Like a lot of people, the headlines and stories in the newspapers and on the TV news over the weekend sounded impressive-“Police Superintendent Jodie Weis tells gang leaders they will be held responsible for the mayhem their members are creating on the streets.” But once past the headlines, and given the opportunity to learn more about the meeting, my initial impression has quickly fizzled to hysterical laughter.
You see, if I could have instructed Weis on convening a meeting with gang leaders, it would not have been with the ones on the streets. It’s the ones currently in jail who he should have spoken with; because a message to inmates will quickly resonate amongst the criminal elements on the street. The message is quite simple-kill someone on the streets and upon your arrival in jail, there will be someone waiting to kill you. Point blank, jail and prison will no longer offer you a safe haven amongst your ilk.
Now in ordinary times, it is “unconscionable” for those in the position of leadership and law enforcement to send out that kind of message. But these are not ordinary times and so extraordinary measures are needed. One of the underlying positions that our youth hold is not being scared to go to jail. In truth, going to jail is seen by some as a badge of honor. But if one doesn’t make it out of the prison system alive to tell about it, then the message on the streets will be glaring-going to jail will be akin to signing their own death sentence.
The first thing out of Weis’ mouth should have been that the prison industrial complex (yeah, he should call it just what the activist have labeled it) is no longer concerned about the safety of inmates. If you are a 4 Corner Hustler, we are going to house you with the members of the Mexican Mafia. If you are a Latin King, we’re going to put you with the Gangster Disciples. If you’re black, you’re going room in the same cell as the Skinheads. If you’re white, we’re practicing integration and housing you with the blacks. And if any of this leads to you losing your life, a limb-or two-or becoming someone’s girlfriend while in jail-oh well. You shouldn’t have been involved in that mess to begin with.
Initially, the murders won’t stop overnight. But then again, no new program will immediately stop the mayhem. But as the word gets out on the street that “Pookie got 20 years for murder and he’s now in prison in Idaho where blacks can be counted on one hand,” the message will slowly but surely resonate. Or let’s outsource our prisoners to jails in Mexico and other Third World nations where water is a privilege and food not laden with bugs a rarity.
A second thing Weis should have discussed should have come with an announcement on television; that the heads of households will now be responsible for the actions of everyone living under their roofs. So, if you are a girlfriend living with “Yo’ Man” who is shooting up folks, when he goes to jail you’ll be going with him. And if “Yo’ Baby” or “grandbaby” is committing heinous acts while living under your roof, you’ll share a cell with him or her. I could go on, but I’m sure you folks get my drift. Only when we take harsh actions can the message get out to those that normally don’t listen.
Now after reading this column, I hope you all know that I’m just being a bit sarcastic. But there is a sliver of truth in all this. And that is: very few of our criminals, after getting locked up, can maintain the same bravado that they had on the streets. Yet, far too often their breakdown is not a subject for public discourse. If it does, the message will resonate louder than any public service announcement.
I was inspired to write this after reading an article regarding 17-year-old India Spellman from Philadelphia. She, along with an accomplice, is allegedly responsible for the vicious murder of an 87-year-old vet in his front yard. Her mug shot with one tear running down her face, and her eyes reflecting deep thought for possibly the first time in her life, needs the following caption: “I’m accused of a crime and now I finally got to pay for putting my own butt on the line.”