Child advocates object to Rendell's 'crime of passion' budget defense

At a Capitol news conference Tuesday after delivering his final budget speech, Rendell defended various choices he made in his proposed 2010-2011 spending plan.

Why, for instance, did he want to pour hundreds of millions more into education spending with a deficit still in the offing?

Rendell said during his tenure as district attorney in Philadelphia he saw the link between a poor education, being jobless or underemployed and the propensity to comment violent crime. He said - "other than crimes of passion" - violent crimes were committed by people who did not have "good jobs."

That sweeping conclusion did not sit well with child advocates who were quick to point out that while the question of whether all domestic violence is necessarily a "crime of passion" may be debatable, child abuse is certainly not.

Child Advocate Cathleen Palm responded in today's edition of the Advocates' Agenda, a regular e-newsletter for those involved in child and family welfare issues.

The only unfortunate part of the Governor’s reaction to the question was his implication that acts of violence are committed only by those without an education or a job. Clearly he isn’t ill advised to suggest that education, a job and other factors influence whether a person would commit a crime, especially a violent crime. However, in his attempt to make his point he minimized reality for scores of Pennsylvania women and children impacted every year by violence – violence that is not a “crime of passion.” Instead it is exploitation, rape, sexual abuse inflicted by perpetrators, offenders with good jobs, living in nice neighborhoods and whose professional work and standing in the community may well be what allows the violence and abuse to be perpetuated.

In an interview today, Palm said the governor ought to have considered the range of individuals who commit child abuse before speaking off the cuff about education alone being the answer to violent crime. 

She said Rendell need only consider the case right next store of Delaware pediatrician Earl Bradley who once practiced in Philadelphia. Prosecutors say he sexually abused "well over" 100 children, starting in 1998, before being arrested in December.

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