Politicians have exploited fear of crime for political gain, offering simple solutions for complex problems. While using rhetoric about "predators," "super predators," "terrorists," "child sexual predators," and "criminal aliens," they have brought about longer prison terms and have made the criminal justice system our primary social program, siphoning off resources that could be better spent on programs for neglected and abused children, mental health care, drug treatment, domestic violence programs, and other services that provide real solutions to crime.
SCHR proposes constructive, humane, non-violent approaches to the causes of crimes. Children must be provided education, opportunity and hope, but far too many are not receiving any of the three and are being formally prosecuted for minor infractions that could be handled at school or in the community. Sending children to college and to productive jobs should be society's highest priority, while sending them to juvenile institutions should be the absolute last resort. Much of the crime in our society is related to alcohol, drugs, gambling and other addictions, but there are few treatment programs to help people overcome their addictions. Such programs must be provided to help people live useful and productive lives.
Based on fear and gross generalizations, society gives up on people – many of whom are struggling to overcome huge disadvantages in their lives – when they commit crimes early in their lives. But many offenders are not beyond redemption. With the proper intervention, guidance and opportunities, they can live within the law, be good workers, parents, family members and responsible members of their communities. Unfortunately, many of our current policies – criminalization of addiction, oppressive restrictions on sex offenders and mass incarceration – instead of facilitating rehabilitation are obstacles to it. These policies are enormously expensive, counterproductive and often cruel.