Friday, December 13, 2013


A friend of mine recently brought a local news story to my attention. A 16 year old boy got drunk and crashed his truck, killing four people in another vehicle and paralyzing at least one of the passengers in his vehicle. A very serious tragedy. Incredibly sad. But, here's the part of the story that makes it nearly impossible to comprehend: the teenager was sentenced to treatment and 10 years probation. That's it. He chose to drink. He chose to drive. And his choices resulted in ending four people's lives. His defense attorney's argument was that this child was too privileged and never had limits set for him by his parents. They're claiming "Affluenza" as his defense. Is that like declaring "Insanity" only in reference to the defendant's parents? *eye roll* So, because this kid has never been made to take responsibility for his actions he doesn't have to now either? The lesson this boy has been taught is, "You can do whatever you want and literally get away with murder." Literally. Ok, ok ... "Man slaughter" ... 

I understand that the juvenile system is not meant to be punitive. That it is in place to help kids who have made mistakes so that they can become functioning members of society. I completely agree with that. Throwing this boy into jail to rot for several decades is not the answer. Treatment is definitely the best solution... for him. But, what about the grieving families? Innocent people suffering through the loss of their loved ones, left wondering why the person who killed them is being paid such kindness. Keeping him from going to prison and helping him to succeed in the future is about the nicest thing that can be done for this offender right now. Is that what he deserves? 

Ok. So, he's not going to be incarcerated. Fine. He'll get his truck taken away, his license revoked, he'll have to attend treatment, I'm sure he'll have some sort of house arrest situation.... so, basically, he's grounded? Hell, that was my punishment for not doing my chores! "Driving drunk and killing people is very bad behavior, son. Now write that sentence 100 times and no ice cream before bed tonight." Ridiculous! Although, because this kid has never actually been grounded in his life, I am sure this punishment will feel "SO UNFAIR!" 

This teen's lack of parental guidance, boundaries, and consequences growing up is being made the larger issue here. So, can we put his parents in jail? If the argument is that their parenting, or lack thereof, is the ultimate cause of this situation and the child cannot be blamed because he is a victim of his circumstances, then shouldn't his parents be held responsible? If they are the reason he felt it was acceptable to drive drunk then doesn't that make them conspirators in the killing of these people? If the plaintiff is a victim and the defendant is a victim.... then who is the culprit? I realize it's not as black and white as that. That, yes, this teenager probably really is a victim of terrible parenting and that he does need help. But, where does that defense stop? Maybe his parents also come from an affluent family. And their parents. And so on... Maybe the next serial killer in this country will just be "testing boundaries" because his parents never told him not to mutilate innocent people. Somebody has to be made to face consequences - real consequences, not being told "no, no" with the shake of a finger. I am sure the parents will be sued left and right. But, I can also guarantee that that is not a big deal to them. Again, the punishment does not fit the crime. They have, undoubtedly, used their affluence to get them out of sticky situations before. Which only reinforces the negative affects of being affluent. I get in trouble because I have too much money to care and then use that money to get me out of trouble so I can continue not caring. Sounds like a pretty high brow problem to me! Chant it with me... "Jail time! Jail time! Jail time!" Because I am 100% certain that if I got into a vehicle while intoxicated and hit another car causing the passengers to perish, that's exactly where I'd be. Jail. Deservedly so. 

This whole situation is infuriating. And I'm not even one of the people involved! I suppose the only thing I can do is raise my children the complete opposite way. We are definitely not affluent, so that part is not a problem. But, holding my kids responsible for their actions is of the utmost importance. Starting with the smallest offenses and giving them real, consistent consequences. It is actually very hard work for such a simple concept. But, it has to be done. I know they will still occasionally make bad decisions but I hope they will also understand responsibility. 

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