Compassion for ex-cons? I disagree
January 2nd of this year Jacqueline Caron made a comment to my post about rapper TI and his charity on Thanksgiving. It was not directly related to TI, or charity, but to the plight of ex-convicts.
The comment went verbatim as follows:
It is wonderful to hear possitve for a change. Lets not forget about people who have made mistakes but turned their lide around. They are a forgotten population until this past election. Let’s not forget:
HOW LONG IS LONG ENOUGH?
For any man or woman convicted of a crime, successfully completing their
sentence, along with any assigned parole or probation, is just the
beginning. After their release from confinement, they are faced with re-
integrating themselves back into their community – often in the same area
and with the same influences that provided them opportunity to break the law
in the first place.
Their search for employment is often stonewalled by the fact that they now
have a conviction on their record. Employers performing a routine search
find the negative information, and unless they are part of a progressive
federal or state program, or willing to give the applicant a second chance,
the applicant is put at the bottom of the list of candidates – if they
remain on the list at all.
The goal of improving their own economic status and fighting the impulse to
return to their former ways is complicated further by the fact that even
advanced education – like a master’s degree – is often not enough to
convince a potential employer to give them another chance.
Apartment leases, home mortgages, opening a bank account or a credit card,
and many other processes that non-offenders take for granted are often
closed to these individuals. This situation continues for as long as the
conviction stays on their record, and with the advent of computers, the
information is even easier to find.
How long is long enough for a person convicted of a crime, who has
successfully completed their parole and / or probation, to continue to pay
for that crime? Support this and lets work to make a nationwide effort to give someone who has turned their life around a 2nd chance. Without it some who has a record and tries to move forward can’t because their record is like paying for their crime in life time installments
Jacqueline Caron, Founder / Chairwoman
Connecticut Pardon Team, Inc.
P.O. Box 807 ~ 307 Main Street
Norwich, Connecticut 06360
Local (Norwich): 1-860-823-1571
Now I will first note that I commend the efforts of Ms. Caron. Few speak out about the difficulty that ex-cons have. And it is quite true that they are punished long after having served their time in prison.
But I must say that I have no sympathy, empathy, or care. Specifically for those involved in crimes that contained violence and/or drugs. Yet even to a major degree for any criminal.
There is an old saying
“If you cannot do the time, do not do the crime.”
Simple and easy enough to understand. Even criminals understand this concept.
I honestly don’t care that an ex-con has a more difficult life than the average person. They made a choice and will have to suffer the consequences of that choice. No one made them become criminals, and they knew full well what repercussions would come from the choice they made.
It is not the burden of society to take care of those that have abandoned societies rules. Yes they have paid their debt to society, but they deserve the marking they receive in their communities. Because it is within those communities that they did the most damage, in general. And contrition cannot be assumed, nor considered done when an individual has been forced into penance.
Can criminals turn around their lives? Definitely. One of the greatest examples of this is Malcolm X. But what is the difference?
Malcolm X educated himself. That is the first requirement. He dedicated himself to self-improvement, thus negating his need or belief that crime was all he had before him. And few criminals follow in this footstep, though while incarcerated they have more than enough time to do so. I don’t feel bad that they do not seek out the means to release themselves from the ultimate prison, their own minds.
Malcolm X also took another great step. Once released from prison he went out and helped the community. He went about correcting the damage he caused. He tried to help others become educated so that they would not fall into the internal trap he himself had done. He committed acts of penance.
Was it difficult in the 1960’s to do the things that Malcolm X did? Absolutely. Drugs abounded, with virtually no intervention by law enforcement in Black neighborhoods. There were few legal opportunities with the weight of segregation and racial prejudice rampant in the nation. And there was as much, if not far more, distrust in the Black community of ex-cons – which at the time was a far more close-knit community than exists today.
Add to that the religious aspects of his life after prison, which was far less accepted than today, and you have a highly troubling path to follow. Ex-cons of today have exponentially more avenues to success and redemption than existed 40 years ago. The difficulty of reforming today is scarcely the difficulty of then, and it was more common (in my opinion) than today.
If you look at all those that had criminal pasts and today are reformed and successful, I would bet that the majority followed similar steps as those of Malcolm X. They struggled and strived for a better life. In doing so they proved their convictions and were rewarded. Nothing less should be expected.
I don’t want to make the life of an ex-con more difficult. At the same time I will not make it more comfortable. I sleep well at night in full knowledge that ex-cons are troubled. I would not if my taxes, or any involuntary help from myself, were given en masse.
I realize I am throwing a wide blanket. But sometimes that is what is needed. At this moment in America, when our youth are being given every reason to become “ganstas”, reinforcing that thought with the notion that the consequences of their actions will be cushioned by some who have a belief of giving without circumstance is a horrible concept. It does not improve the lives of the community, nor would that help the society at large.
Many may find my view harsh. I fully admit it is. But it is that harsh reality that I believe in that reminds all those around me that criminal acts are not simple, meaningless, nor fun. It is that enforcement of punishment and difficulty that may help keep an individual from straying. And I believe that this view was one more deeply held in decades past.
Our enlightened view of the world today causes more problems than our less technological, less sophisticated past. Vices are more common, and defended, than ever before. Criminals are treated with more compassion than they deserve. And we have more excuses for every individual act against society than justifiable.
So if you ask me how long should an ex-con be punished for their conscious actions, especially but not exclusively those that commit violent or drug related crimes, my only answer is until they have proven beyond doubt they are worthy of trust on any level. If that takes a lifetime, so be it. That is the consequence of the choice they made freely.
But if you believe there is a counter to this, I am open to hear it.