First Lady Laura Bush's focus on at-Risk kids should start with the fathers

By Noble Johns

First lady Laura Bush visited an elementary school in a inner city of Baltimore last week to promote community-based programs that help struggling young people — especially young Black boys — avoid self-destructive choices.

Laura visited George Washington Elementary School, in a neighborhood of narrow row-houses not far from the city's twin sports stadiums, and Mrs. Bush visited a first-grade class where the teacher keeps order with the help of a classroom management technique that researchers report has made a profound difference in academic achievement.

The pilot program, called the “Good Behavior Game,” rewards children for staying on task in class. The students are divided into teams, and a point is given to a team for any inappropriate behavior displayed by one of its members. The team with the fewest points each day wins a reward.

In trying to attempt to help with the problems of Black youth and gangs in the Black community, I think she is putting the cart before the horse. What I think would be a better approach is to try and help the fathers of our Black youth who are mostly in jail or under some kind of restraint by the racist criminal justice system in this country.

It is estimated that one-out-of every-four Black men between the ages of 17 to 45 are under some form of control of the American correction system, mostly for nonviolent crimes.

What I recommend is a general amnesty program for all the fathers of these young boys whose father’s are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes. This could be done on a case by case bases, and for those who have commented crimes that are considered nonviolent and petty, they should be let out of prison and allowed to take care of their families.

Some of these men have been incarcerated for crimes they didn't even comment, and other just made dumb mistakes, while others were convicted by corrupt cops and overzealous prosecutions. Sometimes good people can do bad things, but that doesn't mean that they should spend the rest of their lives in prison under these "three strike laws" and mandatory minimum sentence guidelines!

A prison release program is not a news issue. For example, the Israel's Cabinet last week approved a list of names of 500 Palestinian prisoners to be released in coming days.

The prisoner program release program is one of several Israeli gestures to solve the Palestinian problem. The prisoners to be released were not involved in violence against Israelis and all have completed two-thirds of their sentences, Israeli officials said. Violent offenders could be freed later if a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians holds.

Sharon told the Cabinet the release of the Palestinian prisoners had been a difficult step but that it could help build confidence between the sides and strengthen Abbas' administration.

The prisoners to be released constitute only a small fraction of the estimated 8,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Palestinians are demanding that all be freed, while Israeli officials insist that with few exceptions, prisoners with "blood on their hands" cannot be considered.

While “The Good Behavior Game” is a great example of a simple, inexpensive intervention that has a dramatic impact on a child's behavioral and academic development," said Mrs. Bush, a former teacher and librarian. Putting the fathers back in control of their children would be less expensive, and more effective.

Our government spend over $25,000 a year to house a prison inmate, that money could be better spent on an amnesty program to undo some of the injustice the criminal justice system has caused in the Black community

The first lady's visit to Baltimore is part of her effort to focus attention on small programs that help at-risk children. In coming months, she plans to travel across the country to highlight community and faith-based programs that have proven effective in helping young people stay out of trouble or straighten out their lives.

In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush announced a three-year, $150 million program to help young people in some of the nation's toughest communities avoid gang life.

Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said: "This initiative seeks to promote positive youth development and help at-risk youth avoid the lure and attraction of gangs so that they can find more productive use of their time and, in a way, to develop to their full potential."

The effort, which will make grants to faith-based and other community organizations, is nominally headed by Laura Bush and represents a growing shift of social service funding from traditional anti-poverty groups to a wide range of church-related and other community organizations.

The proposed 2006 budget the president released Monday contains $385 million -- a $150 million increase over the current budget -- for a range of programs to mentor children, help former prisoners and drug addicts, and provide support for young mothers. That fund, which makes grants to community groups, is slated for an increase, even as the White House is recommending cutting funding for many traditional antipoverty programs.

"I think the president has chosen to go with the programs he thinks are the most effective and, of course, he has continued to maintain a strong belief that partnerships between government and America's armies of compassion mean a lot in the lives of our poor," Towey said.

In her remarks here, Laura Bush underscored the serious difficulties facing many of the nation's young men. Boys often fall behind girls academically beginning in elementary school. As they grow up, boys are far more likely to become enmeshed in the criminal justice system, less likely to go to college and more likely to end up in prison. More than 90 percent of the nation's 750,000 gang members are male, the White House estimates. "Boys especially are at a greater risk than girls for violence, learning disabilities and juvenile arrest," she said.

A decade ago, many Republicans ridiculed President Bill Clinton's midnight basketball programs as an ineffective crime-fighting tool, but the Bush administration now argues that many young people can be steered away from trouble through intervention programs provided by committed teachers, religious leaders, community volunteers or sports coaches.

Learning to be good and productive students is not always intuitive process, most of the time the discipline of the father is needed

Back to home page