Today, Attorney Sam’s Take begins a discussion which touches upon a parent’s worst fears…two of them actually. The first is their child becoming addicted to illegal drugs. The other is that child getting a criminal record or even being incarcerated.

Often, these nightmares come wrapped together in a package deal from hell.

The last few blogs, both my daily Attorney Sam’s Takes and those posted by someone else have touched upon the nightmare package.

Things are apparently getting worse. Now, for example, drug-sniffing dogs are being brought into more than 100 high schools in Eastern Massachusetts to search for such illegal contraband. In Quincy, video cameras follow students in the hallways while plainclothes security guards stay alert for drug activity. At Westford Academy, where students admitting in a survey to marijuana use jumped from 16 percent to 25 percent in the past decade, the principal decided to add a full-time police officer to the staff. Newton North High School has stepped up its counseling as it is considered the best way to reach students.

Attorney Sam’s Take On The Criminal Justice Approach To Your Juveniles

There is no question that drugs and alcohol in schools is a huge concern for us both as parents and as a society. However, today, I want to focus on the cost to our kids by this usual law enforcement approach to the problem.

While we are discussing drugs and alcohol today, the problem to which I refer is really much more broad than that. As this daily blog has complained many times, we are becoming more willing to criminalize conduct which kids often do…for better or for worse. Kids are kids and, by definition, have some learning to do. However, the approach to foist criminal charges, and therefore a criminal record, upon them for admittedly illegal behavior is an approach which, I fear, worsens the problem.

I have often used this argument when discussing certain bullying cases. Bullying is one of our newer causes and our political/law enforcement leaders have approached it in a scatter-shot method. They pass a new statute which really accomplishes nothing other than to confuse matters. It mandates that schools come up with their own bullying policy and adhere to it, yet do nothing when the schools fail to do that. We define the offense by the broadest possible wording so that almost anything can be considered bullying.

More and more, I see our kids and behavior which is not going to disappear by such methods becoming more and more criminalized.

And made worse.

It is made worse because it takes kids who often already have aggression issues and immediately robs them of many options for the foreseeable future…if not for their entire lives.

Once a juvenile is brought into court and arraigned, the matter goes on his or her criminal record, the CORI. While it may be possible in some cases to seal that record sometime in the future, the matter will remain on that child’s criminal record for years. More specifically, those critical years during which the child will be seeking admittance to higher education and/or the beginnings of a career.

I am not a fan of bullying, drug use or any other type of criminal activity done by kids. As you may know, I have two kids of my own who mean the world to me. But they are kids and they make mistakes. Sure, I want them to learn from the mistake. Sure, I want the behavior stopped. But I do not want them permanently scarred because they made some stupid mistakes.

Let me put this another way. While I was a child, parents still employed corporal punishment, to wit: a spanking. This was usually done with a hand striking a child’s bottom. It was not done by whacking a child on the head with a sledge hammer.

This blog is not about me; it is about you. Our “tough on crime” approach becomes more and more odious when it is followed with little thought other than for officials (primarily politicians) as to how they are going to look in the press the next day.

After all, nobody is criticized for being too tough on crime…only too soft.

In these cases, being too soft means thinking long term.

I am horrified by parents who contact me because their child is accused of a crime and they do not take it seriously. “Well, it’s ok”, they tell me. “He needs to be taught a lesson, so I will just march him down to the police without wasting money on a lawyer and make him take his ‘medicine'”.

They do not realize that the “medicine” can have the side-effect of crippling their child’s future forever.

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