|Welcome to gozarks portal into the past,
present and future of life as we know it.... researched, observed, intuited
and empirically experienced from an isolated nook in a semi-rural cranny of
The Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
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all actions that role-model and empower the sustainable, happy and
prosperous well-being of life among the people of all nations.
Justice? You decide.
Last December 30, a young man who is very
near and dear to our hearts and several of his teenage friends took some
prescription medication that belonged to one of their parents. Of course
they did not have permission from any adult to do this. Well...
The medication they took was not even a "get high" type drug… but at the
time they took it they didn't actually know what it was. They just wanted
to goof around and do something "cool"; have some "fun"; grab a cheap
thrill by pretending that they were regular adults who routinely (from the
teenage perspective) "get blasted" by taking prescription drugs.
I mean heck, you can’t turn on the TV without getting dunned by ads
touting the benefits and pleasures of popping prescribed pills. So why
not, they thought. I mean these weren’t “bad” drugs. They didn’t buy them
on a street corner. These drugs came out of the family medicine cabinet
and, like I said, these kids had been very well educated with the fact
that adults take drugs like this all the time.
Thankfully the medication didn't actually do anything to any of them
except make them a bit groggy and a little confused -- but being as how
they are dumb teenagers, how would one recognize any difference?
However, one of the kids felt a little goofy and, feeling scared,
confessed the act to a parent who went ballistic and without the benefit
of contacting any of the other parents involved (thus NOT being a “good
parent” by any standard I know) carted all the kids off to the hospital
and called the police.
The folks at the hospital poked and prodded but, thankfully, found nothing
wrong with anyone. The police (God bless them) recognized the incident for
what it was -- an act of teenage stupidity. Dangerous, reckless, and
disobedient... yes. But not willfully criminal nor purposefully malicious.
More akin to a serious and potentially life threatening blunder;
provocatively self-detrimental but certainly not a crime.
However, since the incident had been reported the officer had to file a
report. The report came to the hands of an overzealous Juvenile Justice
officer who decided that these kids needed the guiding hand of the State
to set them straight. Thus the choice was made to have them all brought up
on charges for "Possession of a Controlled Substance" which is a Class "C"
Felony "drug related" crime.
To "help" (and this is the word the Juvenile officer used) all these
children and their families become better citizens, the Juvenile Officer
wanted each of them sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $250 fine, 40
hours of work service, 12 months of counseling, and enrollment in two
State sanctioned behavior modification (aka: “brainwashing”) programs.
In addition to paying the fine but also wearing the guise of “help,” the
families of these children would get the added benefits of taking time off
work to chauffer the kids to and from the work service assignments,
meetings with a probation officer, the brainwashing courses and weekly
counseling sessions, plus get to pay out of pocket additional hundreds (if
not thousands) of dollars for the benefit of participating in this
For example, while sitting in court the first time (the case I was paying
attention to was “continued” twice before it actually came to trial), I
observed the proceedings of a family whose eldest child had been caught in
somewhat similar circumstances and heard the child’s father make a
desperate plea. The father explained to the judge that he and his pregnant
wife now owed the system in excess of $5000 in accumulated charges for
their child’s participation in mandated “assistance” programs and, being
as they were simple folks who were barely making ends meet, this “help”
from the State was severely hurting their ability to provide nourishment
and shelter for the rest of their family.
I wanted to cry.
Getting back to the “help” being offered by the State to redress the
situation that held my attention... Because these 6 first-time teenage
offenders had, in the eyes of the folks who wanted to throw their legal
weight around, committed a "drug related crime," if the kids were
convicted recent "drug war" legislation would override certain legal
safeguards normally afforded to Juveniles. Thus the legal record of this
teenage stupidity, which would generally be sealed and then expunged at
the age of emancipation, would carry severe life-long consequences.
What kind of consequences, well… for starters, if convicted all of these
kids would be immediately ineligible to obtain any assistance in the form
of grants, loans or publicly funded educational scholarships for a period
of at least one year. And on top of that, even if they never again were
accused of a crime, remained staunch law-abiders and went on to lead
productive and meaningful lives, if some sort of god-awful tragedy should
befall them 20 years from now and they found themselves needful to seek
some sort of federal assistance such a Food Stamps or Public Housing, they
would be exempt from the meager protection of these fundamental safeguards
because, when they were teenagers, they had done this one stupid deed.
And I'm sorry for carrying on about this, but I am livid about the lunacy
that was perpetrated upon the six families involved in this whole
scenario. I’m also aghast over other cases I observed in court. In one, a
child age 12 who was functionally illiterate and so doped up on prescribed
medication as to be incoherent, was sentenced to what seemed to be cruel
and overly harsh punishment because he threw a rock that damaged a car.
Another child, slightly older but also “medicated” to the degree of
appearing “drugged,” was subjected to even stiffer consequences because he
verbally threatened another child at school.
Certainly this kind of aggressive behavior is unacceptable. Certainly the
children must be disciplined and actions must be taken to get them on the
right track. But in no way from what I heard had any of these kids done
anything that could in any way be defined as a crime so serious that it
should have involved police officers, legal council, days in court and the
astronomically expensive encumbrances of State mandated “help.”
Thankfully, in the case that brought this whole thing to my attention, the
ultimate outcome was sane but the costs for reaching this happy resolution
were outrageous. For the family of the young man I’ve referenced, the cash
outlay has far exceeded $1000 (attorney fees, gasoline to get to meetings
and court, child care expenses for younger siblings so parents could
attend these requisite obligations, etc.) and this amount attributes
nothing to the huge amount of wages lost and time wasted time by all six
families, not to mention the accumulated fees and salaries for six defense
attorneys, half a dozen or more assorted officers of the court and, of
course, the judge.
On everyone’s third visit to the Courthouse, when the whole thing finally
got to trial, and after all the assorted parents and children and
witnesses and attorneys sat in court an entire day waiting for the case
--- the last one on the day’s docket --- to be heard mid-afternoon, the
DPA moved to "null process" the action because no credible evidence
existed to substantiate the criminal charge.
Thus in the blink of a legal-eagle eye, the whole thing was over. After
nearly 6 months of ongoing interactions, everyone was free to walk away
clean and put it all behind them. Theoretically, all the families were
right back where they started with no real harm done… right???
Except that the young man we mentioned will, out of duty and obligation,
have to work many hours to pay-off the debts his family accumulated in the
process of defending his innocence instead of buying flowers for a
girlfriend, fixing up the old car he’s wanting to drive or adding savings
to his college fund.
And even considering the inclination to believe that all this might, at
the very least, be a good character builder; a life lesson that may, in
the long run, prevent a legitimate catastrophe from taking place, my
personal opinion runs quite to the contrary. I do not see or believe that
on any level any of this legitimately “helped” anyone. I am absolutely
convinced that these children and families were done devastating harm from
which arose absolutely no good.
I say this with authority because I am personally familiar with most of
these kids and their parents. Thus I know that there is nothing that will
ever expunge the very bad taste of injustice that clings in their mouths
nor will anything ever eradicate from their minds the strong feeling that
the State has undermined their parental authority and thus impeded their
ability to discipline and instruct their own kids.
And please don’t get me wrong here. All the parents I spoke with affirmed
that their kids did something wrong. They all agreed that their own child
had behaved poorly and had done a very bad thing. None that I know of felt
the act should have been taken lightly, but resolved to follow up with
significant measures of discipline and institute serious consequences in
the hopes that a repeat of such behavior would never happen again.
As a result of the State’s overreaction, outlandish response, and
completely inappropriate desire to meddle in this affair which should have
been handled entirely by the parents and children involved, the parents
and children alike now feel completely alienated from the legal system
which they did, prior to this happening, tend to believe in and trust.
They feel duped, betrayed, used and abused by a process run amok,
victimized and raped by unfounded and rude allegations that cost them all
dearly to disprove and then, in a capricious heartbeat, simply vanished
because the State at long last came to its senses and realized what should
have been obvious from the start… that there was no legal case to make.
Yet because the State made this great uproar and because the parents had
to take extraordinary measures in their children’s defense and, in effect,
take up the cause that the State was wrong and that the children (by
logical conclusion) had not done anything to warrant serious intervention
or punishment, the afterglow left on these impressionable, unworldly and
immature teenage brains is that what they did must not have been such a
bad thing after all because their parents so vehemently rose to their
And of course the kids are wrong to draw such a conclusion. Just as wrong
as they were to do what they did that started this whole thing. But that’s
the point here… they are CHILDREN. They do NOT know any better. We are
supposed to TEACH them to KNOW BETTER and we, as a “justice system” are
FAILING to uphold this duty and shoulder this responsibility by
implementing and maintaining a process of adjudication which models
respect for ALL the parties involved.
So I’m challenging each of you reading this missive to take action.
Research this subject for yourself. Talk to the parents of a juvenile who
has been “helped” by OUR justice system. Discover the lay of the land and
tell what you think.
And if you find out I’m right… if after doing a bit of purposeful
discovery you see the truth in the statements I’ve made, I challenge you
to do something about it. Write a letter to your Congressman. Meet with
the officers of your local court. Work together and work diligently for
reforms that actually do “help” us ensure a better tomorrow because, when
it comes to our children, tomorrow is all that they’ve got.
“Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice. Do not accuse a man for no reason- when he has done
you no harm. The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have
been completely defeated already.”
(Compilation: Isaiah 10:1-2, Proverbs
3:29-30, I Corinthians 6:6-8)