I read a book a few years ago by Jason DeParle, “American Dream: Three Women, Ten kids, and a Nation’s Drive to end Welfare.” The book popped into my head after reading today’s headline in the Chicago Tribune: “The troubled life of William Balfour, the suspect in the slayings of Jennifer Hudson's family members: Documents show a depressed, suffering man with an unhappy childhood and a lack of stability”
Balfour is accused of killing singer and actress Jennifer Hudson’s nephew, Julian King, mother, Darnell Donerson, and her brother Jason Hudson. The horrific murders rocked the country and further exposed the City’s rising murder rate, specifically in Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods.
Today’s newspaper article summarizes the public records featuring Balfour, which journeys his encounters through the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The picture painted is of an abused, unwanted child evolving into a drug using, abusive gang member suffering from some degree of mental illness.
The likely end of Balfour’s story will be behind bars or leaving the world from a lethal injection. Jennifer Hudson will somehow move forward with her life, however one can when they are haunted by the murders of loved ones.
However, when reading Balfour’s rap sheet, the question screams, “Could this have been prevented?” Was Balfour destined to be a triple murderer or might the Hudson nightmare never enveloped had Balfour been intercepted somehow by a loving family or the state?
Some of the answers to these questions and more are delivered in Jason DeParle’s book. However, DeParles’ book investigates why some fail to succeed during the economic boom of the 1990s. My concern is that in economic good times, our prisons were still filled, what is going to happen during this recession or perhaps eventual depression when so many more young children will be exposed to the stress and quick sand of large scale poverty?
During WWII, children were evacuated from London to the countryside to save them from the brutalities of the forthcoming air strikes. How are we as a society preparing to protect the meekest and most vulnerable of our society: our children?
Was Balfour destined to kill three people when he was born? I don’t think so. It sounds like he was failed by so many people on so many levels and eventually became a cold blooded murderer.
Where could Balfour have been helped before he became a monster? Because although the Hudson family deserves justice, isn’t that justice futile if we don’t begin addressing the larger issues that are causing these violent crimes to proliferate our city?
They were all once children. How can we stop them from becoming murderers?
The Troubled Life of William Balfour