Jailing people for stupidity isn’t solving our core problems
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on September 29th, 2010
By now you’ve almost certainly seen the violent online videos and witnessed the horrendous conduct of a 39-year-old Palmetto, Fla., woman who vocally encouraged her 16-year-old daughter and cheered her on as the girl engaged in a fist-fight with another 16-year-old girl.
The five-minute-long physical battle that occurred almost two weeks ago involved a confrontation over an ex-boyfriend, according to a story in The Bradenton Herald newspaper.
The videos, which were taken by other teens who gathered around to watch the fight, quickly went viral on YouTube and other Internet sites and have spawned outrage and angry comments from around the nation and the world, including sharp negative comments from psychologists and mental health professionals, according to ABC’s Good Morning America news show.
Last week, the mother, April Newcomb, was arrested and charged with child abuse by the Manatee County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office in connection with the incident, the paper reported. Newcomb encouraged the fight and didn’t try to break it up, police said. After being charged, she was jailed in lieu of $15,000 bail.
The problem with this case is that while we understand the outrage over the woman’s horrific behavior in encouraging her daughter to fight, arresting her and putting her in jail isn’t going to change her moronic behavior in the first place.
Look at what we are doing as a society – every time anyone does something stupid, we throw them in jail or prison and think that will solve the problems that arise.
Sadly, though, that’s not true. It’s not really solving the underlying problems that are causing and encouraging the absurd behavior in the first place.
We don’t condone this woman’s actions. She encouraged her daughter to brutally beat up another teen, and then this mother watched the fight and apparently never tried to intervene and stop the brutality. That’s absurd. It’s moronic.
But to fight her abhorrent behavior, Florida authorities charge her with child abuse and lock her up?
By putting Newcomb in jail, are other residents in Palmetto, Fla., going to be safer in their homes tonight?
For most crimes, no matter how stupid the acts can be, the first reaction our American legal system is typically to lock people up in jail.
Why is that? Why are we always looking for new reasons to lock people up?
It’s certainly not solving the larger problems in our society, and sadly, this example in Florida is just another reminder of the absurdity of our “lock ’em up and forget ’em” system of “justice.”
We’re building jails and prisons in the U.S. faster than we are building schools. Yet no matter how many people we stuff into those institutions, crime and other ridiculous behavior continues and our streets are often no safer.
There is something terribly wrong with that mentality.
Instead, what we need to do is find new ways to better educate people and help our nation compete more effectively in the global economy.
We need to start seeing jail as a last resort rather than as a first stop on the road to helping our society.
We need better schools and better education so the morons who commit stupid acts against others can have the means to grow as people and find the personal tools to become better people.
Is this a utopian vision? Is this unrealistic and absurd? We can already hear the critics arguing that not everyone is capable of such civility and personal improvement.
Would the critics rather we continue to simply give up on people and lock them in jails and prisons?
Is that a better solution?
Where is the outrage over the fact that by putting Newcomb in jail, it doesn’t address nor help her with the problems that resulted in her behavior in the first place?
It is a slippery slope on which we are operating as a nation.
We believe it’s time to try new approaches and to admit that our jails and prisons aren’t working to make us safer.