It's Time for All-Out War on Criminals
Prisons Don't Prevent Crime
President Lyndon Johnson Launched 'War on Poverty'
When we hold something sacred, we are not likely to abuse it.
Whatever our age, financial status, religious beliefs, education or even ethical and moral standards, few of us are apt to bite the hand that feeds us, or to dishonor what we hold in high esteem.
Could it be, then, that the crime and violence that has emerged in the United States over the past few decades has come about because too many of our citizens have little respect for "the system" they often feel has ill-served them?
The effort to combat the crime and violence we abhor, and fear, has been composed largely of fundamentally ineffective legislation designed to control the criminals: Gun control and harsher sentences, including capital punishment.
Crime Prevention Efforts Fall Short
Still other efforts -- including more cops on the beat, improved computers for enforcement agencies, greater expenditures for prisons and crime prevention -- also fall short.
With the sheer volume of crime that's taking place today -- everything from muggings, holdups and murders to embezzlement, rapes and bank robberies -- and the astronomical number of criminals involved, we would have to build extermination centers rather than electric chairs, as well as construct huge prison complexes, to handle them.
More Jails Not the Answer
More jails, more executions and harsher sentences -- and even greater expenditures for police -- will not solve the problem.
The best way to keep a person from committing a crime, I believe, is to instill in that person a measure of respect for himself, and thus for others.
Only a person totally devoid of respect for himself could wantonly violate the rights and well-being of another human being through criminal activity.
What is needed, then, is to convert criminals, and potential criminals, into proud citizens who feel they have a stake in their community and in the democracy we all share.
More Worthy Programs Needed
We've tinkered in this country with some preliminary, elementary efforts toward this goal; such programs as Head Start, the Jobs Corps, Boot Camp, Vista and the Peace Corps are worthy programs, but these are only the first, halting steps.
What we really need is something more akin to what President Lyndon B. Johnson had hoped he created when he undertook his War on Poverty, although that effort fell far short of its goals.
War on Crime, Poverty, Illiteracy?
Why not wage an all-out national "war" not only on crime but also on poverty, illiteracy, joblessness and racial discrimination? Such an effort would require more than the usual appropriation of huge sums to create new bureaucracies; rather, it would demand that high government officials, industry moguls, prominent local and regional leaders and others put themselves in close communication, in an organized way, with those who feel alienated from our democracy.
While we create new initiatives toward solving the problems that lead to crime and violence, we can help those in need to build a new respect for themselves and for our institutions.
It is no longer enough to rely on hit-and-miss efforts to solve the crime problem. It is incumbent upon us to put all our problem-solving skills together in one gargantuan, longterm and ongoing effort to bring safety, peace and goodwill back to our communities.
This is a column I wrote as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Nov. 5, 1994. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.