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Do Felons Deserve a Second Chance?


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May 28, 2018
Categories: Education, Society

Do Felons Deserve a Second Chance?

President Trump has spoken recently about prison reform. I think there were good ideas, but I think he needs to go further. We, as a society, need to go further. After nearly 30 years in the criminal justice system, I know all about recidivism and repeat offenders. I know our system doesn't work. I know there is a socio-economic element to crime. I don't believe it is stronger than the "character" element, but it does exist. How do we fix this? I know advocating for programs is great, but it's NOT enough. I am not going to offer a full solution here. But I will offer this: felons need to have a road map to become "non-felons." Something akin to a pardon. Why do I say this? Rewards drive success. I firmly believe--and have experienced--that if felons had a way to earn their lives back (no "felon" label, all rights restored, release of public stigma, educational opportunities, better job prospects, etc) they would respond. I have seen the system break young criminals--many who still have potential--and create career criminals because all they have is crime. They are labeled a felon forever. Maybe they'll get a chance at a menial labor job. But what if they had a chance to become full citizens again? What if they had a chance, say, to get on a track that would allow them to get out from under their past? Go to school? Get a good job? Live the American dream? To be able to say on a job application, "No, I am NOT a felon." Let's develop a system that leads to that. Let's dispense with the labels, the politics, the blame. Let's deal with individuals...and give individuals the hope that they can live their dreams. In the words of Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things..."


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