There used to be a show on TV called Prison Break. It was a fictional account of people in prison who were planning to break out. I recently had the opportunity to work with a bunch of people who had been to prison, served their time, and now they just needed a break.
Can you imagine coming out of prison knowing you had served your time, but you had no job (who is going to hire you….a felon?), you had no place to stay, no car, no money, and in some cases, no family to help you? How in the world do you get a break with those odds? Is it any wonder that the rate of repeat offenders is so high? It was an eye opener to me.
The difference between them and us is they got caught. Think about the dumb things you have done in your life. Could any of them landed you in jail? Perhaps you did not do the stupid things yourself, but you were probably with the people that did. Be honest. Very few of us are angels and have a perfect past.
So, what is the right thing to do for these folks? I think we need to do the following:
- Give people a break that have made mistakes. If they have paid their price to society, don’t they deserve a second chance?
- We need to help these folks get on their feet again. Help them find work, places to live, encourage them spiritually.
- Realize that everyone needs to feel that they are needed and have a purpose in life. Help them identify their purpose. Help them think about what they are naturally good at (that is legal, of course).
- Just love them. When I looked in the eyes of these people I saw people who were hopeful that someone would see value in them and give them a chance. When they got their certificates for completing the Market Place Training course that I coached in, we told each one we were proud of them. You should have seen the pride and gratitude in their faces. That little certificate and those words had great meaning to them. It was like giving water to someone who had been wandering in the desert heat.
I know that some will be thinking, well, what about those who are dangerous and being released into society? What about repeat offenders? Good questions. In my opinion, if they are dangerous and being released into society, we need to change the laws to keep them isolated from hurting others or themselves. If they are repeat offenders, they should not get the privilege of seeing this side of the bars. Shame on our society for allowing someone to have 7 DWIs only to put them away again when they finally have killed someone.
So, it is a dilemma. We either can help these people find their way back into society and become healthy citizens, or we can deal with the continual rotating door of having people go in and out of the penal system. A lot of that is up to us. We have a problem. We can bury our heads, but the problem is not going to go away. Let’s do our part to love these people instead of judge them. Let’s help them instead of ignore them. We will all live in a more peaceful world if we do. All we can do is do our part. What do you say? Will you do yours?