By: Calvin Blank, JD Candidate, 2021
There has been much debate on how to fix the issue of mass incarceration. Some ideas involve getting rid of minimum sentences, others involving decriminalizing drugs, keeping heads of households in the home, which I agree in a sense with all these ideas. One thing that hasn’t been pointed out is how we can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and our education system to help at-risk children have a better probability of not being involved with the criminal justice system.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the first things you learn in high school psychology. The hierarchy theory is often explained with a pyramid which is broken up into 5 categories, physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. The theory basically states that before individuals can reach the next hierarchy they must meet the needs of the lower ones.
This leads to my sociological inquiry, are individuals who get involved in the criminal justice system not having the bottom needs met at a young age? My unsupported but logical hypothesis is, yes.
This leads into the next step in the process to implement policy. What exactly can we do to make sure the bottom three needs are met? Let’s use our schools as a place where these young kids can garner support, and hopefully be able to complete their education — whatever level it may be — and gain meaningful employment so they can support their families.
More precisely let’s let the schools help fill the needs those children may not be getting at home, or perhaps their home life needs a little boost from the school to get them to the next hierarchy. By allowing the schools to participate in filling the hierarchical needs of the child they are ensuring they are ready to learn and are properly developing socially/psychologically.
Kids who arrive at school abused, malnourished, under clothed, fatigued, and dehydrated simply have no need or desire to get an education because the only thing they are worried about is eating, being warm, and trying to survive the day. If there is some way to allow these children to meet their bottom needs of physiological, and safety perhaps they would have the ability to reach for higher aspirations, in particular an education or meaningful job training. By putting theses kids in the position to be able to reach higher they can eventually obtain meaningful employment, which would allow them to support themselves and their families thus allowing them to break their cycle of poverty.
One simple idea I can think of is to have 3 meals served daily at targeted schools and before any learning takes place breakfast must be eaten. Perhaps give them more one on one contact with teachers who are willing, and able to provide them with the love and direction to guide them through their schooling or to help them through their situations.
These are just thoughts from my rudimentary psychological/sociological education. I hope maybe those making policy with the criminal justice system will consider early intervention by giving PUBLIC schools more support.