AP NEWS

Fitzgerald: Loss of moral values produces young offenders

July 12, 2017

Marty Walsh, armed with the power and perks of incumbency, announces he’s going to throw summer jobs at the wave of violence sweeping across our inner city neighborhoods, which form the base of challenger Tito Jackson’s viability, explaining why the latter is so reluctant to give the former any credit.

Sound familiar? It should, because they’re new actors trying to pump fresh life into a tired old script.

The good news is that Boston isn’t Chicago, where 14 people were shot to death over the extended Fourth of July weekend.

In fairness to Walsh and Jackson, extinguishing this inferno is like standing at the base of Mount Everest and wondering where to begin the climb.

But one thought does reverberate here.

It came from the late Charles Colson, best remembered by most as the Special Counsel to President Nixon who spent seven months in prison for Watergate-related offenses.

It was during that stretch that Colson experienced a conversion to evangelical Christianity. Those who would instinctively snicker at such a possibility are reminded the transformation of Malcolm Little to Malcolm X began while the latter was also incarcerated.

Colson, who died five years ago, would dedicate the rest of his life to prison ministries, becoming an acclaimed authority on life behind bars.

We met one day when this writer emceed a Colson presentation and echoes of our conversation still come to mind whenever headlines scream of youthful bloodshed.

“Years ago,” he said, “whenever kids would come in off the streets I could talk with them about right and wrong, but these kids coming in now have no idea of what I’m talking about.

“The biggest administrative problem I see is older inmates asking for protection from the younger ones. Historically, the challenge was to protect kids from the older cons, but now it’s all been reversed. The kids now coming in off the streets are much more dangerous than the convicts already in prison.”

Colson’s suggestion? It’s one we do not want to hear.

“There are two types of restraints on human behavior,” he said. “One is external: building prisons. But we can’t build them fast enough. Besides, you can’t scare people into having a conscience.

“The other restraint is internal, which is the informing of conscience by the teaching of values. But this society says we can no longer do that, and so we continue missing the cause of crimes.

“Our moral breakdown has overwhelmed the capacity of our criminal justice system to respond, and until we recognize that we will continue to have kids killing each other over leather jackets and Nike shoes.”

That conversation took place in 1996.

What do you suppose he’d say today?