Unwilling to face toll of family disintegration, state hides it
Certain state legislators, social workers, community organizers, and members of the clergy think they have the solution to Connecticut's social disintegration: Conceal it.
The General Assembly and Governor Lamont have just imposed secrecy on the trials of juveniles charged with murder, rape, and other serious crimes. Such cases with juvenile defendants used to be transferred to adult court and tried in the open. They still will be tried in adult court but now the proceedings will be secret. Because of the new law, the records of trials of juveniles already prosecuted for serious felonies have just been sealed up too.
Now the advocates of secret trials for juveniles charged with serious crimes also want legislation that would erase criminal records for all offenders three to five years after they complete their sentences. This would prevent the public from learning the criminal backgrounds of job, loan, and rental applicants and potential romantic partners. Presumably this would erase the state sex-offender registry as well. The premise of the proposal is that crime is none of the public's business, that people who commit serious offenses should not have to answer for themselves and the public should be defenseless.
The horrifying injustice of this premise was illuminated the other day when the family and friends of a Hartford woman who was struck and killed by a car apparently driven by one of several teenagers in a gunfight were prohibited from attending his arraignment in court for manslaughter. While secret trials are prohibited by both the state and federal constitutions, the advocates of concealing social disintegration care nothing for constitutions, and they will get away with trashing the right to know unless a formal challenge is brought.
After the recent atrocity in Hartford the family and friends of the slain woman gathered on the street to mourn her and deplore what the teenagers are accused of doing. The mourners asked: Where are the parents? But surely they knew the answer. That is, in most cases like this, there are no parents.
Indeed, as many as 90 percent of Hartford's children and the children of Connecticut's other cities live in households without a father. Thousands live in households without a father or a mother and are being raised by grandparents, who, heroic as they may be, are often overwhelmed and unable to discipline the kids, especially the boys.
The advocates of concealing social disintegration also surely know the answer to the question of the mourners. But they should know far more than that. They should know why so many children throughout the state, not just the cities, are fatherless and thus far more susceptible to crime, failure in school, physical and mental illness, drug abuse, and lifelong poverty and demoralization. Concealing social disintegration won't address the cause of this problem.
The advocates of concealment claim that the cause of social disintegration is racism. It is not. For fatherlessness correlates heavily with bad outcomes for children across all races and ethnicities.
Fatherlessness also correlates heavily with the destruction of the family by a welfare system that enables and subsidizes childbearing outside marriage, a system that tries to replace parents with social workers, therapists, and courts, a system of ever-increasing government expense that just makes everything worse but is never audited for its catastrophic results.
Concealing social disintegration is not just mistaken policy. It makes Connecticut's suicide inevitable.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.
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