Some of you may know that back in my college days I volunteered in a juvenile prison outside of Chicago. The group I was involved in put on a weekend retreat three times a year for groups of boys. We also did bible study with them off and on. A lot of the boys were from the various ‘hoods in Chicago with others from various rural communities and trailer parks around the state filling out the lot. It probably sounds bizarre, but I was so excited when I first saw the signs looking for volunteers. My Catholic education, at least as I remembered it, mainly consisted of memorizing things. Like the Our Father and Hail Mary and Beatitude and . . . Works of Mercy! Visiting the imprisoned is one of the works of mercy! So being the good, geeky, God-girl that I am, I jumped at the chance. As you can imagine, it turned out to be quite the experience. One day I should write properly about it, but for now, I’m just going to devote a few posts to the top 4 things I learned about life and people from the kids I worked with in juvi. Today’s lesson is the tritest of the 4, but it’s something I feel must be said: Johnny Cash was right – don’t name your boy Sue.
Now, let me start by asking the question: how many men named Shannon do you know? Do you know any boys named Shannon? Have you ever met a boy named Shannon? No. You haven’t. Well, maybe you have met a boy named Shannon, but it’s a pretty good bet that you don’t know any men named Shannon. And it’s not because they change their names when they turn 18. It’s because they are all in jail. In my 3 1/2 years volunteering at the prison, I ran into no fewer than 4 boys named Shannon. Both black and white. Based on my completely non-scientific guess, I’d estimate that 85% of boys named Shannon will pass through juvi before they turn 18. Don’t name your boy Shannon.
It turns out that Johnny Cash (or Shel Silverstein – he wrote the song) and I both observed a phenomena that has been backed up by science: researchers have found that giving a boy an odd or effeminate name increases his chances of committing a crime. Probably because people who give their boys girls names tend to have less education which also increases a kid’s chances of going to juvi. I hadn’t realized that they taught how to tell the difference between a boy’s name and a girl’s name in school, but maybe they should introduce the subject in first grade so the drop outs don’t miss it.
So, now that I’ve offended every man in the world with the name Shannon (this being the internet, I’m sure the 20 of them who aren’t in jail will find this!), I will say goodnight.
If you are not already subscribed, you should go do that right now so you don’t miss tomorrow’s installment of Things I Learned in Juvi. I’ll be talking about why if you are a single mom, your brother might not be the sort of male role model your kid needs. And you might as well “Like” me on Facebook and follow me on twitter while you’re at it. And buy a copy of my book for all your family and friends. No really, you should. I’ve been to jail; you never know what I might do if you don’t. Hee. ;p
BTW, did you read about the time I met a mime in prison? True story. Check it out: When a Clown Loves You