Dowell: Draconian measures never successful deterrents to crime

Published 1:42 am Saturday, February 18, 2017


From 1990 to around 2001 that was a sharp increase in juvenile crime across the United States. Some attributed this rise to the gangsta rap culture of the 1990s which negatively affected teenagers from lower income families. Many also believed that the increase in real life violence broadcast regularly to our living rooms was also a causal factor.

It was the gangsta rap theory, however, that stuck as the major contributor to crimes committed by juveniles, especially those by inner-city kids. It was in early 1990s, in fact, that a new form of hip-hop music appeared in America as gangsta rap. This type of hip-hop had lyrics pertaining to killing police, gang warfare, guns, and robberies. This style of music perked the interests of teenagers across America from all walks of life and economic strata. A major target of gangsta rappers was law enforcement, whom they believed were armed terrorists operating legally within their communities. When gangsta rap was introduced in the early 1990s it became very popular with youth facing the same problems as the rap artists had in their childhood. This new breed of artists glorified murder, violence, and drug dealings in their songs which seemed to impress teens from depressed neighborhoods. Psychologists and criminologist believed that teens hearing the people that they look up to preach this way of life, open the door for criminal behavior in their lives.

Something had gone terribly wrong within the family.

During this period I was frequently interviewed by the media, because of my work with youth, concerning strategies for dissuading juveniles from engaging in crime. As a single parent of three children, two sons and a daughter, there was an assumption that I was doing a good job in raising my children.

In 1994, I was awakened by a caller who wanted to interview me on the subject of corporal punishment. Because I had been interviewed a number of times by the Atlanta Constitution, I assumed it was a reporter from the paper. It was not. The interviewer was from a Chicago paper. To my surprise, in less than a week after the morning interview I was invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show to further discuss the subject of corporal punishment.

It was my opinion that parents should have the right to spank their children and that the government should not intrude as a surrogate parent. My appearance on Ms. Winfrey’s show was actually a debate between me and a nationally renowned psychologist who believed that spanking children resulting in their growing up with low self-esteem and the potential for committing violence in the future themselves. To Ms. Winfrey’s dismay, her audience sided with me, and not her psychologist.

But this is not the end of the story.

A California Assemblyman, Mickey Conroy watched my interview and asked me to appear as an expert witness in support of his infamous paddling bill that was gaining support in that state amid the anti-crime fervor in the country. I immediately said “yes,” but deceptively.

The bill (Assembly Bill No. 150, section 726.5) specifically stated that a minor adjudged a ward of the court for an act of graffiti shall be paddled by a parent of the minor. However, if the parent declines to administer the paddling, or if the court determines that the parent has not administered a satisfactory paddling, a bailiff shall administer the paddling. The bill further required that the paddle shall be made of hardwood that is three-fourths of an inch thick. The handle of the paddle shall be 6 inches long and 1 and a half inches wide. The paddle area shall be 18 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Conroy’s Paddling Bill was the major news story in California during the summer of 1994. Major media from the United States and other countries were following the story .

The bill did not become law. As an expert witness, my testimony contributed greatly to its defeat. What do you think? Should the government be involved in paddling our children when they commit a crime?



Dr. Glenn Dowell is an author and columnist who currently lives in Jonesboro. He has been a guest speaker on major college campuses , including having appeared on TV programs such as the Oprah Winfrey Show. He may be reached at