One of the things that I find most difficult to accept is some parricides’ feeling that the world owes them sustenance. They have admittedly suffered a lot in their young lives. Intolerable homes followed by years in prison… none of it, by their reckoning, of their own making. Many of them come out of this experience knowing nothing but being cared for, dismal as the conditions may have been.

I think one of the greatest failings of the prison system is that it fosters a culture of dependency. Prison officials may point to this “program” or that, claiming that they encourage initiative, but this is hogwash. I have a grand universe of only two individuals to have learned from (both of whom grew up in the prison system), but each has independently told me of being overwhelmed by the choices of toothpaste they first had to make at Walmart. Yet living a successful life involves more than toothpaste purchase decisions. We seem to be surprised when recently-released (and not-so-recently-released) inmates make choices that we regard as “dumb.”

My friend Lone Heron constantly reminds me that I dealing with shattered persons, each broken in his/her own ways. Success with one provides no blueprint for success with another. With every kid, I feel as if I’m starting at scratch.


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4 Responses to “entitlement”

  1. 1 Srđan
    May 9, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    We only have one life to live. It should be made up of a childhood, when we’re just silly, happy and playing, then adolescence when we’re developing and learning some higher skills (like social), young life when we should have already been prepared for life, then the mid and late years to expand on that life. So, how can anyone accept that he or she has been denied the first two and probably three steps in that only life? Because their childhoods were taken by abusive parents and the rest by prisons? How do you accept that, while others have had the time and the tools to build their castles, you must start in the mud, with nothing, due to absolutely no fault of your own? How do you accept that you were never given a chance? That your one life has been halved, with the best years simply erased? I believe I would be extremely angry and desperate, unable to deal with it, unable to accept it or do anything but cry. There would be no childhood friends to go back to, no parents or grandparents, school trips or first dates in my memory. And entire world would be going on about its business as if my entire life, my problems and my suffering and myself as a person just don’t matter one bit. It’s worse than being born as a grown man because these kids must live through horrors of prisons. And I can’t judge them.

    For whatever such kids do, for whoever they become, I can only blame the system which simply doesn’t care about them. Every single country in the world treats its own children just like Sparta did and we don’t even see it.

  2. 2 matt
    May 9, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Why would you expect that parricides would be any different than society as a whole, Dan?

    As for Lone Heron’s comment about shattered persons, she is very much on point. I recommend David Pelzer’s books, for those wishing to know more about the fragility and strength of a child’s mind. How does one child bend to horrible abuse and grow into a successful man, while another breaks from some lesser trigger? Such are the mysteries of the human condition.

  3. 3 Frank Manning
    May 9, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    I’ve been working with broken kids now for many years. Too many to keep count, too many to even be able to remember them all. I have been privileged to see some of “my boys” grow into decent young men, a few of them daddies or soon to be. One tells me how as a father he will make sure his son has “a more secure life than I did.”
    The challenge in this kind of work is breaking through to the child, getting him to realize that you’re not just another adult, all of whom have so far proven to be unreliable, untrustworthy, or even dangerous and sources of both emotional and physical pain. The rewards of succeeding are beyond words. There is no experience in the world like having a boy who has been so hurt, so neglected, so unloved for so long anticipate seeing you again, jumping out of his seat on your arrival at his unit, running up to you yelling your name, and spinning you off your feet in a wildly affectionate hug!

    A very few of the boys I’ve worked with have perhaps been broken beyond repair. I often check some names in the Washington prison inmate lookup site. Two who are now in their mid-20s are still behind bars. One was a boy from a Mexican family all of whose male members were in prison, jail, or juvenile detention. The boy’s father was in a state prison as were all his uncles and adult male cousins. All his younger cousins were in juvie or a juvenile rehabilitation facility. He really seemed to relish his family history.

    The other boy was a white kid who had the misfortune of being born into a family of meth addicts. He was often homeless or had to sleep outside at his grandmother’s house. He was 11 when I first met him about 12 years ago. By the time he was 15 he served two more sentences at the reform school. Shortly after his last release he tried to kill another boy, and was sent to our reformatory for older and more violent boys, deceptively called the Green Hill School. He’s been in our state’s prison inmate lookup ever since he turned 19.
    When this boy started his third sentence at Echo Glen he was still just 14. I asked him, “Dennis, what are you trying to accomplish?” He looked me cold in the eyes and answered “I want to see how much I can get away with.” I’m reluctant to write him off, but I really do believe he will spend most or all of his adult life locked up.

  4. 4 Bob
    May 10, 2016 at 1:33 am

    I have adopted a guiding principle of trying to set my clients on the path to “graduating high school without a criminal record”. Then, no doors are closed to them except by their physical or mental abilities and their inclinations and outlook. I work with 120 clients every day. Some will achieve that goal with their own internal compass and some guidance. They can weather the disrupted environment caused by two or three students in their class. The calm that exists in the class when certain students are not there is measurable. The other students frequently ask me to get rid of them. But I have to take all comers. The theft of education from the majority by tolerating and facilitating misbehavior by a small number is weakening the civic values of the many by seeing the few go unchecked. This few will soon hit up against an immovable object outside school and the awakening will be sudden and painful.

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