantly?)

From that moment onward, the town was idyllic. I lost the opportunity for an exciting life of petty theft and aggravated assault. The only options were football, baling hay and, later, journalism school, a different set of misdemeanors altogether.

Why, similarly, isn’t the crime problem in Indianapolis being addressed? 

To be honest, there are a hundred reasons, all politically viable, beginning with misplaced racial sensitivities and ending with enormity of scale. And there are the times . . . they have changed.

Still, an old man can hope that a summer will come when things are set right, when the adults of the community decide to protect their young men, to tether them to schools, families and time-honored values, not set them adrift to be used as pawns in a game without rules.  — tcl


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