the system will always fail, people will always be weird

September 1, 2009

School has started and so has my 14-hour days on-campus shredding out Daily Trojan gnar and begging writers to pick up art stories.

Nevermind the damn fires ripping through the hills above my grandma’s house (don’t worry—she’s safe) or the fact that DJ AM died with a bag of crack stuck to his chest, because the most disturbing thing in the news recently (DJ AM is dead?!?) is the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard and the “failing” of “the system.”

Dugard was kidnapped when she was 11 and lived as a sexual prisoner in soundproof tents in the backyard of a man neighbors in Antioch called “Creepy Phil.” Because he was a registered sex offender and for some unfuckingknown reason has been out of jail since 1988, his parole officer visited the house often, but noticed nothing unusual besides his equally as creepy wife and mother. Neighbors did, though. One called and complained three years ago, saying children were living in tents in the backyard. An officer came to the house but, not knowing his history as a sexual offender and seeing nothing amiss, did not go inside (or out back) to investigate.

And now that the truth has been ousted by a university cop with “mothers intuition,” Antioch police are kicking themselves for not noticing the horrors happening not only in plain sight, but entirely within their legal reach.

But is it really the parole officer’s fault? Is it the cop who failed to go in the backyard’s fault? Is it the team assigned to Dugard’s case’s fault for not finding her to begin with? We try to point fingers at specific people or institutions, but we created these institutions; their practices and protocol reflect our society’s constant struggle with the ever more-intrusive role of government services and the amount of power we choose to bestow upon them.

Back in June, L.A. Times ran a great news feature about the deaths of children due to ineffective information sharing between L.A. County agencies. It cited 32 children that had died from abuse or neglect in 2008 and many of them had evidence mounted against their parents to prove they were in danger. But before anyone could care enough to put the pieces together, they were already dead. And at the end of July, the Times got their poster boy for this year’s child abuse inequities, six year-old Dae’von Bailey, who was beaten by his mother’s boyfriend despite repeated reports of his abuse.

But social services and parole officers can only go so far and the limits of their responsibility remain undefined. We could say that every allegation should be taken as if it were life-threatening, but the “every man for himself” mentality that America holds so dear contradicts the invasive tactics necessary to see the sick things people are truly capable of.

The sad truth is that there is no way to fix this. No interlocking database of information will ever help county workers see the bigger picture and no amount of policing will stop people capable of hurt. It is ignorant to think that we can save every child or stop every rape with an updated system and Big Brother tactics. There will always be mentally ill mothers and disturbed, perverted sex addicts. Cases will always fall through the cracks of an overwhelmed system, because the system is overwhelmed with people that it has already failed. It’s a vicious cycle that we will never be free from and the only thing we can do is be good to the people around us and hope for the best in return.

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