Is the Oregon Runaway Laws Hurting more Than Helping Our Troubled Teens?
In the state of Oregon the law states that it is not illegal for a teen to run away from his or her home. The states reason is because the juvenile is most likely running from abuse or other traumatic experiences in his or her life. Juvenile Justice System focuses on teens that have broken the law, but it isn't a crime to be homeless in Oregon. I found a statement from Attorney General of Oregon rather interesting. Attorney General Theodore R. Kulongoski stated in his report, "Right now there are no consequences for unlawful actions. There is no certainty of punishment. There is no accountability. The result? An escalation of offenses until the conduct is so outrageous that the system is forced to respond. Is it any wonder that younger criminals consider the system a joke? Is it any wonder that Oregonians are fed up?" This is a problem. By allowing our children to run the streets unsupervised our teens are becoming homegrown terrorist. As a parent you can't get the state involved, but if your minor daughter becomes pregnant on the streets, the state will give her welfare. This will cause the teen to form a long spell of dependency on the welfare system long into adulthood. This law binds the hands of the parents whose child runs away from home just to be defiant or disobedient. If a parent finds that their child has run away from home, and they call the law enforcement, they will be told, "that it is not illegal and there is nothing the police can do about it." This leaves a parent helpless and afraid. The streets are merciless and unkind, and the streets are no place for anybody let alone a child. There many examples and stories that Oregon teen have shared about the experiences on the streets. Their stories were horrific, and it makes me wonder why the state is allowing children to run the streets with no consequences.
Here is one of many examples of stories of how running away ended tragically: News channel 8 out of Portland reported that a body in Washington was found. Oregon Medical Examiners identified him as 17- year- old Alejandro "Alex" Castrejon from NW Portland, Oregon. His parents reported him as a runaway in May, 2007. Detectives say that, "Alex was murdered". A neighbor reported finding a shoe and a human foot. Later police bring in canine dogs, in which they found a decomposing body 30 feet from the foot. Another fact that was alarming was the fact that many teens who had runaway reported that they turned to drugs, sex and prostitution to survive on the streets. One out every three runaway teens will be solicited for sex.
Overall, Oregon runaway laws should be revised, and there are more pros towards criminalizing running away than there are cons. Juveniles are incapable of making rational decisions on their own. There needs to be more services in and out of the teen's home to hopefully prevent a teen from running away. Having services like counseling, parenting classes, drug and alcohol rehab will help the situation out before it leads to a teenager leaving the home.