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Breaking Rules

Rule-breakers intrigue me.  Protocol, peer pressure, fear of consequences—nothing stops them.  Good rules, bad rules, silly rules, important rules—it doesn’t matter.  They even break their own rules!  The question is: why?  Well, the question is too general because people act differently in different scenarios.  Instead, let’s talk specifics. 

Why do people break speed limit laws? The obvious answer is that they want to go faster than the posted speed limit.  They may be in a hurry to get somewhere, they may be trying to get away from someone, or they may just like the thrill of going fast.  These answers take into account the need for speed, but not the aspect of breaking the law.  When we consider the fact that the law says no, suddenly we introduce another dynamic into the behavior.  Regardless of why someone wants to go fast, to actually exceed the speed limit in violation of the law means something else.  Drivers break speed laws because 1) they think the posted limit is too slow; 2) they don’t think they will get caught; 3) the consequences of getting caught are minimal; 4) the speed limit is silly; 5) no one is around; 6) the car is built to go fast; 7) the road is built for speeds higher than the posted limit.  All of these, and perhaps more, are common rationales used to justify violating speed laws.

Equally fascinating is this question:  how should society deal with rule breakers?  In our example of speeders, what should be done to those who violate the limits?  Well, that question is complicated too! (I know.  Maddening, isn’t it?  But follow me.)  First, answer this question:  What does society hope to accomplish by enforcing the law?  Terminate the behavior?  Modify the behavior?  Benefit from the behavior?  Use the behavior as a leverage to control drivers?  The fact is that we could drastically reduce the incidence of speeding by a few simple actions.  First, we have the technology to track the bulk of our streets and highways with cameras.  It would be far more expensive than it’s worth, however.  The return on investment would be sharply negative.  Or, we could place the burden on car manufacturers by making them install governors on every engine to prevent vehicles from exceeding seventy mph or some other arbitrary number.  Even more expensive would be beefing up the highway patrol force with two or three times as many officers.  Another, much more effective method would be to raise the fines to exorbitant amounts.  Instead of $200-300, we could make a speeding ticket cost $2000-$3000!  If a driver knows that a speeding ticket is going to cost that much, then the likelihood of speeding is going to plummet significantly. 

Trust me.  None of these punishments is going to take place.  Speeding tickets will never exceed the average person’s ability to pay.  Why?  Because a steady stream of revenue flows into government coffers from speeding tickets as they exist today.  Raising the fines will not increase the amount of money going into law enforcement agencies.  Instead, the opposite would happen.  Raising the fines to astronomical levels would mean that only the rich and famous will speed, and there are not enough of them to make up for the loss of revenue from thousands of average speeders.  To put it another way, society cannot afford to totally wipe out rule breakers.  Resign yourself to it:  speeders we will have with us always.

Speeding is one thing.  There are other crimes, however, that have far more tragic consequences.  Yet, society treats them much the same way as speeders.  Murder, for example.  The homicide rates in Chicago are the highest in the country.  Curfews, marshal law, intense neighborhood sweeps to rid them of gangs, heavily increased police presence, surveillance cameras—all of these preventative measures originate out of a law enforcement paradigm, and the city seems to lack both the finance and the intensity of commitment to undertake such initiatives.  The preferred objective seems to be containment, that is, keep the violence confined to the worst neighborhoods.  Ensure that the best neighborhoods stay relatively crime-free. 

Criminologists have succeeded in elevating the prevention of homicide to levels not even remotely implementable.  (Yep.  For you word policemen, that’s a word!)  Take the study of crime prevention in Jacksonville, Florida for example.  In 2006, the Jacksonville Community Council drafted a paper with twelve recommendations for combating crime in the city.  Here they are: (Don’t really read them.  Just scan through them.)

“Recommendation 1. Target the killing among young adult men: Jacksonville has many young men (ages 18-35), particularly young black men, who tend to associate in groups drawn into illegal and violent behavior that directly leads to murder rate. While these groups may not be organized as “gangs” (as the term is popularly understood), the reality on the street is that they are affected by group dynamics that often escalate into violence over perceived insults and “disrespect.” The group norms they set and exhibit influence the upcoming generation of youth in these neighborhoods, who begin to form similar groups while in middle school.

• The Mayor, through expansion of the Seeds of Change: Growing Great Neighborhoods initiative, should partner with local neighborhood leaders and organizations, faith-based leaders, and MAD DADS, to implement the Ceasefire process used successfully in Boston’s

Operation Ceasefire. This approach enlists the community in communicating a clear, combined message to targeted young people that they are part of the community, their behavior is damaging the community, and these behaviors must stop. This proven process has quickly and dramatically reduced murders in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and other U.S. cities.

• For this approach to work, it must be led by a catalyst (individual or organization) from within

Jacksonville’s black community. While government can and must support the initiative, too much mistrust exists for this effort to be led by existing government institutions. The committee strongly recommends bringing in an outside expert facilitator to assist with this process and train local facilitators to continue the work.

• The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney’s Office should fully support this initiative by sending young people the message that the entire group will be held accountable if a member of the group kills.

• In conjunction with this initiative, all community social service organizations, education institutions, and employers should step forward with assistance to young people seeking a way out of violent, self-destructive behaviors.


Recommendation 2. Get illegal guns off the street: Anger and violence more readily result in murder if a firearm is present. Jacksonville has too many illegal guns in the community, too many people with guns who should not have them, and too easy access to firearms.

• The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office should increasingly target those who use guns to commit crimes, and work to ensure that violent offenders with firearms are arrested and removed from the community.

• The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, with support from the Mayor and the business community, should implement a Gun Bounty Program, similar to the one in Charleston, South Carolina.  The gun bounty program (not a gun buyback program) should include substantial financial rewards for information leading to arrests and confiscation of illegal guns. With law enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office, and the judicial system working together, the program should include other incentives for turning in illicit guns, such as reduced sentencing in a plea bargain agreement for offenders facing criminal charges.

• The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office should continue to work with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to attack on illicit firearm trafficking through the Operation Safe Streets initiative, using the Operation Ceasefire model.

 (Preventing future murders requires addressing a series of underlying problems and risk factors identified in this report. While actions to lower the murder rate cannot wait until Jacksonville solves all social ills, serious efforts to reduce violence must include strong, sustained efforts to deal with the specific factors that often lead to violent behavior.)

Recommendation 3. Admit and address racism: The cycle of violence in the community will not end until Jacksonville admits and addresses its racism problem. Racial discrimination and race-based disparities fuel a cultural divide and a sense of hopelessness that breeds violence.  Previous JCCI studies, including Young Black Males, Beyond the Talk: Improving Race Relations, and the Race Relations Progress Report, have outlined racial disparities and incidents of racism in the community and recommended actions to address the problems.  Rather than creating new recommendations, the committee strongly recommends the implementation of the recommended actions from these studies.

Recommendation 4. Fund successful programs: If Jacksonville is serious about addressing the murder rate, it must dramatically increase dedicated funding for successful programs and expand them where appropriate. Prevention efforts cost money up front, but provide an enormous return on investment. Successful efforts to reduce violence too often are limited in the numbers they can serve or eliminated in future funding cycles in favor of untried programs. The Human Services Council should assess existing prevention programs and recommend to its funding partners, including the City of Jacksonville, to increase funding for early violence prevention and intervention programs that work, such as the Intimate Violence Enhanced Services Team (INVEST) and the Ready4Work program.


Recommendation 5. Provide strong positive male role models: The community must do more to provide strong male role models for young men in Jacksonville, especially those currently lacking a positive father figure in their lives. Murder is primarily a male phenomenon in Jacksonville, with 91 percent of known murder suspects and 76 percent of victims being men.  The Human Services Council and the United Way of Northeast Florida’s Helping At-Risk Students Achieve initiative, in partnership with the City Council and other leaders of the local mentoring movement, should support, fund, publicize, and expand the capacity of its mentoring programs, such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for children with an incarcerated parent, to target these young men. Mentoring can help these young men not only academically, but also professionally as they become a positive contribution to society and become positive role models for others. For example, the PACE Center for Girls is a successful school program targeting at-risk girls; similar programs directly targeted to young males, such as Jacksonville Marine Institute, should be created or expanded.


Recommendation 6. Improve economic opportunity: Jacksonville needs to break its cycle of poverty and exclusion by providing more economic opportunity and resources, especially to young people. Job skills training, a public transportation system that better links jobs and the workforce, and access to jobs that pay a living wage are critical. WorkSource, the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the City of Jacksonville need to direct specific attention to the needs of alienated young black men. The strategies outlined in the Blueprint for Prosperity (and other economic development initiatives) to raise per capita income should include measures of geography, racial disparity, and age, such as unemployment data by race and neighborhood, to focus efforts on improving opportunity in the highest-risk neighborhoods.


Recommendation 7. Improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community: The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office should accelerate its efforts to implement community policing techniques, using models successfully implemented in communities such as Tampa and San Diego. For too many people in too many neighborhoods law enforcement is not seen as a partner or protector. To change these attitudes toward the police, the community and law enforcement must work together to address the murder rate. In addition, employees of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office should expand participation in community dialogues with the neighborhoods they serve, using the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission’s Study Circles model, as outlined in the Growing Great Neighborhoods initiative.


Recommendation 8. Address the culture of violence: Jacksonville needs a community culture that has greater respect for others and values life more highly. The Mayor’s Office of Faith and Community Based Partnerships should coordinate efforts of faith-based organizations and coalitions as they work together to engage the community in speaking out forcefully against violence and participating in anti-violence initiatives. Duval County Public Schools should place greater emphasis on its existing nonviolence curriculum, involving the community as needed to share the message.


Recommendation 9. Differentiate drug traffickers from users: Illegal drug markets are a scourge in Jacksonville, feeding addiction and encouraging violence and murder. Traffickers in illegal drugs should be targeted and punished; users of illegal drugs should receive treatment. The committee supports a two-pronged approach:

• The committee by no means endorses drug use. However, Jacksonville’s criminal justice system should continue to focus law enforcement efforts primarily on drug traffickers, rather than users.

• The Florida Department of Children and Families District 4 Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Office should lead a community effort to provide more treatment facilities for those already addicted to drugs and successful prevention programs to keep people from becoming addicted.


Recommendation 10. Target domestic violence: Jacksonville has effective programs to assist children who witness violence and programs for intervention in potentially lethal domestic violence situations. The problem is that these programs are insufficiently funded to meet the community’s needs. Jacksonville needs to reprioritize its funding because violence is a learned behavior, and too often that violence is learned at home.

• The City of Jacksonville, the United Way of Northeast Florida, the Department of Children and Families, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, and faith-based institutions must fully support and expand existing domestic violence prevention and intervention projects to meet community needs.

• In addition, the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court should create a Domestic Violence Court, similar to the Drug Court model, to improve consistency in intervention in domestic violence cases.

• The Fourth Judicial Circuit Court should mandate ongoing judicial training in domestic violence issues for all judges.


Recommendation 11. Help children succeed in school: Jacksonville has too many children who leave school without graduating. This is of particular concern because education is critical to creating an engaged, productive life in the community. Poor education and low literacy are risk factors for criminal activity and violent behavior, with high rates of high school dropouts among those incarcerated.

• Duval County Public Schools should eliminate out-of-school suspensions as punishment, since that sends children away from school and can provide opportunities for delinquent behavior.

• The Duval County Public Schools should expand its work with the community to reduce the dropout rate, decrease truancy, and keep children in school, regardless of FCAT implications.

• The United Way of Northeast Florida’s Helping At-Risk Students Achieve initiative should work with the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and other entities to expand after-school programs that encourage student achievement and help parents get involved in their children’s education.


Recommendation 12. Rehabilitate inmates and ex-offenders: Offenders need to be punished. However, for those who go to prison and pay their debt to society, the obstacles to re-entry into society are often far too high, encouraging marginalization, hopelessness, and a return to antisocial activity and violence. Lower barriers to re-entry and transitional services for released offenders can help reduce violence in the community. For those already involved in criminal activity and the criminal justice system, rehabilitation efforts can decrease recidivism and bring people back as contributors to and protectors of a safer community.

• Facilitate re-entry into the community: The Jacksonville Re-Entry Center is a major step forward in addressing the service needs of ex-offenders. However, the transitional needs of ex-offenders continue to outstrip the services available. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Department of Corrections should lead a community effort to provide more transition support for ex-offenders, enhancing current transitional programs and increasing the number and availability of such programs. Businesses should partner with agencies helping ex-offenders. Models such as the Delancey Street Project in San Francisco should be considered for Jacksonville.

• Mentor inmates to help turn them around: The Jacksonville community should expand on current successful efforts like Inside/Outside House to provide support for juvenile and adult offenders to turn their lives around. The Department of Corrections should involve the faith community, businesses, and others in providing mentors for those in the system who will continue mentoring the ex-offenders as they transition back into the community.

• Prepare inmates for employment after release: The Florida Legislature should make employment skills training mandatory for all inmates of the state prison system.

• Review sentencing guidelines: The Florida Legislature should review state sentencing guidelines, especially those that classify certain non-violent offenses as felonies, to remove lifetime stigmatization and employment barriers for those who have served their sentences. The continuing long-term impact of passing a $300 bad check should not be the same as engaging in drug trafficking, for example. At the same time, the Legislature and the Governor should review the process for restoration of rights for ex-offenders, easing restrictions for rehabilitated ex-offenders.”

Okay.  Back to me.  (Whew!) One cannot read through these hysterically complex iniatives without an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and a realization that they will never happen.  Most of these programs have been in place for years, if not decades, and their impact on the prevention of crime has been negligible.  That’s not to say that the intentions weren’t noble or that some good has not been done.  It is to state—emphatically—that rule-breaking and rule-breakers will never be wiped out.  Nor, is it to our advantage to attempt to make the behavior absolutely extinct.  Why?  Because they MAKE MONEY!  Crime, law-breaking, rogue behavior and illegal acts constitute a MULTI-TRILLION dollar business.  Don’t think so?  Add up the cost of all penal institutions in the world.  Add to that all the law enforcement agencies and personnel, and all the equipment they own.  Add to that all the tertiary industries that law enforcement support, like manufacturers of firearms, uniforms, vehicles, radios and various pieces of equipment.  Add to that all the educational institutions that teach criminology, train cops, buy printed textbooks and … had enough?  Yes, we’re talking trillions!

Let’s bring in all back down to the individual rule-breaker.  It has always been, and it will always be a matter of the heart.  Ultimately, the responsibility to abide by the law or violate the law is a choice made in the confines of the single person’s heart.  The law cannot universally, nor perpetually, force compliance.  Unless and until the heart is changed, rules will be broken.  This is all said for us in Romans 7:4-25.  Read it from The Message Bible:

4   So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God.
5  For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths.
6   But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.
7   But I can hear you say, “If the law code was as bad as all that, it’s no better than sin itself.” That’s certainly not true. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. Apart from the succinct, surgical command, “You shall not covet,” I could have dressed covetousness up to look like a virtue and ruined my life with it.
8   Don’t you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless,
9   and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it.
10   The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong.
11   So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead.
12   But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.
13   I can already hear your next question: “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.
14   I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison.
15   What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.
16   So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17   But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help!
18   I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it.
19   I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.
20   My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21   It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.
22   I truly delight in God’s commands,
23  but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24   I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25   The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.


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