Intergenerational Criminality Is a Thing

But the intergenerational criminality is always caused by poverty, not the poverty caused by crime, as far as the media is concerned.

Intergenerational criminality is a culture that is not only passed down from father to son, but from the father’s criminal friends and their criminal sons. Only a strong individual who was willing to risk the peril of non-conformity could possibly resist the horrible example set by the adults in his life.

But this Inquirer story constantly diverts to impersonal causes and gratuitously assumes that poverty is a cause rather than the effect of crime.

They even hint that criminals are manufactured by “bias” from those who witness their wrongdoing.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “Father. Son. Cellmates. Generations of Philly families are incarcerated together.

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Why does crime concentrate in families? Why do fathers see their worst mistakes repeated by their sons?

It’s a complicated snarl whose threads of causation are difficult to unravel. Some researchers have described an accumulation of disadvantage: generational poverty; childhood trauma; learned behavior; the antisocial influences, “spatial contagion” and  toxic stress of living in a dangerous neighborhood; and the compounding weight of official bias.

“What we do know,” said Marie Gottschalk, a University of Pennsylvania political scientist who’s written extensively on mass incarceration, “is having an incarcerated parent, whether you can visit that parent or not, is often associated with greater mental health problems for kids. They’re more likely to have behavioral issues, to have severe depression.”


Researchers say, too, that there’s a consequence to being labeled a criminal: Those who have interactions with the justice system are more likely to exhibit criminal behavior later on than those who don’t. Some propose that a parent’s being labeled a criminal — and the bias that may accompany that — can transmit to a child, making him more susceptible to being caught up in the system.

To John Wetzel, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Corrections, it’s even simpler than that. He knows 14 percent of his inmates come out of the foster-care system, 50 percent have no high-school diploma and 80 percent have been exposed to trauma.

“Over a career working in corrections and walking through visiting rooms, you see inmates come and go — and then you see their kids, and then their kids,” Wetzel said. “When you start looking at what’s driving prison populations, it has less to do with criminal justice and more to do with education and economic opportunities. The zip codes where we get the most inmates from have the poorest school districts, the highest numbers of single-parent homes.”

Read the entire piece.

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