Commentary: More purpose and fewer prisons are needed

Commentary: More purpose and fewer prisons are needed
November 30
07:00 2017

Violence is now an epidemic that is plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.  Last month, I was the keynote presenter at an event to remember the victims of the fatal shootings at Virginia Tech.  In spite of how tragic this event was for our country, I was surprised to discover there had been an additional 32 school shootings since the violent event at Virginia Tech. 

The effects of violence are proliferating into the lives of our youth at an alarming rate and is now the primary cause of 48 children and teens being shot per day in a country that is considered the only superpower in the world.  Young people used to fear becoming a victim of an assault at bars and nightclubs, but now they carry the same fear to their libraries and classrooms. 

Every year more than 100,000 people in America are victims of violent crimes and everyday 84 people die from gun violence.  Violent acts are no longer isolated to the battlefields.  How can we expect to control and reduce violence in foreign countries, while it runs rampant right here in the United States?

Often, our elected officials are tempted to respond to these challenges with a mandate to get “tough” on crime.  Typically, this response will lead to more prisons and police protection. 

However, tougher laws do nothing to change the behavior of those in our communities with no sense of purpose.  Stronger laws make it easier to place people in jail.  Larger prisons allow us to achieve a false sense of security as we rest assured knowing those in our community with negative intentions are locked safely away with their peers. 

We fail to understand why offenders will repeatedly commit the same crime after spending several years incarcerated.  This continual return to crime is a result of no fundamental change in behavior.

As a community, we find it difficult to reach out to these criminals and help them to realize their purpose in life.  Of course, helping others to find purpose is more difficult than locking them up, but I am convinced the long-term effect is more sustainable. 

Life is only a representation of the choices we have made over time.  People who have an understanding of their purpose make better choices, demonstrate positive behavior, and maintain compassion for others.  We must be willing to devote our time, talent, and energy to planting seeds of purpose in the hearts of our most violent offenders.  Relying on laws to govern the choices of our citizens is unreliable, and we must understand an individual driven by purpose will make good choices no matter how the law may read.

Each one of us can stop violence in our communities and there is no reason we must feel handicapped into thinking the only way to solve this problem is through more legislation, bigger prisons, and a larger police force. 

Today, we all need to begin to take responsibility for the condition of our schools and neighborhoods.  We have a choice; we can continue to abdicate our responsibility of serving others or shift the tide in our communities through sacrifice. 

The change I have written about will not be easily achieved, because we are naturally fearful of the unknown, but if we do not sacrifice today as a community, then tomorrow we will die as individuals.      

Algenon Cash is the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm, he is also a national spokesperson for the oil and natural gas industry.  Reach him at

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