The criminal justice system is being used to address problems that were once (and better) handled by families, friends, communities and other institutions, says Washington Post blogger Radley Balko. A few examples from recent headlines show those themes intersecting with parenthood. In South Carolina, a mother was jailed and charged with “unlawful conduct toward a child” for leaving her 9-year-old daughter alone to play in a park. Police showed up at an Ohio man’s front door and arrested him in front of his family.
His crime? Child endangerment—as the authorities described it—because his son skipped church to go play with friends. A Tennessee woman is the first to be charged under a new state law that specifically makes it a crime to take drugs while pregnant, calling it “assault.” Balko contends that, “It doesn't benefit these kids in the least to give their parents a criminal record, smear their parents' names in their neighborhoods and communities and make it more difficult for their parents to find a job.”