Love Affair with the Criminal Justice System

I was reading an article by Feyishola Apena that talked about how status is related to minority juvenile males criminality. The survey was not a surprise but a confirmation of the impact that social status has on youth. You would think a child is too young to think about social status but they aren’t. Your status is measured by everything you do from your clothes to how you travel getting from place to place. Those material things that mean so much to some. My parents would refer to this as “keeping up with the Joneses”. Now I never met the Joneses in person but they had it all. They were rich beyond my imagination because every time I asked why we didn’t have something I was told to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.

According to the article, it is important to strive for a positive identity in society; however a minority juvenile has a difficult time attaining this positive identity because of a sense of an inferior position they may generally hold in society, compared to the majority (Apena, 2007). Acquiring material things that might, on the outside create a positive identity, an image that says “I belong” becomes a goal that will be attained by any means necessary. In essence “Keeping up with the Joneses” no matter how it happens.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is exactly what gets some juveniles in trouble with the law. They witness an introduction to the criminal justice system, a partner that can latch on and never let go. Think of the criminal justice system as that ex that won’t stop calling, won’t stop driving by, they just hang around, they want to be everywhere you are, a nuisance. For some, there is a strange love affair with the criminal justice system. As an adult you can tell a young person, (I say young person because they are not always kids), the right thing to do, the consequences of doing the wrong thing and they just don’t get it. The advice is dismissed, ignored put in a drawer for later. This failure and generally a smart mouth usually brings that ex running, that good old criminal justice system comes running to meet you.

The need to belong, need to wear the freshest clothes, the latest shoes, a phone with the newest technology and drive a high dollar car. The need to have these things without the means to attain them brings that justice system knocking. The pressure one feels to have those things RIGHT NOW leaves them with one alternative, TAKE IT. So they rob and steal for it, but wait there is someone who is unwilling to just let their stuff go, so you then have to fight for it. They are losing the fight so they shoot the property owner and now they are a thief, robber, assaulter, and a murderer. All because they wanted the freshest clothes, the latest shoes, a phone with the newest technology or to drive a high dollar car. As a parent you will have no idea of this need, they probably won’t ask you because they already know either you can’t afford to give it to them or you won’t allow them to have it. So they get it how they can because they WANT IT NOW and they BELIEVE they are ENTITLED to it.

Parents hold your children accountable at home, teach them consequences for their actions and allow them to fail when they are young so they can work harder, attain their goal and KNOW what it is to SUCCEED.

More importantly, they will not begin a love affair with the criminal justice system!


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