Stance: Pro Reform

My Thoughts:

While I do not disagree that we have one of the “best” criminal justice and court systems in the world, we should not be complacent and rest on our laurels. There is significant room for improvement.

Our criminal justice system is certainly not a “fair” system. It is definitely a capitalistic system where those with privilege and money do not have to face the same consequences as those in lower socio-economic classes. This is obvious to everyone, but most just turn a blind eye and rationalize that the system is good enough and don’t really push for change because it does not affect them.

The reality is our system does affect each of us, quite a bit actually. Just look at this study from 2012:

“The Vera Institute of Justice released a study in 2012 that found the aggregate cost of prisons in 2010 in the 40 states that participated was $39 billion. The annual average taxpayer cost in these states was $31,286 per inmate. New York State was the most expensive, with an average cost of $60,000 per prison inmate.”

$31,286 per inmate is a significant cost per year – that is $85 per day!!

Our prisons are bursting at the seams and are massively overcrowded. Even worse is the fact that our criminal justice system is doing very little to truly rehabilitate individuals and actually encourages a life-time of crime.

When you area released from prison you are generally on parole. Of course, when on parole it is tough to get a good job. Or at least a job that provides any real income. Now you might argue that this is what someone deserves for getting themselves into that situation, and yes I do feel we should be held accountable for your actions. However, at some point you need to be able to move on and encouraged or coached to develop skills that will allow you to assimilate back into society and be a contributor.

When you are on parole not only must you struggle to find a job, but you also have parole meetings, classes and fees to pay. If you fall to far behind on your fees, you can find yourself back in jail. So imagine if you are fresh out of jail, struggling to get a job, have no money and you are told that if you do not get current with your fees you will have a warrant issued for your arrest.

This situation immediately puts an ex-con in a very difficult place. They have 3 options. 1) They can hopefully find a job and pay the fee – this is not very promising for an ex-on though. 2) They can borrow money from a friend or family member – birds of feather flock together though and unless they have plugged themselves into a good support structure many of their friends and family members are more than likely the influencers that led them to prison. 3) Follow the path of least resistance and return to a life of crime to get the money – steal, sell drugs, etc.

For most of us options 1 and 2 seem obvious. In regards to Option 1, most of us are not criminals and have never experienced trying to get a job with a criminal record, or attempt to live on the pay an ex-con makes if he or she is luck enough to secure a job. It certainly is not easy. NOTE: As a business owner this is a tough statement to make, because if I really look at myself I have to admit, I am hesitant and not sure if I would hire an ex-con to work in my business. I know, I am prejudiced and I definitely need to pray about this since I am part of the problem.

In regards to option 2 if the ex-con had a good support structure or family environment one could argue that there would be a very good chance they never would have ended up in prison. So this option is most likely not highly probable.

So option 3 becomes a real option. After all if you don’t get the money to catch up you are probably going to end up in prison. So why not steal something or sell some drugs in a ditch effort to avoid prison. If you don’t get caught committing the crime, you just avoided going back to jail. And if you do get caught, you could easily rationalize that it was worth it because you would have ended up in prison again anyway if you did not get the money.

I am not condoning the actions of the criminals or seeking to justify them. I just think we really need to take a look at this system and find a solution that helps get individuals with a criminal record back to contributing to society in a positive way.

The whole system needs to be overhauled, as well as, the mindset of business owners who have the ability to hire individuals with a criminal record – myself included. If we are not willing to hire these individuals and give them the option to contribute to society, then we too are just another piece of the problem.