Legislators belonging to what might be called the General Assembly’s social work caucus gathered at the state Capitol the other day to insist that there really isn’t much wrong with juvenile justice in Connecticut but that, of course, it always could use more social workers and “programs” to help keep young people out of trouble.
The social work caucus members insisted that while some car thefts and other crimes lately committed by juveniles have been brazen and atrocious, the recent increase in car thefts is a national phenomenon and over the long term car thefts have actually declined.
But the legislators were careful not to get close to the recent case that ignited the juvenile crime controversy in Connecticut — the death of Henryk Gudelski, struck by a stolen car alleged to have been driven by a 17-year-old boy who had been arrested 13 times in the last 3½ years, many of the charges being serious, but who was nevertheless free.
The legislators insisted that police, prosecutors, and juvenile court judges have the ability to ensure that young chronic offenders are detained. Police and prosecutors disagree, and the issue cannot be settled while the law excludes the public from juvenile court.
Wherever the truth lies, how did the defendant in Gudelski’s death manage to be free long after establishing his incorrigibility and the failure of the social work applied to him?
Exactly how were his cases handled, and by whom?
Which police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers, public defenders, social workers, and judges are responsible?
Who will investigate the case?
The social work caucus won’t say. For the social work caucus doesn’t want to find out what happened and doesn’t want the public to know. It wants only more social workers.
Nor does the social work caucus want to get near the cause of the juvenile crime problem — the lack of parents and parenting for the troublesome kids and the welfare system’s destruction of the family. A third or more of the country’s children are living in homes without a father, with fatherlessness approaching 90 percent in the cities, where, as a result, mayhem and social disintegration are worst.
No, the social work caucus always calls for more buckets for bailing out flooded basements but never for turning off the busted pipes.
With the increase in car thefts and other crimes by young people, Connecticut’s suburbs are starting to reap the consequences of their indifference to the disintegration of the cities under the management of the social work caucus. Out of sight has been out of mind. While juvenile crime is out of sight no longer, juvenile justice still is and is being kept that way precisely because that ineffectual but expensive system can’t bear scrutiny.
Scrutiny is the only reform, and the social work caucus is the big obstacle.
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THEY WEREN’T NAZIS: Connecticut’s indignation industry went into overtime recently when unknown people briefly posted a banner in Southbury accusing the Democratic Party of being the “modern-day Nazi Party” and depicting Democratic donkeys wearing swastikas.
The banner condemned Democrats for supporting socialism, eugenics, and hate and opposing America, Israel, and the Second Amendment. This was wildly hyperbolic and distasteful but it was not what its critics construed it to be, advocacy of Nazism. The banner plainly opposed Nazism and attributed it to Democrats.
With the indignation industry so easily triggered these days and political leaders being so hyperbolic themselves, few people in public life want to make even obvious distinctions. But accusations of Nazism haven’t always riled people so.
When Richard Nixon, a Republican, was president and presiding over the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, protest signs spelled his last name with a swastika substituting for the “x.” The militarism of two other Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, also provoked hateful feelings on the political left and so they too were called Nazis. Respectable Democrats overlooked it and even Republicans just shrugged it off.
But today everyone in public life seems to be expected and even to feel obliged to deplore any bit of meaningless hysteria that best would be ignored and denied publicity.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.