Death in Milwaukee

    A few weeks ago, Charles Young was beaten to death on the north side of Milwaukee. On the face of it, the murder wasn't particularly noteworthy. It's a rough part of town. But what captured people's attention were the ages of those charged with the crime. Charles Young was killed by a mob of children as young as age ten. It all began when a thirteen-year-old boy threw an egg at Young, who chased the boy and punched another one who intervened. Then the hunter became the hunted as a mob of nearly twenty males chased Young, caught him, and beat him with brooms, shovels, and bats. Eerily, none of the boys uttered a word as they went about their grim work. Among the sixteen boys charged in Young's death was a 10-year-old who is believed to be the youngest person ever to face homicide charges in Wisconsin. At a preliminary hearing, Dennis Cimpl, the court commissioner, asked the question that was on everybody's mind: "Where were the boys' parents?" One parent, the father of the ten-year-old, had no real answer, but told reporters, "Kids will be kids." An equally important question is, "Who are the parents?" According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, at least nine of the eleven minors charged in the crime have at least one parent with either a felony conviction or a record of serving time in prison. The rest -- like a boy whose father was stabbed to death outside a methadone clinic -- come from equally unstable homes. This is what social workers have in mind when they talk about "at-risk children." These boys have grown up in a world devoid of fathers or any other effective adult supervision. Thus we shouldn't be surprised when they reenact a scene from William Golding's Lord of the Flies on the streets of Milwaukee. It's in stories like these that the need for ministries like Prison Fellowship is most keenly felt. At BreakPoint, for the past decade, we have been telling Christians about the link between family breakdown and crime. Listeners have learned that the children of offenders are the kids most at risk for drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, poor school performance, and criminal activity. Eighty-five percent of juveniles arrested for their first serious crime report having a sibling or parent in prison -- a statistic that came into clear focus in Milwaukee. But Prison Fellowship is doing more than describing the problem. We offer Christians an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the children of prisoners through Angel Tree Christmas gifts. These gifts let kids know that someone cares. In addition, they can serve as the beginning of a relationship with these at-risk kids -- a relationship that can lead to forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ. Programs like Angel Tree Camping and mentoring can help children keep from following in their parent's footsteps and can break the cycle of crime and despair. Unfortunately, it's too late for those kids in Milwaukee. But there are other kids who are just as vulnerable -- thousands, hundreds of thousands -- kids who can still be helped before their actions capture people's attention in the worst way imaginable. Call 1-800-55-ANGEL or visit the Angel Tree Website to find out how you can be part of the solution. For further information: To donate to Angel Tree visit this site. Gina Barton, Jessica McBride, and Vikki Ortiz, "Where were the parents?", Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 14 October 2002. Jessica McBride, Mary Zahn, and Tom Held, "Suspect, 10, may become youngest ever charged," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 3 October 2002. BreakPoint commentary no. 020607, "Breaking Down the Family Business: Loving the Children of Prisoners." Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, The Problem of Evil (Tyndale, 1999).


Chuck Colson


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