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by Peter Moskos

December 21, 2015

Whose fault is this?

A good piece of journalism in the Sun:
In Baltimore, where there are an estimated 19,000 heroin users, including 9,500 chronic users, annual spending on the drug is estimated at least at $165 million.
When the brothers of one local kingpin were kidnapped, he came up with $500,000 for ransom. When investigators searched a stash house and home of another dealer, they found $464,283 and $74,980, respectively.
But as in the legitimate economy, such wealth is largely limited to those at the top levels of the heroin trade. At the bottom, the so-called "corner boys" who sell on the street can be making as little as minimum wage.
There seems to be an unending supply of mostly young men willing to do this entry-level work, however low-paying, illegal, and dangerous. Among them was Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old whose death in police custody in April triggered protests and rioting in Baltimore and led to criminal charges against six police officers.
It is an all-too-familiar cycle in Baltimore: Those with little education and thus few job prospects find their way to the lowest rungs of the drug trade, touting on the corner or serving as lookouts. At some point, they are arrested and end up with a criminal record that makes them even less attractive to the legitimate economy. And so they return to drug dealing, often in the neighborhoods they live in.

"They're basically unemployable."
And yet they're eminently arrestable. Not that that does any good.


Anonymous said...

Whose fault is this?

Brother, nobody cares. Well, not nobody, but good as nobody as far as the national conversation is concerned. Things are going to have to get worse before they get better, because this and many other questions of governance aren't based on reality.

Concerned citizen said...

"Those with little education and thus few job prospects find their way to the lowest rungs of the drug trade"

Whose fault is this? Pardon my sarcasm, but I guess we have to blame the teachers.

john mosby said...

Prof, this is as good a post as any for me to float yet another policy proposal adapted from the Turk:


You may recall that the original janissaries were young boys taken from the subject peoples of the ottoman empire: Slavs, Greeks, Armenians, etc. They spent their formative years in a boarding school that combined elements of west point, Eton, and a madrassah. The idea was to make them more turkish than the turk. They then ran the ottoman army and civil service, and eventually had de facto control of the whole joint.

It might be worth our money to establish a modern day janissary program for young urbanites.

Get them well away from the city in an immersive educational environment. The first few years may well wind up being remedial, but after that many of them will no doubt surpass the accomplishments of sleepwalking suburban kids.

Then to ensure the investment is not wasted, the modern janissary schools must feed into important sectors of society, such as the military, civil service, academia, STEM industries, and skilled manufacturing trades.

The overall investment is probably cheaper than welfare, city schooling, juvie homes, and jails.

What do you think?


Moskos said...

It's a crazy idea.... the janissaries! Don't get me wrong, I love any return to the good of the good ol' Ottoman empire! My grandfather, you may not know, was born an fez-wearing ottoman subject (actually, the fez probably came a few years later).

The problem (along with that pesky matter of stealing kids from their parents) is that it would be nothing more than a combo juvie home and jail. We already have those. And I can't think of any case where they have worked. Australia even did it. I'm all for more investment. I think it would have to (and should have to) happen in the home.

But you get kudos for any crazy idea!

john mosby said...

It's the fezzes that make it work! You ain't never gonna do it without the fez on....

More seriously, the modern janissary program would not forcibly take children away. I could see it being offered to families who are already frequent flyers with child services, or high-probability candidates: Single mothers, etc.

It wouldn't even have to be a govt program: It could be set up as a non-profit by a coalition of pro-lifers, anti-immigrators, civil-rightists, and anyone else with genuine concern for urban youth.

A micro real-life example is famous balmerite Wes Moore, who you may have run into at 30 Rock since he frequently appears on MSNBC. Wes was in danger of becoming another lost urban youth, but he managed to get a scholarship to valley forge military school. From there he went to Hopkins, and thence to the army, where he served as an artillery officer in the GWOT. He is now back at Hopkins SAIS when not appearing as a talking head, writing books, and other worthy activities.


Moskos said...

I like the idea if it's offered to parents/guardians.

Some people just don't want to be parents. Or they can't be. But they are. It doesn't end well for the kids, it's safe to say. What do you do if your parents are incapable or simply do not love you? It happens. We turn I blind eye unless the kids are actually physically or sexually abused.

I remember finding two boys who were sleeping over in the bed of some white guy on Monument Street (there weren't many) who was known to neighbors as "the pedophile." But despite my efforts, I couldn't find probable cause to arrest him for anything.

I actually expected the mother, whom I talked to, to care. Silly me. She was happy he was willing to babysit her kids for free. (Need I even mention there was no father around?)

It would be better if she could give up her kids to the John Mosby School for Janissaries (Home of the "Fighting Fezes"). Better than the status quo.

Though I'd still like to see one example of a successful group home for youths before supporting this. I know there are success stories. But are there successful institutions?

Concerned citizen said...

"are there successful institutions?"

Of course it depends on how you define success, i.e, where you set the bar, but I would argue that the charter school movement in the 'hood is a current, on-going, non-utopian effort in this regard.

Granted, they're not boarding schools; but the best of them attempt to replicate the rigor and support systems of boarding schools.

Moskos said...

I'm willing to set the bar low. And I am a bit biased toward public schools, being a product of them (and now a professor in one), but I don't think charter schools do well with the kids I'm talking about. They kick bad students out. So of course they do better with what's left. I'm talking about the kids who are the reason many parents (especially hypocritical liberals who talk a good game about integration) won't send their kids to certain schools. The kids who currently -- and all too predictably -- end up dead or in prison. Kids with have been abused and lack good or able or present parents or guardians.

john mosby said...

Ref the pedophile: Somehow I think that if an Anglo mom were letting her kids bunk over at a reputed pedo's house, child services would get gleefully and decisively engaged, hard evidence be damned.

And that is kind of my point with the janissary concept: You have to get the kid the hell away, forever, from the culture, the self-serving local govt, the soft bigotry of low expectations, etc. Just like the janissary who is never going to set foot in Yerevan again, unless it's as the pasha or bey. Otherwise the learning doesn't take.

That's why the only successful example I can really give are the historical janissaries. Or, paradoxically, the British boarding schools, which instill the culture by taking you out of the culture.

Or maybe the lakonian agoge, or the similar system set up by Shaka.

People would probably freak if we called them Zulu Schools, though....


Moskos said...

For all I know, child services did a hell of a job after my wonderfully thorough and well written report. (But I doubt it.)

And don't underestimate the Universal Zulu Nation: http://www.zulunation.com/

john mosby said...

You probably wont be impressed by my other big idea, which for lack of a better term I call Super Section 8.

Although it would be more accurate to call it Modern 40 Acres and a Mule.

Instead of giving people a section 8 voucher to go live in a gentrified neighborhood or suburb, where you have the worst of both worlds, isolation in a strange community and the ready availability of influences from the old babe, I would spend a little more to relocate families across the country.

Places like the fracking boom towns would be ideal. And yes, I know some of these towns are going bust; that's why I said 'like,' not 'such as.'

Anyplace where there are low-skilled jobs available. And the voucher would cover a year's rent, or even better a house down payment and a year's mortgage. Costs might even be lower because houses cost less out in flyover country.

The most important part is that the recipients would be scattered, hundreds of miles away from each other. This avoids the effect you often have in frontline suburbs where people's idiot cousins and friends from the city come out to act the fool.

I am also trying to replicate the effect we have with Hispanic immigrants, where the urge to work causes them to travel to all kinds of previously lily-white places such as Iowa. This in turn helps the assimilation of Hispanics as each generation intermarries with the Anglos around them.

A bit of a nudge from my Super 8 program, and the urban population could start having true diaspora and assimilation effects, just like all the other groups in this country.