Second Chances

A running theme in my life lately seems to be about second chances. When in our lives have we not wanted them? Needed them? Deserved them? In essence, what is life if not a series of second chances. If we only get one shot at everything we attempt, then it seems to me hope is lost rather rapidly. And what after all is life without hope? We are bound to make mistakes, some of them innocent and some of them royal f#&* ups. But don’t we all deserve the opportunity to own it and get a second chance?

I’ve lived a life where I have been too judgmental at times; I would like to think I am not alone in this because it makes me feel like less of a scum bag to know that there are others like me out there I suppose. I don’t want there to be a world of judgmental people out there. 🙂 Upon reflection that approach to life gave me alienation, self righteous indignation and emptiness. I want to be able to look at people and see humanity. I want to be able to see the forgiveness I crave when I have screwed up, and I want to be able to deliver that forgiveness when someone has wronged me. I choose a world of hope and forgiveness.

I want to see a world where people are not defined by the mistakes they make, but by the attempts they make to correct their mistakes. I know I am writing about prisoners, and this definitely applies to them. But doesn’t it apply to all of us. I received a letter in the mail from a prisoner and stamped on it in big red letters was the word INDIGENT. So not only was she labeled a prisoner by her address, but now she is a prisoner who without the funds to pay for her own postage. What big red words do we all have metaphorically stamped on us? What labels hold us down when all we want to do is move past them and grow into better human beings?

The Person Behind the Crime

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country, we’ve all but given up on rehabilitation programs. It’s clear to me that incarceration isn’t an incentive to stop committing crime or we wouldn’t continue to build prisons. We will we learn as a Nation we need to look at the person and not just the crime committed? We need to stop awarding insanely long sentences for nonviolent crimes. We need to stop tossing away juvenile offenders for life. What we need to do is look at the people behind the crimes, analyze what brought them to the place of their crimes, increase funding to rehabilitation programs, increase funding to community mental health programs, and stop allowing politicians manipulate our fear of crime so that we forget that in many cases there are people behind the criminals, and in many cases these people have horrific stories that brought them to their breaking point. Stories that with the appropriate programs in place may have ended in a totally different way.

Pay Your Penance or Losing Your Humanity

I spent the day at home today. It is 3:48 pm and I am climbing the walls. I am irritated, weepy, and annoyed. But I am not in prison. I can leave whenever I want. I can run to the store, window shop in the neighborhood, or stop and get a coffee. But isn’t that the point of prison – to separate offenders from society; to give them time in a highly restrictive environment to think about what they did and hopefully change? But what if prison environment is more corrupt than the situations that put the prisoners in it? What if the guards aren’t only unethical, and immoral but degenerate and perverse? Then the prisoners are at Julia Tutwiler and are paying far more of a penance than any one of them deserves. Julia Tutwiler Prison in Alabama is notorious not just for overcrowding – overcrowding isn’t even newsworthy anymore. Julia Tutwiler is a nightmare worthy of a classic horror film. Guards who rape inmates, line them up naked as the male guards observe them showering, and demand sexual “favors” for basic necessities the inmates are permitted to have. Julia Tutwiler is on the radar of the DOJ. They did find the situation at Julia Tutwiler unconstitutional. But what will be done for the women who already bear the scars? Will they be forgotten like so many other female inmates?


Unforgiven Women

One of the areas I use to research prison inmates is A prevailing theme in the excerpts the women write about themselves is “please don’t judge me by my crime.” I find this sad. Sad because I know when these women, many of whom are genuinely trying to better themselves by obtaining advanced degrees, or specialized training, are going to have to fill out applications when they leave prison and enter the work force. When they fill out these applications they are going to have to discuss their felonies. They are going to have to submit to background checks. They are ultimately going to be judged by their crimes. They are going to be passed over because of these crimes. They are not going to be given a second chance because of these crimes.

It makes me sad because I know we live in a very unforgiving society. We live in a society where in most states we are not willing to give up the death penalty even though most first world nations have. We live in a society that wants people to pay and pay and keep paying. We live in a society where the judicial system is not fair. Money walks; poverty does time. What the majority of these people who want a pound of flesh don’t understand, is the best penance a person can pay is to do their time, make self-improvements and be given a chance to show they have changed, so they can give back to society. Letting someone out of prison; returning her to the place she was before she went to prison; with the same set of skills she had that landed her in prison, and expecting different results is insanity.

Unfortunately more often than not these women are unforgiven.



Putting an End to Recidivism – Project Daisy Update

While reading through past census information today, it came to light that Virginia, Texas and Louisiana, as well as many other states spend quite a bit more money on incarcerating a prisoner than educating a child. Often times they spend thousands of dollars more, and many of these prisoners are nonviolent offenders. It also came to my attention that many of the states that spend the least on education have the most prisoners. In addition many of these prisoners are repeat offenders so the CLEARLY something isn’t working. I am sure this isn’t new to anyone reading this. Clearly prison reform and education reform need simultaneous and immediate attention.