When I saw the headline on my column that read "Invest, don't punish" I was upset because it sounded like I don't believe in punishment.
I do, but I think the punishment should fit the crime and when I see how many lives have been turned around by Covenant House and Lives Under Construction Boys' Ranch I am encouraged.
It's the young people who aren't old enough to make wise decisions who get caught in the trap.
I certainly believe criminals should pay for their crimes and it's up to judges to decide how offenders can be best served.
When I think that the U.S. per capita has more people in prison than any other country in the world, I cringe. What message are we sending to the world?
Another part of me responds to my nature. I can't stand waste! And a wasteful life is the worst kind of waste we can have! Also keep in mind that life is time and wasted time is gone forever.
Russ, my husband, used to say he was going to put on my tombstone "Here lies Margaret Valone, who couldn't stand waste!" Well, he died first so I don't know what's going to be on my stone.
Let's go back to the differences between an expense and an investment.
Going to jail is more expensive than going to a good college. What's the difference? When you go to college you prepare for a life's work. When you go to jail usually you're being punished for your crime. If you do learn something in jail who is going to hire you? You can't wipe out your record, and keep this in mind: Taxpayers paid for your incarceration, and if you can't find a job they will pay for your welfare. Now the two organizations I mentioned get along on donations. They don't cost the taxpayers a thing!
Certainly, I'm in no position to judge who should go to jail and who deserves a chance to mend their ways. That's for a judge to decide.
I often mention the good work Judge Walter Drag does with his Drug Court. This program benefits everyone. First of all for the young people who turn their lives around, and certainly it saves the taxpayers money (I hate wasting money, too).
What more can we do to open up the eyes of teenagers who get hooked on drugs?
I've been surprised to read in the paper about older people being picked up on drug charges, but nobody said getting hooked on drugs is a temporary thing.
The problem is you don't want to look like the oddball when everyone else is doing it. That's vanity. That vanity will cost you dearly! Find some kids who think like you think and stick together. Be firm in your convictions.
Parents, do you ever get together with a group of your kids' friends and talk about these problems? Better yet, do a lot of listening. Maybe you can offer your house for activities.
I don't know what the schools are doing to bring this problem under control. Do young people who graduate go and talk to young people about the difference there is in their lives? How about organizations? Do you teach your members what some of the warning signs are? This is everyone's problem.
Of course, we know that keeping young people busy with productive things is a good alternative. Let's provide a lot of fun things for them. Not everyone can get on teams, but how about other groups? Things like music; maybe you can sing or dance or play a musical instrument. If you're a good dancer you can teach dancing. Have learners' classes for beginners. Everybody has to start somewhere. Make everyone feel comfortable in whatever stage they are in. I'd like to see more talent shows. I'm amazed at the talent in the musicals at Fredonia. Russ and I used to go to NYC musicals and we both thought Fredonia students were as good as Broadway performers.
Did you know the two biggest fears people have are death and speaking in public? If you get involved in singing in groups and later singly and acting now, you can overcome the fear of speaking in public. I know I did. I belonged to a young amateur group so debate was easy, and later being a public speaker for Christian Women's Luncheons was a joy. Start young and doors will open for you to use your talents.
Oh, yes. One more thing. The book I was reading was called "Sometimes God Has a Kid's Face." (Last week the column said "Sometimes Good Has a Kid's Face.) I don't blame the typist. My handwriting has never been good and now it's worse. Forgive me, please.
Margaret Valone is a columnist whose column appears Saturdays in the OBSERVER. Comments about this article may be directed to lifestyles@observer today.com