Sunday, March 13, 2005

We originally posted the killing of CHP officer STEINER by 16-year-old VALENTINO ARENAS, a POMONA 12th STREET wannabe when it first happened. If you recall, ARENAS was intent on making a name for himself with his neighborhood and decided that the most dramatic and direct way was to kill a cop. It was an assassination pure and simple.

This week, ARENAS was sentenced to LIFE WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE (LWOP). I was discussing this case with a reformed gangster and a retired cop, each of us musing about what can a free society do to keep teens like Arenas from getting to that point of insanity where he pulls the trigger on a cop just to impress a bunch of other teens.

We estimated that if Arenas lives to 70, each of his next 54 years in prison will cost California $36,000 for a grand total of $1.94 million to house, feed, clothe and keep healthy. I wondered what if the state had spent ten percent of that money, roughly $190,000, on him in some kind of intervention or diversion program. Could a kid like him, with a father already in prison, a caretaker aunt who had just come out of prison when the killing happened and a non-present mom, possibly be snatched out of that environment and set straight?

Oddly, it was the reformed gangster in our group who was the most pessimistic. Based on his own eperience with a terrible home environment, time in the CYA, County jail and ultimately State prison, his contention is that there's no government program that can give a kid what he needs and craves the most -- loving parents and a stable home. The most we can hope to do, he said, was the yank that kid out of the house when he was still an infant and either put him up for adoption or put him in an orphanage. That's illegal, to say the least. In a free society, I told him, you can't take kids away from parents on the basis of how they "might" be damaged by their own parents in the future. And besides, I said, there are plenty of kids in supposedly stable, well-off homes who go sideways and set off a COLUMBINE or pull off a drive-by. You yank those kids too?

The retired cop then brought up an example of something that happened in England this week.In this case, it was a 12-year-old who assaulted and raped his special ed teacher, stole her car and went on a cime spree. Like Arenas, he was sentenced to LWOP, something unheard of in England but something that they're learning to deal out. Apparently, the kid had been a professional smoker and drinker since the age of four and was encouraged to have sex by the time he was eight. By his alcoholic, drug-addicted parents.

The point that the cop went on to make was that in England, where they've got every social program known to man, where they've banned guns and the death penalty, provide free cradle to grave medical care, ultra-generous welfare allowances, free housing to the poor, and where you can't even give somebody the finger without being accused of a hate crime, even they can't seem to short-circuit the youth crime problem. Apparently, it's almost as bad there as it is in LA.

"It's the home," the ex-gangster said. "Definitely," the ex-cop said. "There's got to be a way," I said. "Yeah," the ex-gangster said. "But it would be illegal."


Oskar said...

out that the change NEEDS! to be within the child's nucleus; that is, his/her home. My wife is a CPS worker and I am a PO. We as a society can try everything with the child, but as long as we don’t affect his home environment, little to nothing will change in him.
For example, I’ve seen kids go to Placement were you see the kids start to change, unfortunately, as soon as they return home, one can see the deterioration that begins occurring. Don’t get me wrong, I am not only blaming parents, I am also talking about their neighborhood and all those variables that affect their development even those who are well meaning.

Well, what the F@#& is the solution you may say? Once I find it, I will let you know

XCONGUY said...

Wally, great post. I tend to agree with the ex-gangster. Arenas will go to the CYA until he is 18, then on to prison. While at the CYA, probably in Chino, he will be schooled down and will probably be a rider in his own right by the time he hits WASCO, Corcoran, New Folsom, or any of the other 30-something lock-ups he may end up in... That is a waste. We can spend about $2,500 a year to keep a kid in high school or $32,000 a year to keep that same kid in a lock-up. Jack Canfield said; "If a kid would have been wanted as a child, he may not have grown to be "wanted" as an adult." We are feeding the wrong end of the problem.
Great stuff Wally,
with respect,


Anonymous said...

HEY!!!!!I got an idea,why dont the state fund more money into the schools,athletic programs (parks and schools)included.Try to reach the children at ages 5 to 11yrs. old.Before the streets influence them,the country as a whole can save future generations,maybe not everybody but most of them.teach them about the risk they have in joining a gang or life of crime.Many kids dont see the seriousness of it till its to late,and there scared if not feel obligated,and will not change for the better.So those people are not the ones society should concentrate on, but the innocent ones can be saved,and only them can help pave the way to a better future for themselves and the children after them,plain and simple start now with the children,save them from it.At least try why waste so much money in jails and camps when you can use it for education and programs.You know we can stop aids completly not with a shot,but with prevention,(the one thing some people dont do)prevent!who ever is infected...well you know,but every body else that was aware and was wise enough to be preventive will not have to worry.I know it sounds unrealistic but the decrease in aid cases would be tremendous!!!!!!Now if only we could look at our children and teach them how to be preventive,to steer them away from the life of crime,If only our politicians would think of it,or have they?Do they care?What ever happen to the days when a policeman would hand the kids baseball cards?Now the cops even shave their hair,the only difference between them and the gangbangers is a badge,even cops dont respect their own authority,(crooked)most not all but most!Hah!!teachers dont want to teach! not enough pay?oh well!so they wont give it a 100%.Okay!parents lazier!politicians hah broken promises!the rich get richer and the poor.....well there just poor,but anyways save the children from the crap! and who ever stepped in it,well...let them wipe there own shoe!!!

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Kung fu Librarian said...

This is why programs such as No Child Left Behind simply don't do you convince a 7th grader who receives routine beatings and has to put up with all of his mother's convict boyfriends that Shakespeare is "fun?" How do you help that kid who has such poor care that his teeth are falling out and he's in constant pain pay attention in arithmetic?

Parenting programs can help -- those that target terrible parenting. Some after-school programs, if not entirely successful at least provide safety and stimulation for such kids, but what more can a society do besides the illegal actions suggested? You need a license to drive a car, but anyone can procreate and ruin a child's life...?

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