Kids, Gangs, Bad Choices, and Lives Destroyed

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Yesterday I posted my review of a powerful book called Destructive Justice by Nicholas Frank. (If you missed it, just scroll down to the post below.) Today I am honored to share an insightful, compelling piece he has written to share with us. Without further interference from me, here is Nicholas Frank:

 

What do you think of when you hear about a kid who is in a gang?  Do you think Irredeemable Criminal?  Drug Dealer?  Violent Thug?  How about Loser? Or Predator?  Whatever thoughts come to mind, I’ll bet “Love” is not among them.

Whenever I hear of a kid who is in a gang, Love is definitely among my thoughts.  You see I am a little closer to the subject of kids in gangs than most people.  For a few years, starting when he was around sixteen years old, our second oldest son was a member of an offshoot of the Crips that had set up shop in our town, far away from that group’s urban origins.  We hated the choice he made, but we never stopped loving our boy.

Love was of no use, however, in preventing his descent as we lost him to the gang’s criminal world.  When he was seventeen he participated in a botched robbery attempt.  Fortunately, not a single person was harmed.  Nevertheless, he was tried and sentenced as an adult to thirty-two years followed by two consecutive life terms – in other words, for the rest of his life.  And, the love that failed to prevent his descent into a criminal world proved equally useless when it came to persuading the judge to find kindness in his heart and to give our son a chance at redemption.

So, another thing I think when I hear that a kid is in a gang is, “Poor kid, they are going to bury you.”

When you love someone, you are stuck on the ride with him wherever it goes.  My heart followed our son into prison, but my mind went in search of answers:

  1. What makes a boy turn his back on his family and join a gang, something that is essentially a repudiation of everything his parents represent?
  2. Why would a “justice” system bury a confused boy who did not hurt anyone behind concrete and steel for the rest of his life?

To understand how a young boy comes to be a gang member, it is useful to understand some things about gangs.  For example, you might not be aware that youth gangs have been a constant part of society virtually since man began to gather in cities.  From at least as far back as early 14th century London there are reports of gangs with names like the Mims, the Hectors, the Bugles and Dead Boys.  Similar reports come from every era since, including today.

What’s more, the characteristics of street gangs are remarkably consistent through the centuries.  They are predominantly youth oriented, engaging in high profile criminal behavior, with distinct and displayed group identities, and are identified by geographic boundaries (turf) that they claim, tag and fight over.  A person could be excused for confusing the 14th century Mims with the 21st century Crips, Bloods or Fresno Bulldogs, for that matter, if he were reading a basic description of each gang’s behavior and organization without knowing which one he was reading about.

In a way, the phenomenon of youth gangs is amazing.  They have outlasted the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, American and European enslavement of African people, the Spanish Armada and the Spanish Inquisition, the British Empire, the Industrial Revolution, Apartheid, the First, Second and Third Reichs, the USSR, the Cultural Revolution, and the list goes on.  All historical attempts to eradicate them have failed, including those being pursued today.  If survival and reproduction are measures of evolutionary validity, youth gangs are a valid socio-evolutionary adaptation that is more robust than almost any other form of social organization.

Of course, that begs the question, “Adaptation to what?”

By and large, the theories about gang formation and why kids join them circle around a couple of central themes.  On a macro-social level, youth gangs have consistently formed through the ages as alternatives for disenfranchised populations that are essentially blocked from opportunities for success in obtaining money, status, power, etc. in a society’s dominant, socially legitimate systems.  In our modern world, the illegal drug trade has brought gangs into communities that had no previous history with them.  What’s more, gangs have been erroneously romanticized and delivered into all American homes by the media.  Representations of gang members and gang life in song and film have presented them as an attractive, apparently viable option for a much wider group of troubled kids than ever before.  On the individual level of why kids join gangs, it is most often because their bonds or ties to family, school and other social/cultural institutions are weak or broken, as those institutions fail them.  They seek an alternative to the world that let them down or that appears to have no place for them.

In the case of our son, we certainly failed him as we went through an 8-year custody war that permanently rent the fabric of every element of family.  School districts failed in a myriad of ways, not the least of which was to kick him to the curb as part of the idiocy of Zero Tolerance policies for kids who are struggling with drugs.  Other institutions such as the medical profession, probation department, family court, law enforcement and more were no better.  No wonder he looked outside of our world for a place.  Regardless of how much we loved him and how much our actions and reactions came from that love, everything we did seemed to exacerbate his problems.  In the end, the adults in his life helped to accelerate what might have been ordinary adolescent defiance into extreme anger, disillusionment, depression, drug abuse, delinquency, gang membership and ultimately life in prison.

There is another fundamental characteristic of youth gangs that I did not mention above.  Unless something profound happens to them, most gang members grow up and leave the gangs and their criminal life.  That is a fact that is not generally known.  In fact, it is precisely what happened to my son, even though he is down for life in prison.

Gangs are predominantly a youth oriented phenomenon.  Just as it is with all other forms of juvenile delinquency, as young people pass through adolescence to acquire adult minds and sensibilities, the needs that gang life appeared to fulfill diminish, not to mention the mature individual sees the inherently insufficient ability of their gang to meet those needs anyway.  Only the true criminals, many of who would have been criminals in any case, continue to use their gangs to exploit the next generation of disillusioned, confused and temporarily hopeless kids.

And that brings me to why a “justice” system would bury a confused boy who did not hurt anyone behind concrete and steel for the rest of his life.  The problem starts with a “justice and corrections system” that directs little to no resources and therefore gives no value to rehabilitation or redemption.  Without rehabilitation (i.e., correction through the replacement of damaging behavior with productive behavior) as an ultimate goal, punishment serves no purpose beyond the intentional infliction of harm on offenders.  The necessarily unsatisfactory result of a corrections system that includes no rehabilitation – no correction – is a system of ever harsher and ever more permanent punishment.  What we have now is a system of condemnation and ruination.  Its most obvious symptoms are bloated, overcrowded prisons and a recidivism rate that is the one of the worst in the developed world.

This hateful approach has driven its condemnation/ruination campaign into the treatment of juvenile offenders by trying them as adults more often and by sentencing them far more harshly than ever before.  The result has been to destroy kids’ lives before they even finish developing.  My son’s devastating sentence is just one example.  Rather than acknowledge what the experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, criminology, etc. have known and have proven for years, that adolescents are in a transitory stage of life that often includes temporary forays into delinquent and criminal behavior, and that the overwhelming majority of them will grow out of such behavior if given the chance, those that run our “justice” system too often choose to inflict the most permanently damaging punishment as possible on our errant youth.  In other words, they prefer to condemn them before they even have the chance to become.  That is the kind of “profound” thing that can turn a kid who would otherwise have outgrown his gang into a permanent gangster.

So, here I am trying to reintroduce to as many people as possible and to our “justice” system, the positive power of forgiveness, rehabilitation, love and ultimately redemption for my son and the millions of others who were slammed and who being slammed into devastating prison sentences for their offenses committed when they were youngsters, gang members or not.

I would love to read your thoughts on the subject.

Nick Frank

*
I want to extend my sincere thanks to Nick for opening his life to us and shining a light on a broken system. I’d also like to remind readers that Nick’s son did not physically hurt anyone, yet we have locked him away for life. The average adult rapist serves just 5-1/2 years in prison. We do not allow kids to buy or drink alcohol until they are 21, because we don’t feel they are psychological or emotionally able to make responsible decisions. Yet we have no problem trying a nonviolent adolescent as an adult in our courts, then locking him away for his entire life with absolutely no chance of redemption. This, to me, is beyond comprehension.

I hope you’ll check out Nick’s very person, very tragic story: Destructive Justice

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Review: Destructive Justice by Nicholas Frank

Destructive Justice

A LOST BOY, A BROKEN SYSTEM
AND THE SMALL LIGHT OF HOPE

By all accounts, Nathan Frank started out as a terrific kid with the brightest of futures ahead of him. With the advent of adolescence, however, Nathan’s world and his relationships begin to unravel. No matter which way he turns, he seems to find conflict. Eventually, with his powerful personality, he becomes his own generator of conflict as he steadily enters a world of drugs, defiance and ultimately a criminal street gang. Finally, he runs off the rails at full throttle, coming to a hard stop at seventeen years old when he is arrested for his participation in a botched robbery. With his arrest, Nathan is swept into a justice system of condemnation and ruination for those who enter its control. There, the fact that he is a troubled teen means nothing – maybe less than nothing. Nathan is tried as an adult and sentenced to multiple life terms for his crimes. So at seventeen, he enters a world where exploitation, violence and abject hopelessness reign. Forgiveness, rehabilitation, redemption are hardly even notions within our justice and corrections systems. Logically, Nathan should be crushed by his fate. He very nearly is. But, the man Nathan becomes, a man who finds his strength in fundamentally good qualities that he suppressed for so many years, will not be crushed. Somehow, in one of the worst places on earth, he rediscovers the best parts of himself. Destructive Justice follows Nathan from the great promise of his earliest years, to the great tragedy of his adolescence, to the small light of hope for an even greater redemption.

Published: January 2014

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If there is one perdominantly striking quality that characerized his early years, it was his love of experience, just to be out there in the world, “rockin’ it” with his siblings and friends.


My Review:

First, I want to stress that, while labeled ‘fiction’, this book does not read like a novel. Destructive Justice is very much a memoir, fictionalized only with the intent of protecting people’s identities and privacy.

The author’s story is a powerful one. Society tends to blame parents when children are troubled. Believing that parent did something wrong is easier than admitting these things could happen to any of us, to any of our children. By sharing their story, the author and his son are shining a bright light on our broken (in)justice system. Now it’s up to us to take the information offered and join in to fix the problems. Nathan could be anyone’s son, and this should not happen to our children.


Revenge alone and punishment for the sake of punishment can never be the final answers to dealing with those who commit offenses.


Thanks for reading. :)

Get Lost In A Mystery Blog Tour! Compass North by Stephanie Joyce Cole

Mystery-Banner

 

Compass-North Title: Compass North

Author: Stephanie Joyce Cole

Published: December 2013

Publisher: Champagne Book Group

Word Count: 81,000

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Mystery/Thriller

Content Warning: Minor Violence

Recommended Age: 16+

Synopsis: Meredith slips into a new identity and a new life in a small town in Alaska, she discovers it’s not that easy to leave behind the baggage from her past.
Set in the spectacular natural landscape of Southcentral Alaska, COMPASS NORTH tracks an unexpected journey of personal reinvention.

Reeling from the sudden breakup of her disastrous marriage, Meredith barely escapes a freak accident in Alaska and is presumed dead. She stumbles into a new identity and a new life in a quirky small town. As new friendships grow, Meredith has to learn to trust in herself again.

When a romance with a local fisherman unexpectedly blossoms, Meredith’s secret jeopardizes her hopes for future happiness. And someone is searching for her, someone who will threaten Meredith’s dream of a reinvented life.

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Goodreads
 

Excerpt from Compass North by Stephanie Joyce Cole:

Meredith sat squeezed against the wall behind the wobbly table with the plastic checkerboard cover. She pushed the last bits of her hamburger bun around her plate. With the long drive finally over, they had stopped to eat at a trailer-turned-diner on the fringe of town.

“So, can we drop you someplace before we take off?” Evan waved to the waitress, motioning for the check.

She took a deep breath and ran her fingers along the pattern in the tablecloth. “Well, I’m not sure…um, I haven’t really decided where…” She looked up and saw Evan frowning at her.

“You don’t have a plan? No place at all to stay tonight?”

Meredith shook her head.

Jan bit at her lower lip and stared at her. “Gee, Meredith, we just assumed you had it all worked out. I wish we could offer you a place, but we’re couch surfing right now until we can get back into our old apartment.”

She saw Jan and Evan exchange anxious glances, and she felt a pang of shame. This wasn’t what they bargained for when they offered a stranger a ride. They didn’t expect to be responsible for me.

Meredith looked down at her hands. She took a deep breath. “I…guess I thought there might be a cheap hostel. I guess I just didn’t think…”

She didn’t have any plan. None at all. She’d hardly focused her thoughts except when the memory of the accident raged back into her head, and when that happened, the terror and pain were almost too much to bear. So she’d tried to smooth out her mind, just letting the hours pass, letting the fatigue and the strangeness of all this wash over her.

No plan. But something had changed now. This was all crazy, but she felt she was watching someone else, someone brand new sitting here in this rundown but cozy restaurant, and that new person was the one with no place to go. It was like play-acting, like being inside of someone else’s skin. Here was a new someone, who didn’t know where she was going to sleep tonight, but this new person wasn’t stumbling around, lost, dragging a huge, black bag of mistakes and bad decisions. She lifted her chin and stared out the window.

“Wait a minute.” Jan looked at Evan. “What about Auntie Rita? I saw her outside just a few minutes ago.” She turned back to Meredith. “She’s not really anyone’s aunt—at least as far as we know—but my mom always made me call her that. I know she’s got a bit of room. She was trying to rent out a spare room a while back, but she didn’t get any takers, I guess.” Jan shrugged.

Evan smirked. “Big surprise. No one wanted to live with Rita. How can that be?”

She glared and him and breathed an exasperated sigh. “Her place is out of town, but you should be able to get back tomorrow without too much of a problem. Rita drives in all the time.”
“Rita, really?” Evan gave a low whistle. “You’re really ready to go there, Jan? You know how she can be.”

Jan pointed her finger at Meredith. “Look, it’s past noon already, and she doesn’t have a clue about where she’s going to sleep tonight. Rita likes me. Well, at least I think she does. I’m going to find her.”

Evan rolled his eyes up at the ceiling. “Rita…jeez…”

Meredith sipped her coffee and stared out the window. She tried to keep her thoughts steady. Now what? She did need a place to stay. She needed to be in a place where her new self might exist, just for a little while. She didn’t want this new Meredith to disappear, not yet.

Puffs of dust bloomed as a brisk, stinging wind whipped at the loose dirt in the parking lot. It was only late September, but the few people outside wore gloves and hats pulled down snug over their ears. Just beyond the rough lot, a greenish-black wall of spruce trees huddled close, their thick boughs knocking and bouncing in the wind. And behind them the tops of jagged and fierce peaks seemingly leaned forward, looming over the spruce. The wild world pushed back here, refusing to let the manmade world have the upper hand.

I am in a new place where I don’t exist. The old Meredith doesn’t exist here.


What inspired this story?

Authors often get asked this question, and they often respond with blank stares. It’s not because they are being difficult, but sometimes they just don’t know the answer.

Fiction writing is a bit mysterious. Where does the story come from? Often a story floats–or storms–into an author’s mind and demands to be told. I’ve written stories that snuck up on me in that magical time between sleep and wakefulness. I’ve written stories that have been prompted by the routine and the mundane, like a short story I wrote after daydreaming in a supermarket, about a woman who comes to the aid of a child shoplifter but soon finds that she’s taken on more than she’s prepared to handle.

COMPASS NORTH is a bit different in that the core concept blossomed from a very concrete event, the tragedy of 9/11. When the World Trade Center fell, many people lost their lives in the conflagration and their remains would never be found. But there had to be some individuals who escaped death simply by pure luck: Maybe they had just gone off site for coffee, or maybe they darted out to do an errand. For most people, escaping the terrible event would be followed by a joyous reunion with friends and family. But, I wondered, what if a person were desperately unhappy and realized, as the catastrophe unfolded, that she was “dead.” Would there be a temptation to take an extraordinary step, to stay dead and flee, in the hope that somehow there could be relief from the depths of unhappiness after all?

That idea continued to nag me, and Meredith came to life. Meredith was worn down and abused emotionally by her husband for years. As COMPASS NORTH opens, Meredith is on a bus tour in Alaska, and she narrowly escapes a massive accident, and she’s presumed dead. At first, in shock, she is pulled along by circumstances and misunderstandings, but then she starts to make choices. She tries to build a new identity and life in a small Alaskan town, but she finds that it’s not easy. COMPASS NORTH is about secrets and the price to be paid for keeping them. But it’s also about the joy of personal rediscovery, as Meredith forges new friendships and a romantic relationship unexpectedly emerges. COMPASS NORTH is the story of a woman finding her courage and overcoming her past in the beautiful expanse of Southcentral Alaska .


Stephanie-Joyce-Cole About the Author:

Stephanie Joyce Cole lived for many decades in Alaska before she recently relocated to Seattle, WA, where she lives with her husband and a predatory but lovable Manx cat. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Her goal is to write books that are both thought-provoking and entertaining, and that will carry readers into an adventure in small-town Alaska.

Amazon Author Page / Facebook / Goodreads / Website
 

Giveaway Details:

There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:

• Five mystery eBooks from Champagne Book Group. Books will be selected at random from publisher.
• $20 gift card to either Amazon or B&N, courtesy of Joyce Proell

Giveaway is International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Follow the tour to learn more about all four participating mystery authors: http://junipergrovebooksolutions.com/multiple-author-mystery-tour

Going Down? The Ups and Downs of Love, Divorce, and Murder

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One day Nick Donovan has it all; a beautiful, pregnant wife, a nice house, a great job. The next day he is on his own, starting from scratch with nothing but a few suitcases and his old truck.

Nick flees to the opposite coast of Florida, trying to leave his ex-wife and the memories behind. But that couldn’t happen. Soon Nick finds that he is tied to Shelley in a way that he hadn’t expected. And, in her bitterness, she does everything she can to ensure his misery.

Brandy is Shelley’s opposite; wild, sensual, free-spirited. With Brandy, Nick is able to rebel against all that Shelley stands for. Brandy quickly leads Nick into a world of sex, drugs, and cash. And now Nick finds himself caught between the two worlds, desperate to stay afloat.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes and NobleKobo / iTunes / Audible
 

Excerpt:
 

  Nick headed down the hall to the elevators. While he waited for the doors to open, Shelley and Jimmy came down the hall toward him. They stopped a few feet away. Shelley crossed her arms over her chest. “We can wait for the next elevator,” she said to Jimmy.

Nick gave a short laugh. He said, “So we can share a bed and a kid, but not an elevator?”

“You’re incredibly crude,” Shelley said.

Jimmy stood silently beside Shelley, looking uncomfortable in his fancy Italian suit. Nick wanted to ask him if he was happy with the way things had turned out. Instead, he turned his back and waited for the elevator doors to open.

As Nick stepped onto the elevator, he said to Shelley, “See you on Saturday. Make sure you have Hannah ready.”

“I expect you to come alone,” Shelley said.

Nick held the elevator doors open. “I don’t remember that being part of the court order.”

“I don’t want any whores in my house.”

“Really? Then you’d better move out.”

 *

Read the prologue and part of chapter one on my website: www.quietfurybooks.com/miamisnow.html

Listen to a sample from the audiobook:

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Nick’s world.

Thanks for reading.

Review: The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience by Kent Kiehl

Psychopath Whisperer

A compelling journey into the science and behavior of psychopaths, written by the leading scientist in the field of criminal psychopathy.

We know of psychopaths from chilling headlines and stories in the news and movies—from Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, to Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan. As Dr. Kent Kiehl shows, psychopaths can be identified by a checklist of symptoms that includes pathological lying; lack of empathy, guilt, and remorse; grandiose sense of self-worth; manipulation; and failure to accept one’s actions. But why do psychopaths behave the way they do? Is it the result of their environment— how they were raised—or is there a genetic compo­nent to their lack of conscience?

This is the question Kiehl, a protégé of famed psychopath researcher Dr. Robert Hare, was deter­mined to answer as he began his career twenty years ago. To aid in his quest to unravel the psy­chopathic mind, Kiehl created the first mobile functional MRI scanner to study psychopaths in prison populations. The brains of more than five hundred psychopaths and three thousand other offenders have been scanned by Kiehl’s labora­tory—the world’s largest forensic neuroscience repository of its kind. Over the course of The Psy­chopath Whisperer, we follow the scientific bread crumbs that Kiehl uncovered to show that the key brain structures that correspond with emotional engagement and reactions are diminished in psy­chopaths, offering new clues to how to predict and treat the disorder.

In The Psychopath Whisperer, Kiehl describes in fascinating detail his years working with psy­chopaths and studying their thought processes— from the remorseless serial killers he meets with behind bars to children whose behavior and per­sonality traits exhibit the early warning signs of psychopathy.

Less than 1 percent of the general population meets the criteria for psychopathy. But psycho­paths account for a vastly outsized proportion of violent crimes. And as Kiehl shows, many who aren’t psychopaths exhibit some of the behaviors and traits associated with the condition. What do you do if you discover your roommate, or boss, or the person you are dating has traits that define a psy­chopath? And what does having a diminished limbic region of the brain mean for how the legal system approaches crimes committed by psychopaths?

A compelling narrative of cutting-edge science, The Psychopath Whisperer will open your eyes on a fascinating but little understood world, with startling implications for society, the law, and our personal lives.

Published: April 22, 2014

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble


My Review:

The Psychopath Whisperer is a book I would consider reader-friendly. If you’re interested in the psychology and brain science of psychopaths, but don’t want a lot of complicated detail, this is the perfect place to start. For those of us who read a lot on the topic, this book is a fascinating look at one man’s journey of discoveries.

Last year, I read The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime by Adrian Raine, which is a far more detailed and weighty read on this topic. Kiehl’s work was cited several times throughout, so I was excited to see that he’d written his own book on the topic. This book is an interesting combination of memoir, psychology, and science. We get a behind-the-scenes look at academic life and the inner workings of scientific studies and funding. Keihl’s dedication to his topic shines through with his words and makes this an even more compelling read. Because we follow his career path, much of the science early in his story isn’t new. Still, I was fascinated to learn about the studies that gave us all this information.

The section on teenagers with behavior problems and violent tendencies is particularly interesting. Hopefully, Kiehl’s work will lead to better treatment and intervention with at-risk children and teens.


Thanks for reading. :)

5 Reasons Why We Should Hate Crime, Not Criminals


Today I’m happy to share a well-written, thought-provoking article by Rebecca Gray…

5 Reasons Why We Should Hate Crime, Not Criminals

Like snowflakes, no two criminals are alike. But their crimes share common threads; especially when viewed strictly in terms of the outcomes they provide. A loss is a loss, regardless of which criminal brings it upon a victim, so crimes, unlike criminals, are the same.

It isn’t as black and white as it’s portrayed there, but it does provide a strong argument for reserving our harshest disapproval for the crimes we encounter, rather than the criminals who commit them. Until the playing field evens out for all participants, society lends itself to criminal acts. In the meantime, we should continue striving to eliminate crime, rather than personalizing the revolving door of criminals that perpetrate them.

MinimumWage Social Disadvantage – Criminal enterprise is often born of need. Essential features of daily living elude so many members of modern society, it is reasonable to expect some people to abandon social mores, using criminal acts to acquire basic necessities. Until we address the imbalance of wealth across society, we will continue to set the stage for misdeeds, carried out by desperate members of social groups without access to the fundamental provisions required for successful life.

Unemployment, for example, fuels criminal activity, when well-intentioned members of society cannot land gainful employment. Instead, unemployed classes craft alternative ways to make ends meet, which sometimes lead to criminal behavior. Lowering unemployment levels is an essential first step toward furnishing the tools criminals need to reform. Judging criminals more harshly than their crimes does not foster a progressive environment for improvement, so it is the acts which should be condemned, rather than the disadvantaged members of society carrying them out.

college Failures in Education – Creating opportunity lays a foundation for success, reducing the number of individuals turning to crime for sustenance. Job training, access to higher education, entrepreneurial coaching and other forms of guidance lead to successful outcomes, rather than criminal activity. Adequate public education provides a cornerstone of opportunity, breaking criminal patterns and placing kids on the right path early-on. Until we extend a guaranteed foundation of education evenly across society, criminal enterprise will prosper.

lawenforcement Wipe out Crime, Not Criminals – In order to address a given social issue, it is important to identify objectives and target them precisely. Corrections and criminal justice are prudent ways to reduce criminal incentives, but they aren’t always the most efficient ways to eliminate crime. Instead of focusing crime reduction efforts on incarceration and other penal practices, we must zero-in on the actual criminal acts. By targeting actual crimes, rather than perpetrators, we account for the bigger picture behind criminal activity. Opportunity and motive drive perpetrators to commit crimes, so removing them to the best of our ability helps eradicate crime. Too often, criminals are simply role-players in flawed systems, so a wider-angle approach is needed to combat crime.

centralbooking Rehabilitation Failures – Recidivism is high among many classes of criminals, furnishing a first-hand look at rehabilitative failures. Criminals end up incarcerated because they lack education and opportunity to conduct legitimate lives. Once inside the criminal justice system, offenders need opportunities to make-up for the deficiencies that led them to commit crimes. Education, job training, apprenticeships, and post-release employment programs are key tools in the fight against repeat offenses.



gunsmoney Real Cost of Crime – The impact of crime on society is measured in terms of its actual value, rather than the arbitrary circumstances surrounding each criminal. As a result, our enforcement and crime reduction efforts should also look beyond particular perpetrators, accounting for the cost of actual crimes. While a single criminal has a lifespan, criminal acts have the potential to cycle through society over-and-over, exacting heavy tolls as crimes repeat themselves again-and-again.

Criminals are inextricably linked to the crimes they commit, but the acts stand on their own, in terms of how they impact society. Beyond the criminal justice system, alleviating crime needs to account for broader conditions, focusing on crimes as well as perpetrators.


Author Byline:

This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes about free background check for Backgroundchecks.org. She welcomes your comments at her email id: GrayRebecca14@gmail.com.

Review: Creatus Rogue by Carmen DeSousa (Paranormal Romantic Suspense)

CreatusRogueFinalCover

Ancient myths, superheroes, vampires… Forget everything you’ve heard.

For four thousand years, creatus have concealed themselves from the humans who almost hunted them to extinction. Now, one rogue wants the world to know they exist.

Victoria doesn’t want any of it; she just wants to live in peace without men–humans or creatus–messing with her head. When the rogue decides he wants her to join him, though, only one person is close enough to help her. Only problem, he’s her prisoner, and if he escapes, she’s supposed to kill him.

The Creatus Series is not your normal paranormal story… It’s a realistic romantic mystery based on the myths you’ve heard your entire life. Prepare to believe…

Published: February 2014

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“Can we trust you? Will you keep our secret?”


My Review:

One of the things I love most about this series is that Carmen DeSousa takes all the stereotypes and tosses them in the trash. This is paranormal romantic suspense, absent the weak-kneed female falling at the dominant vampire’s feet. Another thing I love is that she allows her characters to poke fun at those stereotypes with a subtle humor that had me giggling in the mist of the suspense.

While Derrick and Kristina, the stars of Creatus, still play a big role here, other characters step out and take the lead. I loved learning more about Victoria. She’s a fascinating character with a lot of depth. And I was pleasantly surprised by Reece’s larger role. We’re given enough closure to feel satisfied at the end, but we’re also left with tantalizing pieces that have me waiting anxiously for book #3.

If you have not read Creatus, the first book in this series, you could still read this one. DeSousa did a great job weaving past information into this story, giving new readers background while not boring readers who’d read the first book. Still, I think the series is more enjoyable if read in order so that you have a full understanding of the characters’ journeys. Plus, they’re just really great books!


“I’m a cop. They say the closest thing to a criminal is a cop. We have to think like the proverbial bad guys think, be able to lie as easily as they do. But don’t worry,” he leaned forward and brushed his lips across hers, “I’ll never lie to you.”


You can learn more about Carmen and her writing on her website: www.carmendesousa.com

I hope you’ll take the time to connect with Carmen and explore her fictional world.

Thanks for reading. :)

New Release! PERSPECTIVES: 12 Images Captured – 12 Stories Told

The first book in the Mind’s Eye Series is here!

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12 Moments Captured
12 Stories Told

Do you trust what you see?
A rock only becomes a mountain when you broaden your view.
We challenge you to look at the world from different…
PERSPECTIVES

Published April 14, 2014

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We experience the world from where we stand. If we never move, we’ll never see the other side.

Mind’s Eye Series is a collaboration between authors and photographers, tying words and images together in a thought-provoking way designed to showcase the best of both arts.

PERSPECTIVES includes 6 stories by me and 6 by Maria Savva, each inspired by a different photograph taken by Martin David Porter. We are already at work on the second book, which brings in two more authors, two poets, and a second photographer. We are extremely proud of this first book, and excited about the series. We hope you’ll take this journey with us. Study the image at the start of each story. What do you see? When you read the coinciding story, you might just change your perspective.

“Some words are arranged just right, and you treasure them forever.”

Thanks for reading. :)

Torture, Square Roots, and A Hit Man With A Short Fuse

Today I’m offering a glimpse into my novel Killing Instinct, the third in my Michael Sykora Series.
KillingInstinctCover -Small

Sandman built his dubious reputation by turning the dreams and nightmares of others into harsh reality. Now he’s pursuing his own twisted dream; the beautiful Maria Milan. But she doesn’t want to become a player in Sandman’s sordid fantasy.

Michael Sykora is a hit man who kills for justice. Sean Riley is a hit man born to kill. Together, they’re out to take down Sandman and his organization. Whether mercy is given depends on who catches him first.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble / iTunes


Excerpt:

   TJ groaned again. This time his eyes opened under heavy lids. He blinked and tried to lift his hand. His face showed a moment of confusion when his arm stayed down by his side. A whoosh of air like a hiss escaped his lips. The sudden clarity about his situation had him trying to scramble backward, his feet scurrying for purchase on the concrete floor. His legs, strapped to the chair just below his knees, allowed only enough mobility for him to catch his heels and push himself backward. With the chair firmly bolted to the concrete, the only thing he managed to do was press his back tighter against the wooden slats.
   “Sit still,” Sean said. “You’re not going anywhere.”
   “You’re as crazy as they say,” TJ croaked.
   Sean grabbed a bottle of water from the nearby tray and lifted it to TJ’s parched lips. “Drink.”
   TJ eyed him warily. Sean blew out an irritated sigh. “It’s just water.”
   TJ gulped two mouthfuls before Sean placed the bottle back on the tray. He returned to his chair and sat facing TJ. “Here are the facts,” he said. “This building is soundproof. Yelling will only give me a headache, and headaches make me cranky as hell. The crankier I am, the worse off you are. No one knows where you are and no one will find you. One way or another, you will tell me what I want to know. And if you spit at me again, I will make you drink bleach. Are we clear?”
   TJ darted a glance at Michael, who was still leaning against the far wall. Sean said, “My friend here doesn’t like the messy stuff.” Sean directed TJ’s gaze to the tray of implements. “But he won’t stop me. Your only chance is to answer my questions.”
   TJ’s eyes widened. “Where’s Dustin?”
   “Asleep in the next room,” Sean said. “That is the one and only question I will answer. And you’re lucky you got that much.”
   Sean’s tone caused TJ to clamp his mouth shut. His gaze flickered from Sean to the tray.
   “Let’s get right to the point of this,” Sean said. “Who is Sandman?”
   “I told you already. I don’t know the dude’s real name.” His eyes had gotten glassy. He jerked his gaze away from the tray and back to Sean. “I don’t know anything about him.”
   “Okay, then, TJ, why don’t you tell me what you do know.”
   “I…” His voice trailed off. “Like what?”
   “Like the square root of 144.”
   TJ squirmed, his face a mask of confusion. “The square root…”
   Sean sighed. “You’re an idiot. What do you know about Sandman, Lenny, Morpheus, and what goes on in that factory?”
   “Oh.”
   “And, for the record, the square root of 144 is 12. You might not be in that chair if you had a few active brain cells.”
   TJ tilted his head like he was trying to follow Sean’s logic. Sean felt the frustration bubbling out of him. He grabbed a pair of long-nosed pliers from the tray and said, “I’m going to rip out your fingernails if you don’t start talking.”


I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Sean’s world. While this is the third in the series, it can also be read as a stand-alone. If you’d like to learn more about how Sean began his life of crime, you can read his short story The First Kill, which you’ll find on my Free Downloads webpage.

Thanks for reading. :)

Early Review – There Goes Gravity: A Life In Rock and Roll by Lisa Robinson

There Goes Gravity

From a legendary music journalist with four decades of unprecedented access, an insider’s behind-the-scenes look at the major personalities of rock and roll.

Lisa Robinson has interviewed the biggest names in music–including Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Patti Smith, U2, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Jay Z and Kanye West. She visited the teenage Michael Jackson many times at his Encino home. She spent hours talking to John Lennon at his Dakota apartment–and in recording studios just weeks before his murder. She introduced David Bowie to Lou Reed at a private dinner in a Manhattan restaurant, helped the Clash and Elvis Costello get their record deals, was with the Rolling Stones on their jet during a frightening storm, and was mid-flight with Led Zeppelin when their tour manager pulled out a gun. A pioneering female journalist in an exclusive boys’ club, Lisa Robinson is a preeminent authority on the personalities and influences that have shaped the music world; she has been recognized as rock journalism’s ultimate insider.

A keenly observed and lovingly recounted look back on years spent with countless musicians backstage, after hours and on the road, There Goes Gravity documents a lifetime of riveting stories, told together here for the first time.

Release Date: April 22, 2014

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble


I told Robert that Bob Dylan had said his kids listened to Led Zeppelin. “Well,” he said, “that’s very nice. But doesn’t he listen as well?”

“It’s not being ‘you’, and you’re trying to get the ‘you’ out.” ~ Michael Jackson


My Review:

Lisa Robinson has had an impressive career in music journalism. She started out on the cusp of the rock scene, just as communities were forming. She has witnessed the rise and fall of many great musicians, as well as the evolution of rock genres. She has fascinating stories to share and no doubt could write an entire series of books.

I loved the diversity of the content here. We start out with what we now call classic rockers, then move on to punk, pop, hip hop, and back to the now aging rockers. We’re given a glimpse into life on the road with rock stars of all sorts.

The book is written mostly in short vignettes. While I know it would have been impossible to cover such a breadth of information with a lot of detail, it often felt as if Robinson stopped too abruptly in her storytelling. We were shown flashes, but not a lot of substance. Also, despite this being a memoir of sorts, I didn’t feel like I got to know the author. I would have liked to know more about the effects of spending virtually her entire adult life traveling in the music world.

Despite the minor shortcomings, this is a fun read I’d recommend to all music fans.


“We’re really the world’s loudest folk band.” ~ Bono

“It’s not my responsibility to teach people how to excavate art and music. It’s my purpose to entertain.” ~ Lady Gaga


I want to talk briefly about something I didn’t mention in my review. Toward the end of this book, Lisa Robinson laments about it no longer being possible to stumble upon a fantastic band accidentally. With MTV and the assorted music-based TV shows, YouTube and the vastness of the Internet, and the volume of media available, her opinion is that the average person doesn’t discover great new sounds on his/her own. I wholeheartedly disagree. While music is in many ways more accessible, the stuff we hear and read about is still largely ruled by the few giants in the mainstream world. There are thousands (millions?) of talented indie musicians hoping you’ll find them within the masses. Websites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud make it possible for these bands to connect with listeners. But we listeners have to make the effort. We have to sift through all the music there to find what we like. We need to support the bands. One important way to do this is to purchase their music rather than just streaming the songs free. We now have more control than ever in choosing the music we want to hear, but only if we make the effort.


“I want to say and sing the right things for you, and I want to make that one melody that really saves your spirit one day.” ~ Lady Gaga