11/28/07 — Family influence: What makes a criminal? Sometimes family matters.

View Archive

Family influence: What makes a criminal? Sometimes family matters.

What makes a 30-year-old man decide that his goal for his life is to become an armed robber who shoots five innocent people?

There might be many factors that have influenced Samuel James Cooper — and some might simply have been circumstance.

But when you delve a little deeper, you find out he is the son of a convicted felon — a father who has turned his life around and had hoped for better for his son.

OK, great. It is nice to know that this man decided that a life of crime did not pay and that he should do something else with his life.

But it makes you think a bit, doesn’t it, about why there has been such a resurgence in crime and why so many young people end up in the cycle of law-breaking and violence?

Could it be because there are still too many fathers and dysfunctional families that teach them there is no other option?

You cannot blame a father for the actions of his 30-year-old son. What you can suggest is that the father’s transgressions could have helped set the stage for the son’s decisions later in life.

If we are going to beat crime, we have to start dealing with the very real possibility that bad parenting and influences are critical building blocks in creating criminals later — and doing something about it early on rather than waiting to send adults and teens to jail later.

Children who come from families that are non-existent and who deal with the stress of having no father or mother or one who is incarcerated or addicted to drugs or alcohol have little chance of making another choice for themselves without some sort of intervention.

And then, later, some of them become fathers and mothers, perpetuating the cycle of destroyed lives and bad choices.

Intervention is critical if we are going to save these young people — as well as stricter rules about how we deal with those who have already begun a path toward juvenile offenses and becoming high school dropouts.

And we have to be brave enough to do something about parents who have no business having children or those who do not care for the ones they have.

Keeping families together has to become secondary to protecting and nurturing these children — and steering them away from the influences that destroy lives.

We don’t need more money for more programs. We need more responsibility and greater consequences for those who refuse to behave like parents should. It should be very tough to earn back the right to keep your children once you have broken that trust.

That should be step one.

Published in Editorials on November 28, 2007 11:47 AM