The Sandusky investigation missed the real injustice

    The investigation that led to the 2012 child-molestation conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is over, but the fallout continues.

    The latest salvo in the ongoing battle for the political high ground in the Sandusky affair came earlier this week, when Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) found that former Attorney General/current-Gov. Tom Corbett (R) was too slow in filing charges against Sandusky.

    In 339 pages, the report determined that Corbett’s investigation was not slowed for political reasons, but didn’t prove much more.

    That’s a shame, because there was much to question about Corbett’s investigation.

    Lingering concerns

    We could question his decision to take $25,000 in campaign contributions from board members of the Second Mile, the non-profit Sandusky founded and ultimately used to find his victims.

    We could question why it took years to search Sandusky’s home for evidence in the case.

    We could question why Penn State University, where Corbett is an ex-officio board member, was allowed to stonewall investigators.

    Yet even if we had the answers to those questions, we wouldn’t be anywhere near the truth that matters.  

    The truth I seek is about the young people whose childhoods were snatched by Sandusky.

    The truth I seek is about the thousands more young people whose vulnerabilities are exploited by those who claim to want to help them.

    The truth I seek is about those who would dare to use those children as pawns in a partisan chess game.

    The bigger picture

    Sandusky has been imprisoned for his crimes. Penn State has been sanctioned for its negligence. Its former leaders face charges in connection with their alleged lies.

    Now it’s time to address the real injustice: The fact that Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable children were susceptible to Sandusky’s abuse in the first place.    

    Sandusky would not have been in position to molest those children had he not started a non-profit to serve children who were at-risk. And those children would not be at risk if our priorities had been properly aligned.

    If our priorities were in order, Pennsylvania would not be home to nearly 507,000 children who live in poor families. Those numbers, which come from the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University, are just the tip of the iceberg.

    ‘Statistically likely to fail’

    Forty percent of Pennsylvania children who live in poor families do not have an employed parent, 72 percent of them live with a single parent, 56 percent of them live with parents who have not graduated high school and 91 percent of them are non-white.

    Calling these children at-risk children is a euphemism. In actuality, they are statistically likely to fail in myriad ways.

    They are at risk of failing financially because poverty is generational.

    They are at risk of failing emotionally due to a lack of parental support.

    They are at risk of failing educationally as the children of high-school dropouts.

    They are at risk of facing bias because they occupy society’s lowest socioeconomic rung.

    Taken together, those statistical realities make those children more likely to become ensnared in the criminal-justice system, and to fail to reach their potential.

    A deeper look needed

    That is the reality for at-risk children, so when someone like Jerry Sandusky comes along and says to overwhelmed and under-resourced parents that he can help, those children are not only at risk of individual failure. They are at risk of being victimized by a monster.

    We’ve spent ample time investigating Sandusky, his crimes and the environment that allowed them to continue.

    If we really want to do something beyond scoring political points, we should investigate the circumstances that created half a million impoverished children in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

    When we find the cause of that grave injustice, and address it as aggressively as we can, we will drastically reduce the number of potential victims for men like Sandusky. 

    Only then will we be able to heal.

    More at Solomon Jones’s website

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