Toward the end of last year (2009), several young men here in Iowa started poaching. According to this article from KCRG, they drove out at night to shoot deer and even some cows. The DNR caught them and charged them. The criminal penalties include fines and community service, as well as losing hunting privileges. The article says there will still be civil penalties and there may be more criminal charges associated with the cows.
There are those in Iowa who believe the penalties were not quite up to the crime. Since these offenders are juveniles, the parents will have to pay the fines. The community service will probably pass quickly. People assume these perpetrators will not learn anything from the punishment.
I tend to agree. Since law prevents the parents from taking these brats out back to the woodshed, the punishment is not really going to stick. There are ways to make these kids grow up though. There are ways to make them contributing members of society.
Since they were able to drive across three counties to cause their mayhem, one must assume that they are approximately sixteen years old. That's a fine age for young men to adopt some sense of responsibility. Back when I was that age, I was old enough to enlist in the military.
Given our current involvement in the War on Terror™, military recruitment hasn't always been as high as we might like. Yet, here we have some young men who seem to enjoy, and be reasonably good at, moving through the countryside at night with guns and shooting things. Correct me if I'm wrong, but these sound like perfect recruits for the United States Marine Corps.
That's right; I recommend that these kids be given the option of really harsh punishment or Marine boot camp. By enlisting, they enter an environment where they will develop a sense of discipline. At the same time, they get to serve their country as productive citizens instead of just growing up to be drunk, redneck losers.
In general, I recommend a process of letting first time offenders enlist in the military if it will probably do some good. By adding a "hard labor" aspect to our prison system, military service will be a great alternative. It also can reduce the number of repeat offenders. More importantly, it removes young offenders from the environment that made them young offenders in the first place.