(c) all rights reserved · justice · Reena's Exploration Challenge

Reena’s Exploration Challenge #114 — How much evil?

Image result for handcuffs shackles juveniles

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Reena asked us to choose from a list of questions and answer. This is the one I chose.

For the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.”

I wouldn’t have a clue how to answer the other questions because they seem to be more rhetorical than looking for an answer. This one, though, is one I can write to. During the 18 years I worked as a juvenile probation officer, there were things some might call evil that I was willing to do, but I would never say that those acts were acts of hatred.

I still remember sitting in the interview with one of the administrators and the person who would be my immediate supervisor and learning that part of my job would be to put handcuffs and leg irons (shackles), and sometimes even belly chains on children. My mind rebelled at the thought, and I wondered if I would be able to do it.

On the floor housing the juvenile court we had a holding cell. This cell held children waiting for a hearing, or children who were ordered to be detained after a hearing. There were wooden seats with steel tubes to attach the cuffs and shackles to. When I first started seeing kids sitting in there in chains it broke my heart, and I used to go in and sit with them and talk with them. It didn’t take me long to understand that the majority of the kids sitting in there were no longer children in many respects. So many of them had a shell-shocked look in their eyes and/or seemed callous and impervious to being chained up.

When I first started with the court, my caseload was comprised of kids who had committed low-level crimes. The penalties were treatment and aversion types of things like community service, restorative justice, writing letters of apology, weekend work, house arrest, restitution, getting assessed for mental health services, including substance abuse, and following the recommendations.

As I learned more and got better, when an opening came for working with children at-risk for out of home placement, I was assigned serious delinquent offenders. Ones who stole cars, broke into occupied dwellings, committed aggravated assault, serial toddler rapists, and murderers. Many of these children were repeat offenders, where home-based interventions had little to no effect upon their recidivism. At a certain point, where the risk to the safety of the community was clear, many of them ended up going to residential treatment facilities, sometimes for years. The sad reality about residential treatment facilities for children is that they serve more as holding facilities, so when the children are there, they aren’t out committing crimes. They cost sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars per child, with limited/no impact on behavior once they are released. Another sad reality is that when many of these kids turn adult they offend and go to prison.

What some might consider evil acts on my part include: handcuffing, shackling, detaining, and transporting children to detention, residential treatment, and sometimes even “punk prisons.” I’ve written detailed rationalizations and presented them in court as to why the children need whatever service I’m recommending. I’ve begged referees and judges to keep children imprisoned. I’ve recommended children be taken away from their parents. I’ve thrown tantrums when judges and referees disagreed with me and let children stay with their parents. With a list like this, it is apparent I’m willing to do quite a bit of evil.

That said, I worked like a dog to keep communities safe from car thieves, (often-armed) home invaders, extremely violent aggressors, toddler rapists, and murderers. I’ve worked like a dog to get children out of homes where they were being beaten, raped, psychologically tortured, or witnessing these things happening to their mothers or siblings.

Do I regret my acts of evil? No. Would I do them again? Without question, yes.


Reena is the host of Reena’s Exploration Challenge.  Reena says:
I choose the poem “Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry as a prompt. It is hard hitting, it is cold, it is dark, it is stark.


by Wendell Berry

  1. How much poison are you willing to eat for the success of the free market and global trade? Please name your preferred poisons.
  2. For the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.
  3. What sacrifices are you prepared to make for culture and civilization? Please list the monuments, shrines, and works of art you would most willingly destroy.
  4. In the name of patriotism and the flag, how much of our beloved land are you willing to desecrate? List in the following spaces the mountains, rivers, owns, farms you could most readily do without.
  5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes, the energy sources, the kinds of security, for which you would kill a child. Name, please, the children whom you would be willing to kill.

Feel the anger, bitterness, disappointment dripping from the poet’s pen. Think what catastrophe can drive a person to write this. Think about the basest instincts of humanity pitted against the noblest, and the kind of conflicts it can lead to.

Let whatever it ignites in you flow like a lava. It can also be ice, a scenario of peace, meditative journaling that works like a soothing balm on the bruised soul. The format can be a memory, historical fact or fiction, story, poem, essay, video or a soul-stirring picture. There are absolutely no restrictions.

27 thoughts on “Reena’s Exploration Challenge #114 — How much evil?

    1. Thank you, Paula. It is all of that. When I was just looking for a picture of a juvenile in handcuffs, I just saw a bunch of places where people are outraged because cuffs are used on kids. They are woefully ignorant of how dangerous these kids can be! So many carry guns these days. I remember a kid who passed through the metal detectors who had a hearing. He was unexpectedly ordered to detention, so he had to go to the holding cell. The kids have to pat themselves down as we watch and one kid pulled out a knife with a 6″ blade out of his shoe. How he got through security I will never know. He wasn’t threatening with it, but that was by the grace of God.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I wouldn’t say those were acts of evil. They were to safeguard from evil and were both for those children and the society. It must have been very tough to learn to like your job. 👍👏

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m compelled to think of the background/circumstances which makes these kids whatever they are. A lot of research is needed on what makes people insensitive and apathetic, But what I usually read is that there is no redemption for even narcissists, psychopaths and gaslighters. One just needs to stay away from them. Psychology comes nowhere close to Soul Science.

    Thanks for sharing an impactful part of your life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reena, the things these kids have been through are the stuff of nightmares, only they are real. I would daresay 80% or more suffer from PTSD. It is a balancing act between feeling sorry for them and being pragmatic as far as safety. As one of my mentors says, “Hurt people hurt people.” I don’t know about no redemption for some individuals, maybe a small minority are unredeemable, but there is almost always hope for a turn in the right direction. Reena, you are very welcome.


          1. I have it…I was about to comment on it…btw…speaking of females in an earlier post…I’m doing a tv show tomorrow and I want to hear your opinion on whether it was important as I think it was etc…anyway I’m about to reply to the other.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. These are difficult choices indeed, but the ones you made would only be called evil by someone who had not experienced the necessity for them firsthand.
    The larger question of course is what creates these children (and the resulting adults), and can we/are we willing as a society to try to create a different outcome? (K)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kerfe, it is no mystery how street-level criminals are created: poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, intergenerational parenting practices. A bigger question for me is what creates the white collar criminals and those who become the 1%-ers who are leaving the masses in poverty and hopeless (leading to drug abuse, etc.) and destroying the planet. Further, what is it about the rest of the population that seems inclined to allow these maniacs to continue business as usual?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But many people live in poverty, or hand-to-mouth and most in fact do not become criminals. I don’t think white collar criminals are a mystery at all–it’s all about money and power. Why they need so very much of it is somewhat of a mystery to me, but I believe that’s the motivation behind pretty much everything they do. And the rest of the people all think they have a chance to be rich and powerful too. That’s what Trump sold them–“you can be rich like me”–it’s delusional.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agree with everything you say here, Kerfe. Each factor/barrier by itself is rare (only poverty, only homeless, only a drug user). The norm is when the factors are compounded to a place where a person can reach a tipping point. Family outlook on law and order is a big one also. If the only thing you know and you’ve seen with your family is crime, it becomes normalized — be that at the bottom of finance food chain or at the top. Don’t get me started on little lord drumphilroy…

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts on this subject Jade Li. I can relate because my son, straight out of college, worked as a prison guard at a youth assessment center. He had various roles and quit after a stressful five years to go into construction. It is a very stressful job with little thanks or reward.

    Liked by 1 person

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