Pubdate: Wed, 04 Feb 2009
Source: Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2009 Lake of Two Mountains Gazette Ltd.
Author: Peter Ratcliffe
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


Illegal drugs are a societal problem that entangles our youth and
schools. I believe that all children are born inherently good. I
believe that the vast majority of parents do their absolute best to
set and keep their children on the right track in a quickly changing
and ever more dangerous world. We all want our kids to succeed and
thrive. I must conclude that the vast majority of the bad kids are
therefore a product of the toxic parts of the environments our society
allows them to grow up in.

Over the years I've heard way too much complaining and blaming the
schools and teachers. I understand that, because all of our children
are great little kids when they take that first bus ride to school.
The problems come later, and they were fine young people until they
went to school, so why not just blame school when our kids get
involved with drugs or crime?

The most dangerous toxin for our youth is any illegal drug. Don't
blame the schools for allowing drugs; they're overburdened with
challenges and do their best educating our youth under all the
constraints and expectations we place on them. Don't blame the police
for not prosecuting drugs; they do their best under all the
constraints we place on them.

Don't blame those kids who get sucked into easy money for what they
see as little perceived risk of long-term damage. The temptation and
pressure is too great for some small minority who can't resist.

Most of all, don't simply blame all parents of the bad kids. I can't
imagine being in that situation, but I'm absolutely confident that the
local youth who becomes a drug dealer doesn't sit down with mom and
dad and say: "I'm thinking of dealing drugs and can make a pile of
money, what do you think?" Parents may have ignored suspicions,
thought it was a minor problem would be just a passing phase, or many
have had absolutely zero clue that the kid was going down a bad road.

Affluent communities may falsely feel safer and better insulated. They
may even have lower crime rates because there's more free cash and
less petty crime is required to get the money to buy drugs. Fact is:
Affluent communities are better markets for illegal drugs, so you can
be sure there's more than one dealer at every public and private high
school you can name.

You currently can't unlink drugs, crime and our youth. With the
assistance of our laws, it makes sense for the criminal distribution
networks to recruit and target our youth to play key roles in their
delivery chain of illegal drugs. They do that in large part, to take
advantage of the legal protections that we give our youths, especially
for first offences. Easier to recruit kids when criminals can promise
easy money, little chance of getting caught and a little slap on the
wrist if the kid gets caught.

Once a young person is dealing drugs for a network of criminals,
they're in the most isolated and dangerous of places. They likely
can't talk to their parents, or will find no reason to unless they're

The criminals using our kids for profit become a bigger influence in
their lives than their parents or teachers. I'm certain that there's a
lot of fear, pressure and intimidation in the training and control of
a youth by a criminal. That's balanced with access to excitement,
perceived status, acceptance of peers and exposure to easy money and
drugs. The real legal world of low-paying part-time jobs has little to
compete with those things for an at-risk minority of our youth who
turn bad.

The problem of illegal drugs, especially how they badly affect and
endanger our all of our youth and schools, needs to be fixed. Drugs
are a societal cancer that won't go away without really aggressive
treatment. Cutting off a few small branches at the very end of the
criminal drug tree won't do the job. That's what we've been doing for
years now. Arrest a youth, slap their wrist and that branch may or may
not reform. The adult criminals really don't care; they will just
misguide and recruit more new youth to replace the missing branches.

How can we cut the deep roots and eliminate illegal drugs in our
schools and wherever else our youth may find themselves? Criminals
only respect the laws they actually fear. I'd start by legislating
mandatory life sentences for any criminals who use our youth in their
crimes. Keep it really simple: Deal drugs to a youth, or use a youth
to deal your drugs and even on first offence you're fast tracked
through the courts and quickly put away for life, no options or
sympathy allowed.

Youths protect each other with a culture of silence including fear of
reprisal and even our good youth don't easily rat the bad guys out. We
need some kind of much stronger carrot and stick approach to allow the
police to follow that bigger branch of evil back closer to the central

My second simple suggestion leverages youth protection for needed
information: If any youth over age sixteen is caught dealing drugs and
wants protection in the courts as a youth, then they must name their
source of the drugs and quickly cooperate with the police as required.
Don't tell us where you get your drugs and we'll consider you an adult
and throw the book at you.

Last of all, I can't let all parents off completely. If you know your
kid smokes a little dope or does other drugs then you're complicit in
our problem. They're part of this nasty drug problem with your
blessing. You might be justifying it as just passing phase or no big
deal, but that tolerance on your part is opening doors to evil and
putting all of our kids in more contact with crime, temptation and
this societal cancer of illegal drugs. I've heard some horror stories
from some great parents who tolerated drug use by children young and
now can't get their adult kids back from illegal drugs. Why would any
parent risk that kind of danger?
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