The crucial question of “how should street crime be tackled?” has risen again after the sentencing of those responsible for killing the young London lawyer Thomas Rhys Pryce. Donnel Carty (aged 19) and Delano Brown (aged 18) robbed Pryce of his mobile phone before stabbing him in the heart.
It’s very interesting to read on the BBC message boards and Have Your Say page that public opinion seem to support the “hang ’em” solution (implying that these “scum” are lost causes, naturally doomed to forever commit crimes until the Justice System is well enough equipped to discipline and imprison them effectively) rather than taking the more optimistic view that many young people today are bored and turning to crime only in order to fill a void created by the unhealthy environment around them.
The fact which really needs to be addressed is that everyone is born with innate emotional needs that have to be fulfilled in the world if we are to flourish and be mentally healthy. (Psychologists call these needs ‘human givens’ because they are programmed into us from our genes.) If families, schools and society generally prevent children from getting their innate needs met in balanced and productive ways, we are, in effect, stopping them maturing well by stunting their mental and emotional life.
The rising levels of violent crime occurs as young people try to meet their innate needs, which nature is driving them to do, by turning to gangs and criminal activity because nothing else more wholesome is on offer. Delinquent behaviour follows on from a natural effort to fulfil these needs; such as for status, control, being stretched, feeling that life is meaningful and being part of a community. Crime is a destructive path to follow, but it does fulfil many of these emotional needs for these deprived youngsters.
People don’t come into the world as criminals but much of the culture in the UK at the moment provides the perfect conditions for generating mental illness and raising children to be violent and antisocial. It is our society that is creating young criminals like Carty and Brown.
It will require drastic measures to create a more healthy society and, until there is a deeper understanding of the importance of this backed up by the political will to do something about it, these problems and the tragedies that follow from them will only get worse.
Posted by: Eleanor