A woman was killed by her husband… a man was killed by his girlfriend… a child was shot at a house party… the bodies of overdose victims were found… an elderly pedestrian succumbed to her injuries from a hit and run - these are a few of the headlines I’ve read over the past couple days in the area I call home. Violence is escalating at enormous rates. It’s near impossible to keep up with the when and where… the why is normally never answered. Society seems to be spiraling out of control with no end in sight. Many of my friends and acquaintances are in the process of planning funerals instead of weddings… they’re burying their children. It’s not right… something needs to change and it needs to change fast.
There’s so much I can say about my thoughts behind the surge in deadly violence… I’m sure there’s just as much that each of you can say. At the end of the day, just voicing our opinions on the matter won’t solve any part of this issue. The only solution is active involvement. It’s going out into your community with the intention of invoking change… demanding improvement… reaching out to those suffering and giving them a voice when they can’t find their own… teaching these impressionable boys and girls how to become upstanding men and women. We need to embrace the vulnerable and give them hope that the world can become a better place.
One of the questions that revolves around understanding violence is trying to figure out what the contributing factors are in each individual case - mental illness, hereditary predisposition, societal and economic influence, peer pressure, abuse, addiction… in an effort to search for a solution, we must first understand what triggers the perpetrators. This doesn’t mean condoning their actions… it doesn’t mean empathizing with their reasons for the violent acts. It simply means looking into their brains and lives from a psychological and scientific standpoint. It means trying to piece together life changing events that could have partially led to criminal behavior.
In learning about what goes through a perpetrator’s mind before, during and after their crimes (alongside their life story), a plan could be developed to intervene in the lives of future generations… possibly provide a positive influence. There’s a saying that “it gets worse before it gets better” - I don’t want to see this crime wave get any worse than it already is. If we don’t come together now as a community, we may lose that chance permanently. The younger generation is killing each other and it’s heartbreaking. Somewhere over the years, respect for human life has vanished… we’re living in an era of dissipated lifestyle and that needs to change.
Locking the criminal up and throwing away the key (whether it’s 5, 10, 20 years or more) solves nothing. Prison isn’t about reform… it’s not there to help the inmate learn coping skills or to change their behavior. In no way am I saying they shouldn’t be there - they absolutely should be. But, more needs to be done behind those bars also. It’s unrealistic to keep a human being in a cage for the length of their sentence (without some type of therapy or counseling sessions… without helping educate them) and think they’ll walk out of there a changed individual. The violence behind bars is just as horrific as the violence on the streets they came from. Our criminal justice system needs to understand that.
Before any reader thinks I believe in leniency, let me assure you that I do not. I believe in maximum penalties for violent felonies… I also agree with the death penalty - depending on scientific evidence presented in each individual case. What I don’t believe in is treating the convict like a caged animal (regardless of the crime they’re imprisoned for)… nothing positive can ever come from that.
As for the victims and their families, they deserve closure and some form of peace in a future they never planned for… they need to be able to grieve in a healthy way. I would know. You see, my best friend was murdered 10 years ago… strangled to death by her boyfriend. He left her lifeless body on the couch in their apartment for almost 3 days. He stole her car… he went on the run. I couldn’t even bring myself to attend her funeral - I stayed in bed and cried endlessly. The only thing that I have to be grateful for is the last thing we said to each other was “I love you”... a few hours before his violent rampage. To me, that man is a monster who will never change. In an effort to avoid a first degree murder conviction, he took a plea for a lesser charge and was sentenced to 14 years in state prison. That’s not long enough. He’ll be released as a free man around the same time her daughter is learning to drive. That’s not justice for those of us left behind that fateful day. That’s not justice for her children.
Life may be complicated at times, but death is permanent. That split second decision to steal life away from someone can never be changed. There will always be good and evil in this world… I’m sure we all know that. I just believe that more can be done on a community level to help curb excessive violence. It’s more than just saying “put the guns down” and thinking a perpetrator will abide by that. We need to all come together and become a voice for the voiceless… advocates. It’s time to hold our heads high and let go of that fear in an effort to save lives. It takes one person to change the world… imagine what all of us can accomplish together.