This I Believe

Patricia - Indio, California
Entered on October 24, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I Believe in Second Chances

I believe in second chances. I recycle my trash. I pass books and clothes on to others. I even capture crickets that have wandered in to my house and put them out on the lawn. I regularly fall off of diets and get back on. Yes, I firmly believe in second chances. Perhaps that is why I chose Criminal Justice as my field. I would like to believe that embedded in that word “justice” is the idea of a second chance. Sometimes, though, I am not so certain.

Yesterday I stood in front of a room filled with ex-convicts, all of us hoping that I would have the answer to their homelessness and unemployment. They scribbled down my advice on interviewing and self image. They squared their shoulders; they even politely laughed a few times at my humor. They were patient. When was I going to get to the big question: “How do you overcome being an ex-convict when you are looking for a job? “Tell the truth”, I say firmly. “Bring letters of recommendation”, I confidently explain. And yet, I am not all that confident. They know, and I know, that finding someone willing to give them a second chance is going to be tough. Apparently, even with the ever growing length and breadth of our criminal justice system, many employers do not believe incarceration is a “positive life changing” experience.

I want to have confidence in our criminal justice system. I want to believe that not every sentence is a life sentence. A crime is committed, and the debt is paid in the currency of months or years taken from your life. Simple math; but often nothing seems to end up in the credit column.

I am grateful for those organizations, cities and states who are trying to implement re-entry programs. But it is our communities that need to take a hold of this idea. The same communities that judiciously put their aluminum cans in separate containers in preparation for the can’s new start in life, knowing this is a good thing. Towns understand that these kinds of “second chances’ are positive for our environment and our sense of community. However, it seems odd that an aluminum can has a better chance at a new start in life than men and women who are ex-offenders. There is a fine for leaving a can on the side of the road, but less thought about leaving a life. It is all about second chances and who, or what, we believe deserves one.